Dawn of the Dead (2004 film)

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Dawn of the Dead
Dawn of the Dead 2004 movie.jpg
Promotional poster, still under the original release date.
Directed by Zack Snyder
Produced by Richard P. Rubinstein
Marc Abraham
Eric Newman
Screenplay by James Gunn
Based on Dawn of the Dead by George A. Romero
Starring Sarah Polley
Ving Rhames
Jake Weber
Mekhi Phifer
Music by Tyler Bates
Cinematography Matthew F. Leonetti
Editing by Niven Howie
Studio Strike Entertainment
New Amsterdam Entertainment
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release dates
  • March 19, 2004 (2004-03-19)
Running time

100 minutes

110 minutes (Director's Cut)[1]
Country United States
Language English
Budget $28 million
Box office $102,356,381

Dawn of the Dead is a 2004 horror film directed by Zack Snyder in his feature film directorial debut. A remake of George A. Romero's 1978 film of the same name, it is written by James Gunn and stars Sarah Polley, Ving Rhames, and Jake Weber.[2] The film depicts a handful of human survivors living in a Milwaukee, Wisconsin shopping mall surrounded by swarms of zombies. The movie was produced by Strike Entertainment in association with New Amsterdam Entertainment, released by Universal Pictures and includes cameos by original cast members Ken Foree, Scott Reiniger, and Tom Savini.


The movie begins with Ana working a long shift as a nurse in a hospital. While driving home, she has a brief conversation with the neighbor's child, Vivian before retiring to her home. She greets her husband Luis and later they make love in the shower, unaware of the Emergency Broadcast on the TV. The next morning, they are awoken by their neighbor Vivian standing in their bedroom, who bites Luis throat. Ana is able to pull her off of Luis and locks her out of the room but Luis dies from blood loss, re-animates and attacks her. She escapes the house only to find the neighborhood in chaos. She flees in her car, but shortly crashes and passes out. The film then cuts to a credits intro showing the global chaos and devastation. Anna awakes to an armed police officer, Kenneth and moments later meets Michael, Andre, and his pregnant wife, Luda. They seek refuge in a nearby mall, where they encounter several more zombies. They decide to take the elevator to a higher floor, where they met with hostility by the mall's security guards Bart, Terry, and C. J. The guards relent and allow the group to stay under their strict conditions.

The next day, a delivery truck carrying survivors speeds into the parking lot. The truck's group includes Norma, Steve, Tucker, Monica, Glen, Frank, his daughter Nicole, and an unnamed, obese/bloated woman. They realize the disease is passed by bite after the old woman dies and reanimates. Frank, who has been bitten, says his last goodbye to his daughter and is quarantined from the group. After succumbing to his wounds, he is killed by Kenneth. Days go by and the group settle into an almost normal routine of enjoying the malls features. Kenneth communicates with Andy, the gun store owner across from the mall who is trapped in his shop. As the group are having dinner together, the power goes out and Bart, Michael, Kenneth and C. J. head to the parking garage to activate the emergency generator. They are attacked by zombies in the garage and Bart is devoured. The remaining group are trapped in the generator compartment, where they burn the zombies to escape. With the power out Norma checks on Andre and Luda only to discover Luda has turned into a zombie and given birth to a baby girl. Norma kills Luda, which causes Andre to snap completely and kill her while Norma shoots back and kills Andre. The group arrive at the scene and Ana kills the zombie infant. The survivors decide they can't stay any longer and make a plan to fight their way to a nearby marina, where they will travel on Steve's boat to an island across Lake Michigan. They begin reinforcing two shuttle buses for their escape.

At the store, Andy is dying of starvation. The group straps a pack of food and a walkie-talkie onto Chips, a dog they found in the garage, and lower him into the parking lot. Ignored by the zombies, Chips makes it to the store but a zombie gets in before Andy can close the dog door. Nicole panics over Chips and steals the delivery truck, crashing it by the gun store. Upon entering, she is trapped in a closet by the now zombified Andy and the group head through the sewers to mount a rescue. Kenneth puts down the zombified Andy and the group rescue Nicole and restock on firearms and ammunition. Tucker breaks his leg while escaping and is devoured, but C. J. shoots him in the head out of mercy while Steve has allowed the entry door to the sewer to close. The group are forced to fend off the mob of zombies until Ana opens the door. The zombies push their way in and overtake the mall, forcing the survivors to immediately flee.

