Dawn of the Dead (2004 film)
|Dawn of the Dead|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Zack Snyder|
|Screenplay by||James Gunn|
|Music by||Tyler Bates|
|Cinematography||Matthew F. Leonetti|
|Distributed by||Universal Pictures|
|Box office||$102.3 million|
Dawn of the Dead is a 2004 American action horror film directed by Zack Snyder (in his feature film directorial debut), produced by Richard P. Rubinstein, Marc Abraham and by Eric Newman and the screenplay written by James Gunn while the special effects for the film were done by Heather Langenkamp and David LeRoy Anderson, who co-own AFX Studio. It is a remake of George A. Romero's 1978 film and stars Sarah Polley, Ving Rhames, Jake Weber, and Mekhi Phifer. A handful of human survivors living in a shopping mall located in the fictional town of Everett, Wisconsin, are surrounded by swarms of zombies. Ty Burrell, Michael Kelly, Kevin Zegers, and Lindy Booth play supporting roles; the original's cast members Ken Foree, Scott Reiniger, and Tom Savini appear in cameos. The film was released by Universal Pictures on March 19, 2004, and grossed $102 million worldwide against a budget of $26 million.
After finishing a long shift as a nurse at the Milwaukee County Hospital, Ana returns to her suburban neighborhood and her husband Louis. Caught up in a date night, they miss an emergency news bulletin. The next morning, a girl from the neighborhood enters and kills Louis, who immediately reanimates as a zombie and attacks Ana. She flees in her car, crashes, and passes out. Upon waking, she joins police sergeant Kenneth Hall, electronics salesman Michael, petty criminal Andre and his pregnant wife, Luda. They break into a nearby mall and are attacked by a zombie security guard, who scratches Luda. Three guards — C.J., Bart, and Terry — make them surrender their weapons in exchange for refuge. They split into groups to secure the mall. On the roof, they see another survivor, Andy, who is stranded in his gun store across the zombie-infested parking lot.
The next day, a delivery truck carrying more survivors enters the lot, pursued by zombies. They include Norma, Steve, Tucker, Monica, Glen, Frank and his daughter, Nicole. Another woman is too ill to walk; she is wheeled inside, only to die and reanimate. After she is killed, the group determines the disease is passed by bites. Luda keeps her scratch a secret from the group, though Andre knows. Frank, who has been bitten, elects to be isolated. When he reanimates, Kenneth shoots him.
Kenneth and Andy start a friendship by way of messages written on a whiteboard; romance buds between Ana and Michael, and Nicole and Terry. When the power goes out, a few of the survivors go to the parking garage to activate the emergency generator and find a friendly dog who is adopted by Nicole and named Chips. Zombies kill Bart, forcing the others to douse the zombies in gas and set them ablaze. Meanwhile, Luda — tied up by Andre — gives birth and dies. She reanimates and Norma kills Luda. This makes Andre snap; he exchanges gunfire with Norma and the two kill each other. The others find a zombie baby, which they kill reluctantly. The group decides to fight their way to the marina and travel on Steve's yacht to an island on Lake Michigan. They reinforce two shuttle buses from the garage for it; welding on a snowplow, attaching metal bars and chains as well as stocking chainsaws, propane tanks and road flares.
To rescue Andy, the group straps supplies onto the dog, Chips, and lower him into the parking lot; the zombies have no interest in him. Chips enters Andy's store safely, but a zombie follows and bites Andy. Nicole crashes the delivery truck into the gun store, where she is trapped by a zombified Andy. A group of them reach the gun store via the sewers, kill Andy, and rescue Nicole. They grab ammunition and go back to the mall; along the way, Tucker breaks his legs, and C.J. shoots him out of mercy. Once inside, they are unable to lock the door because Steve temporarily abandoned his guard duty. Zombies storm the mall, forcing an evacuation via the buses.
While navigating the city, Glen loses control of a chainsaw, accidentally killing himself and Monica. In the chaos, their bus crashes. Steve tries to flee on his own but is ambushed by a zombie. Ana kills the zombified Steve and retrieves his boat keys. At the marina, C.J. sacrifices himself so the others can escape. Michael, after revealing a bite wound, kills himself as Ana, Kenneth, Nicole, Terry, and Chips flee on the yacht. Footage from a camcorder found on the boat shows the group runs out of supplies, arrives at an island and is attacked by a swarm of zombies. The camcorder drops and is later grabbed by a zombie, leaving their fate unknown.
- Sarah Polley as Ana Clark
- Ving Rhames as Kenneth Hall
- Jake Weber as Michael
- Mekhi Phifer as Andre
- Lindy Booth as Nicole
- Kevin Zegers as Terry
- Michael Kelly as C.J.
- Ty Burrell as Steve Marcus
- Kim Poirier as Monica
- R. D. Reid as Glen
- Inna Korobkina as Luda
- Michael Barry as Bart
- Jayne Eastwood as Norma
- Boyd Banks as Tucker
- Matt Frewer as Frank
- Bruce Bohne as Andy
- Louis Ferreira as Luis Clark
- Hannah Lochner as Vivian
- Ermes Blarasin as Bloated Woman
- Ken Foree as TV Evangelist
- Tom Savini as Sheriff Cahill
- Scott Reiniger as The General
Plans to remake George A. Romero's 1978 cult horror film Dawn of the Dead was conceived by producer Eric Newman. A fan of the original film, Newman asked Strike Entertainment's Marc Abraham to produce the remake with him, to which Abraham agreed. He and Abraham secured the rights to the film after it was handed over by Richard P. Rubinstein, the original's producer. Rubinstein stated that he finally agreed to grant the rights after several years because he was worried "that somewhere along the way a studio would sanitize Newman's vision for producing a version with 'attitude'", as Romero's film was independently produced. In addition, the producer was impressed by Abraham's "long track record in keeping the creative integrity of the studio distributed films he has produced intact".
