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
Ty Burrell
Kevin Zegers
Mekhi Phifer
Music by Tyler Bates
Cinematography Matthew F. Leonetti
Edited by Niven Howie
Production
company
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 American 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 shopping mall located in the fictional town of Everett, WIsconsin 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.

Plot[edit]

After finishing a long shift as a nurse, Ana (Sarah Polley), returns to her suburban neighborhood and her husband, Luis. Caught up in a scheduled date night, they miss an emergency news bulletin. The next morning, a neighborhood child enters their bedroom and kills Luis who immediately reanimates as a zombie and attacks Ana. She flees in her car, but eventually crashes and passes out.

Upon waking, Ana joins with Police Sergeant Kenneth Hall (Ving Rhames), jack-of-all-trades Michael (Jake Weber), petty criminal Andre (Mekhi Phifer) and his pregnant wife, Luda (Inna Korobkina). They break into a nearby mall and kill a zombified security guard, who bites Luda. They are also confronted by three living guards—C.J. (Michael Kelly), Bart (Michael Barry) and Terry (Kevin Zegers)—who make them surrender their weapons in exchange for refuge. They split into groups to secure the mall and then go to the roof where they see another survivor, Andy (Bruce Bohne), who is stranded alone in his gun store across the zombie-infested parking lot.

The next day, a delivery truck carrying more survivors enters the lot, with zombies in close pursuit. C.J. and Bart wish to turn them away but are overruled and disarmed. The newcomers include Norma (Jayne Eastwood), Steve Marcus (Ty Burrell), Tucker (Boyd Banks), Monica (Kim Poirier), Glen (R.D. Reid), Frank (Matt Frewer) and his daughter, Nicole (Lindy Booth). Another woman (Ermes Blarasin) is too ill to walk; she is wheeled inside via wheelbarrow only to die and reanimate. After she is killed, the group determines that the disease is passed by bites. Andre leaves to see Luda, who has kept her bite hidden from the group. They realize that Frank has been bitten and is a potential threat. After some debate, Frank elects to be isolated. When he dies and turns, Kenneth shoots him.

Another montage shows the survivors passing time in the mall. Kenneth and Andy start a friendship by way of messages written on a whiteboard. When the power goes out, C.J., Bart, Michael and Kenneth go to the parking garage to activate the emergency generator. They find a friendly dog but are attacked by zombies, who kill Bart. The remaining men douse the zombies with gasoline and set them ablaze.

Meanwhile, Luda—in the advanced stages of infection and tied up by Andre—goes into labor and dies. She reanimates and the baby is born. Norma checks on the couple and kills the zombified Luda. Andre snaps; they exchange gunfire and both are killed. The rest of the group arrives to find a zombie baby whom they kill immediately. The remaining survivors decide to fight their way to the local marina, and travel on Steve's yacht to an island on Lake Michigan. They begin reinforcing two shuttle buses from the parking garage for their escape.

Andy is dying of starvation, so the group straps food and a walkie-talkie onto the dog, Chips, and lower him into the parking lot. Andy calls for Chips, who is of no interest to the zombies. One zombie gets in the store before Andy can close the door. Nicole, worried about Chips, takes the delivery truck and crashes into the gun store, where she is trapped by a zombified Andy. Kenneth, Michael, Tucker, Terry and C.J. go through the sewers to mount a rescue. They reach the gun store, saving Nicole by killing Andy. They grab supplies and go back to the mall; along the way, Tucker is killed: after breaking his legs, C.J shoots him out of mercy.. Once inside they are unable to lock the door, forcing an evacuation.

Everyone gets into the buses and they navigate through the city. Glen loses control of a chainsaw, accidentally killing himself and Monica; blood splatters on the windshield causing Kenneth to crash the bus. A zombie attacks Steve as he tries to escape. C.J. exits the first van to look for crash survivors with Kenneth and Terry. They encounter the undead Steve but Ana kills him. She retrieves his boat keys, and they take the remaining bus to the marina. C.J sacrifices himself so the rest of the group can escape. Michael reveals he was bitten and Ana watches him kill himself, leaving Ana, Kenneth, Nicole, Terry and Chips as the only survivors.

During the end credits, A montage of footage from a camcorder found on the boat begins with Steve's escapades before the outbreak, and concludes with the group running out of supplies before finally arriving at an island, where they are attacked by another swarm of zombies. The camcorder drops, recording dozens of zombies chasing them, leaving their fate unknown.

Cast[edit]

Production[edit]

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.

Reception[edit]

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]

References[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. 
  16. ^ DAWN OF THE DEAD SEQUEL ARMY OF THE DEAD WILL NOT REANIMATE
  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]