Everyone piles into the buses and after driving their way through a sea of zombies, navigate through the city. Noticing a zombie hanging on to the side of the bus, Glen takes a chainsaw to deal with it, but accidentally kills Monica. Blood covers the windshield, causing Kenneth to crash the bus, killing Glen. Recovering, Steve attempts to flee, but is attacked by the hanging bus zombie. C. J. notices the second bus isn't following anymore and orders Michael to go back. Kenneth and Terry join the survivors of the first bus while Ana kills the re-animated Steve and takes the boat keys from his corpse. At the marina, C. J. sacrifices himself, to buy the group some time by blowing up the bus. Michael helps them cast off but reveals he has been bitten. A devastated Ana tries to talk him into coming but he decides to stay. Ana, Kenneth, Nicole, Terry and Chips board Steve's boat and sail off. Michael, watching from a distance, puts his gun under his chin and off-screen a gunshot rings out over the lake.

During the credits, a montage of footage from a camcorder begins with Steve's escapades before the outbreak, showing events at sea and concluding with the group arriving at an island. In the final segment they disembark only to find the island swarming with zombies which rush to attack them. Their fate is left ambiguous.



James Gunn is partially responsible for the screenplay although he received a solo writing credit. After he left the project to concentrate on Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed, Michael Tolkin and Scott Frank were brought in for rewriting.[3] In a commentary track on the Ultimate Edition DVD for the original George A. Romero's Dawn of the Dead, Richard P. Rubinstein, producer of the original and the remake, explained that Tolkin further developed the characters, while Frank provided some of the bigger and upbeat action sequences.

The mall scenes and rooftop scenes were shot in the Thornhill Square Shopping Center in Thornhill, Ontario and the other scenes were shot in the Aileen-Willowbrook neighborhood of Thornhill, Ontario. The set for Ana and Luis's bedroom was constructed in a backroom of the mall.[4] The mall was defunct, which is the reason the production used it; the movie crew completely renovated the structure, and stocked it with fictitious stores after Starbucks and numerous other corporations refused to let their names be used[4] (two exceptions to this are Roots and Panasonic). Most of the mall was demolished shortly after the film was shot. The fictitious stores include a coffee shop called Hallowed Grounds (a lyric from Johnny Cash's song "The Man Comes Around", which was used over the opening credits), and an upscale department store called Gaylen Ross (an in-joke reference to one of the stars of the original 1978 film).

The first half of the film was shot almost entirely in chronological order,[4] while the final sequences on the boat and island were shot much later and at a different location (Universal Studios Hollywood) than the rest of the movie, after preview audiences objected to the sudden ending of the original print.[4]

Dawn Of The Dead is the second movie that co-starred actresses Lindy Booth and Kim Poirier. They first worked together on American Psycho 2.

Deleted scenes[edit]

Deleted scenes were added back for the "Unrated Director's Cut" DVD edition.[1] Along with gore effects removed to obtain an MPAA R rating,[5] they include a clearer depiction of how the survivors originally break into the mall, and a short scene where the character of Glen regales the imprisoned C.J. and Bart with his reminiscing about his homosexual coming-of-age.

Additional material[edit]

The DVD release includes, as a bonus feature, the short film We Interrupt This Program, an expanded version of the fictional live broadcasts shown in the mall's televisions, which chronicles the worldwide effects of the zombie plague and the impact it has on a newscaster. Aside from featuring additional footage of cameos by actors from the original film, the film features Richard Biggs as the newscaster (in his final performance before his death in May 2004), and a voiceover cameo by Bruce Boxleitner as the President of the United States.


In the UK, Dawn of the Dead and Shaun of the Dead were originally scheduled to be released the same week, but due to the similarity in the names of the two films and plot outline, UIP opted to push back Shaun's release by two weeks. It was screened out of competition at the 2004 Cannes Film Festival.[6]

The film received generally positive reviews. It currently holds a "Certified Fresh" rating of 75% on Rotten Tomatoes; the site's consensus calls the film "A kinetic, violent and surprisingly worthy remake of George Romero's horror classic that pays homage to the original while working on its own terms."[7] Roger Ebert said the film "works and it delivers just about what you expect when you buy your ticket" but felt that it "lacks the mordant humor of the Romero version" and the "plot flatlines compared to the 1979 version, which was trickier, wittier and smarter."[8] Bloody Disgusting ranked the film eighth in their list of the 'Top 20 Horror Films of the Decade', with the article saying "Truly, you can analogize the two films [original and remake] based on their zombies alone – where Romero’s lumbered and took their time (in a good way), Snyder’s came at us, fast, with teeth bared like rabid dogs."[9]

George A. Romero said, "It was better than I expected. ... The first 15, 20 minutes were terrific, but it sort of lost its reason for being. It was more of a video game. I'm not terrified of things running at me; it's like Space Invaders. There was nothing going on underneath."[10] South Park parodied the film in the episode, "Night of the Living Homeless". The show's creators, Trey Parker and Matt Stone, admitted in the episode's DVD commentary that they called the film "amazing".[11]

Box office[edit]

The film grossed $59 million at the domestic box office, and over one hundred million dollars worldwide,[12] and is one of the few zombie films to make over $102 million at the international box office.[13]

Comparisons to the original[edit]

In the original film, the zombies moved very slowly and were most menacing when they collected in large groups. In the remake, the zombies are fast and agile. Many admirers of the original, as well as Romero himself, protested this change, feeling that it limited the impact of the undead.[14] This is somewhat borne out by the fact that the remake has almost no close-up shots of zombies that last more than a second or two. Snyder mentions this in the commentary track of the remake's DVD, pointing out that they seem too human when the camera lingers upon them for longer. Although, it was for this change that Wizard Magazine ranked the zombies #5 on their "100 Greatest Villains Ever" list.