Newman and Abraham said that the new Dawn of the Dead is more of a "re-envisioning" of Romero's film which is geared toward younger audiences who had not seen the original. Newman stated that the production's goal is "to make the old fans happy and make a lot of new fans. Because that's the only reason we are doing it." He cited his favorite classic horror films Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978), The Thing (1982), and The Fly (1986) as cinematic influences, explaining that these had "some amazing updates" which "add to rather than diminish the original films". In search of a screenwriter, Rubinstein hired James Gunn, an avid fan of the original, who began writing a draft. Michael Tolkin and Scott Frank were brought in for rewriting after Gunn left the project to concentrate on Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed (2004). Rubinstein stated that Tolkin further developed the characters while Frank provided some of the bigger, upbeat action scenes.
Filming and design
Principal photography lasted nearly three months, in the period from June 9 to September 6, 2003, on location in various parts of Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Director Zack Snyder storyboarded the film extensively.
Andrew Neskoromny supervised the production design, which included the construction of the fictional mall dubbed as "Crossroads Mall". Neskoromny researched malls that were scheduled to be demolished in such countries as Romania, Japan, and the United Kingdom, but yielded no results. In Canada, however, the crew had located the defunct Thornhill Square shopping mall in Thornhill, Ontario, the area of which measured approximately 45,000 square feet (1.0 acre), and eventually used this location. The crew completely renovated the structure over an eight-week period; the remodeled mall included, among other things, an expensive water feature near the entrance, 14 individually designed stores, parking structures and warehouse areas. According to Snyder, the stores had to be renamed as Starbucks and numerous other corporations refused to let their names be used (save for Roots and Panasonic): "People were like 'do we want to be in this movie where blood gets sprayed all over our thing? I don't think so.'" Some of these names were references to the 1978 version; the upscale department store Gaylen Ross was named after its co-star Gaylen Ross, while Wooley's Diner echoes Jim Baffico's character role Wooley.
In the United Kingdom, 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.
The film grossed $59 million at the US box office and $102 million worldwide.
Review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes offers the film a 75% approval rating from 185 critics and an average rating of 6.7/10. The site's consensus reads: "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." The film also has a score of 59 out of 100 on Metacritic based on 37 critics indicating "mixed or average reviews". Audiences polled by CinemaScore during opening weekend gave the film an average grade of "B" on a scale ranging from A+ to F.
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 1978 version, which was trickier, wittier and smarter." Scott Foundas of Variety described it as an unnecessary remake that will appeal mostly to young adult audiences who have not seen the original film. Michael Rechtshaffen of The Hollywood Reporter wrote that the film "has no patience for such subtleties" as Romero's thematic concerns or suspense-building. Elvis Mitchell of The New York Times wrote that "Mr. Snyder's blood feast is strictly by the numbers: this second-rater could be the world's most expensive Troma film." Manohla Dargis of the Los Angeles Times wrote: "Good zombie fun, the remake of George A. Romero's "Dawn of the Dead" is the best proof in ages that cannibalizing old material sometimes works fiendishly well." Mick LaSalle of the San Francisco Chronicle wrote, "Instead, the new "Dawn of the Dead" satirizes itself and satirizes its genre, and, on its own unambitious terms, the movie succeeds. It's silly, witty and good-natured, not scary so much as icky, and not horrifying or horrible but consistently amusing." Lisa Schwarzbaum of Entertainment Weekly rated it "A" and wrote, "Commercial director Zack Snyder, making a killer feature debut, trades homemade cheesiness for knowing style, revels in the sophistication of modern special effects, and stomps off with the best remake – er, "re-envisioning" – of a horror classic in memory." Scott Tobias of The A.V. Club wrote that the remake streamlines the original film "by discarding everything special about it in favor of pure visceral effect".
Bloody Disgusting ranked the film eighth in its 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." Rolling Stone ranked it #3 in their "Top 10 Best Zombie Movies". It was third in Dread Central's "Best Horror Films of the Decade".
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." South Park parodied the film in the episode, "Night of the Living Homeless". The show's creators, Trey Parker and Matt Stone, called the film "amazing" in the episode's DVD commentary.
Comparisons to the original
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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. 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. However, it was for this change that Wizard magazine ranked the zombies #5 on its "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.
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 films 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. In the beginning of the film, a helicopter that is very similar to the one in the original flies across the screen.
In The Zombie Encyclopedia, Volume 2, academic Peter Dendle said that the original film "served as a bridge between the talky, slow-paced 1970s horror and the fast-paced splatter to come in the 1980s", whereas the 2004 remake "generally forsakes slow-mounting suspense in favor of frenetic action".
A sequel was planned but was later cancelled. 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 film. 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. The film's producing studios were Universal Studios (who released the first) and Warner Bros. Entertainment (who have released all of Snyder's films starting with 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.
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