If you read my post about The Fog you remember that I am not a fan of remakes. 99% of the time they just don’t live up to the original. They are basically trying to cash in on a good movie by throwing in a few 20-something Hollywood turds. Well for me the remake of Dawn of the Dead from 2004 fits into the 1% that did it right. I love that movie… good acting, great action, and a very well written re-telling of the original movie. With that said I thought it would be a good time to re-watch and review the original written and directed by George A. Romero.
Even though Dawn of the Dead was made 10 years after Night of the Living Dead, the story takes place in what seems like just a few days or weeks after the original. Humans are rising from the dead and returning as flesh eating zombies. They are terrorizing the country and no one really knows why or how these creatures came to be. Our story starts out in the WGON-TV studio where survivors are broadcasting the locations of safe zones which get fewer and fewer each hour. Francine, played by the lovely Gaylen Ross, is fed up with lying to the viewers about what is going on and decides to leave the station with her “Flyboy” boyfriend Steven (David Emge) who has stolen the station’s news chopper. On they’re way out of town they run into a couple of SWAT members who have just come from blasting a few dozen zombies in a ghetto apartment building. Roger and Peter both figure it’s time to high-tail it out of there and find refuge. After a quick stop and pop of a few zombies at a small airport, our crew decides to setup shop at a huge abandon shopping mall.
Once inside the mall Roger and Peter come up with a plan to get supplies and block off the entrances to the mall. After a little zombie cleanup our heroes have free reign of the mall and loot everything from clothes, tools, guns and money. HELL, who among us wouldn’t do that if we had a mall all to ourselves?!? To keep busy they do some target shooting, play video games and go ice skating. They even make some gourmet dinners, and as you guessed it… do some more looting. But even though things are going good, you can begin to see the depression sink in as they realize the world will never be the same. The news reports on the TV stop, and soon they are isolated, and afraid of the zombies coming in or that other survivors might find their location and try to take it. Both are legitimate fears and both come true. Fran, Peter, Roger and “Flyboy” must fight to stay alive another day… and to spend the money they looted from the mall!
I thought Dawn of the Dead was a great way to continue the original movie. It shows that these zombies are everywhere, and no one is safe. Even though much of the movie has a light-hearted approach to it (Peter and Roger get a little cocky at times) there are times when you can tell how grim things really are. Even though having free access to a mall might sound like a riot, having a riot size group of zombies knocking at your door is always in the back of your mind. I loved the character played by Gaylen Ross. She is very similar to Sarah Polley’s role in the remake even down to the way they look. They are both very strong women who are being kept down by their male counterparts. But in the end you really cheer for them, and they are the glue that keeps the groups together.
I can honestly say I liked the remake just a touch better because it has more action than the original. The original has some really dark moments where you can really feel the impending doom. If you have never seen the original you really should do your best to see it. If you haven’t seen either, watch them on back to back weekends. There are some really nice similarities even though the characters are supposed to be different.