The original had a smaller cast than the remake, allowing more screen time for each character. Many fans and critics criticized the resulting loss of character development.[15]

In the original version, the story unfolds over several months, indicated by the advancing stages of Fran's pregnancy. In the remake, the events transpire within approximately one month, as evidenced by the supplemental feature The Lost Tape: Andy's Terrifying Last Days Revealed, located on the DVD in the special features section. Another big change from the original is that unlike Romero, Snyder treats zombification more like a disease, pointing to the bites as the source, instead of anyone who is dead turning into a zombie.

Three actors from the original film have cameos in the remake, appearing on the televisions the survivors watch: Ken Foree, who played Peter from the original, plays an evangelist who asserts that God is punishing mankind; Scott H. Reiniger, who played Roger in the original, plays an army general telling everyone to stay at home for safety and Tom Savini, who did the special effects for many of Romero's movies and played the motorcycle gang member Blades in the original Dawn of the Dead, plays the Monroeville Sheriff explaining the only way to kill the zombies is to "shoot 'em in the head." Monroeville is also the location of the mall used in the 1978 film. In addition, a store shown in the mall is called "Gaylen Ross", an obvious tribute to actress Gaylen Ross, who played Francine in the original film.

Cancelled sequel[edit]

A sequel was planned but was later cancelled.[16] Zack Snyder stated that he would only be producing the sequel instead of reprising his role as the director due to working on Watchmen when he announced the movie.[17] The script of Army of the Dead was written by Zack Snyder and Joby Harold. Filming for Army of the Dead was to start once they got a director as the producing studios had approved the script. Also according to Deborah Snyder, the film was set in Las Vegas, and the town had to be contained to stop the outbreak of zombies.[18][19] The film's producing studios were Universal Studios (who released the first) and Warner Bros. Entertainment (who released most of Snyder's films since 300) and the film was set to be directed by Matthijs van Heijningen Jr., director of The Thing, the 2011 prequel to John Carpenter's 1982 cult classic of the same name.[20]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Snyder, Zack (Director) (25 October 2004). Dawn Of The Dead: Unrated Director's Cut (Fullscreen) (DVD). Universal Studios. Retrieved 2 October 2013. UPC 025192582028
  2. ^ J.C. Maçek III (2012-06-15). "The Zombification Family Tree: Legacy of the Living Dead". PopMatters. 
  3. ^ James Rocchi. "Super: Critics' Reviews". MSN.com. Retrieved 2011-10-31. 
  4. ^ a b c d DVD Commentary by director Snyder and producer Newman
  5. ^ DVD-only introduction by director Snyder
  6. ^ "Festival de Cannes: Dawn of the Dead". fetyival-cannes.com. Retrieved 2009-12-05. 
  7. ^ "Dawn of the Dead (2005) reviews". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2009-06-16. 
  8. ^ Roger Ebert (March 19, 2004). "Review". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 2007-06-15. 
  9. ^ "00's Retrospect: Bloody Disgusting's Top 20 Films of the Decade...Part 3". Bloody Disgusting. Retrieved 2010-01-03. 
  10. ^ "Simon Pegg interviews George A Romero". Retrieved 2007-03-18. 
  11. ^ "Night of the Living Homeless" Episode Commentary on South Park Season 11 DVD boxset; 2008
  12. ^ "Dawn of the Dead Box Office". Retrieved 2012-02-26. 
  13. ^ "Dawn of the Dead (2005)". Retrieved 2008-06-16. 
  14. ^ "John Leguizamo on Land of the Dead". ComingSoon.net. Retrieved 2009-06-16. 
  15. ^ "Dawn of the Dead". Retrieved 2009-06-16. 
  17. ^ "Zack Snyder NOT directing "Army of the Dead"". bloodydisgusting.com. June 5, 2008. Retrieved June 29, 2011. 
  18. ^ "Army of the Dead is not dead". moviefone (moviefone). Oct 30, 2007. Retrieved June 29, 2011. 
  19. ^ "EXCL: Snyder's Army of the Dead Update!". shocktillyoudrop.com. October 26, 2007. Retrieved June 29, 2011. 
  20. ^ "Matthijs van Heijningen set to direct "Army of the Dead"". slashfilm.com. June 4, 2008. Retrieved June 29, 2011. 

External links[edit]