|Dawn of the Dead|
Promotional poster, still under the original release date
|Directed by||Zack Snyder|
|Produced by||Richard P. Rubinstein|
|Written by||James Gunn|
|Based on||Dawn of the Dead byGeorge A. Romero|
|Music by||Tyler Bates|
|Cinematography||Matthew F. Leonetti|
|Editing by||Niven Howie|
|Distributed by||Universal Pictures|
|Release date(s)||March 19, 2004|
|Running time||100 minutes|
Dawn of the Dead is a 2004 horror remake of George A. Romero's 1978 film of the same name. The remake and original both depict a handful of human survivors living in a shopping mall surrounded by swarms of zombies, but the details differ significantly. The directorial debut of Zack Snyder, the film was produced by Strike Entertainment in association with New Amsterdam Entertainment, released by Universal Pictures and stars Sarah Polley, Ving Rhames, and Jake Weber with cameosfrom original cast members Ken Foree, Scott Reiniger and Tom Savini.
After finishing a long shift as a nurse, Ana (Sarah Polley), returns to her suburban Milwaukee, Wisconsin neighborhood and her husband, Luis. Caught up in a scheduled date night, the two miss an emergency news bulletin on television. 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. A montage of news footage depicts zombies overwhelming civilization around the world.
Upon waking, Ana joins with Police Sergeant Kenneth Hall (Ving Rhames) and jack-of-all-trades Michael (Jake Weber), as well as petty criminal Andre (Mekhi Phifer) and his pregnant wife, Luda (Inna Korobkina). The group breaks into a nearby mall where a zombified security guard attacks and 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. The groups secures the mall, then heads 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. wishes to turn them away but is outnumbered when Terry sides with the new arrivals. C.J. and Bart are disarmed while the newcomers go inside. They include Norma (Jayne Eastwood), Steve Marcus (Ty Burrell), Tucker (Boyd Banks), Monica (Kim Poirier), and Glen (R.D. Reid), as well as Frank (Matt Frewer) and his daughter, Nicole (Lindy Booth). Another woman (Ermes Blarasin) is severely bloated and too ill to walk; she is wheeled inside via wheelbarrow only to die and reanimate soon after. After she is killed, the group determines that the disease is passed by bites. Andre leaves to see Luda and the group realizes that Frank, who has been bitten, 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 and various relationships developing, including Kenneth and Andy starting a friendship by way of messages written on a whiteboard. The group bonds over dinner when the power goes out. C.J., Bart, Michael, and Kenneth head 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 are trapped in the generator compartment where they 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, seeing Luda is now a zombie, kills her. Andre snaps completely; they exchange gunfire, killing them both. The rest of the group arrives to find a zombie baby which they immediately kill. 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 retrofitting and reinforcing two shuttle buses from the parking garage for their escape.
Andy is dying of starvation, so the group straps a pack of 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, but one gets in the door of the store before Andy can close it. 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. head through the sewers to mount a rescue. They reach the gun store, saving Nicole by killing Andy. They grab weapons and ammunition and go back to the mall; along the way, Tucker is killed. Once inside they are unable to lock the door, forcing an evacuation.
Everyone piles 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. There, 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.
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. They disembark and are attacked by another swarm of zombies. The film ends with the dropped camcorder recording dozens of zombies chasing them, leaving their fate unknown.
- Sarah Polley as Ana
- Ving Rhames as Kenneth
- Jake Weber as Michael
- Mekhi Phifer as Andre
- Ty Burrell as Steve
- Michael Kelly as C.J.
- Kevin Zegers as Terry
- Michael Barry as Bart
- Lindy Booth as Nicole
- Jayne Eastwood as Norma
- Boyd Banks as Tucker
- Inna Korobkina as Luda
- R. D. Reid as Glen
- Kim Poirier as Monica
- Matt Frewer as Frank
- Bruce Bohne as Andy
- Blu as Chips the Dog
- Justin Louis as Luis
- Ermes Blarasin as Obese Woman
- Steven Saphore as Frothing Zombie
- Courtney O'Donoghue as Prostitute Zombie
- Hannah Lochner as Vivian
- Tom Savini as Sheriff Cahill
- Scott Reiniger as The General
- Ken Foree as The Televangelist
- Zack Snyder as Commando at White House
James Gunn is only partially responsible for the screenplay, despite receiving solo writing credit. After he left the project to concentrate on Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed, both Michael Tolkin and Scott Frank were brought in for rewrites. 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 both 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 of the film as well as the rooftop scenes were shot in the Thornhill Square Shopping Center in Thornhill, Ontario and the rest of the scenes were shot in the Aileen-Willowbrook Neighborhood ofThornhill, Ontario. The set for Ana and Louis's bedroom was constructed in a backroom of the mall. 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 (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, 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.
Deleted scenes were added back for the "Unrated Director's Cut" DVD edition. Along with gore effects removed to obtain an R-rating, 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. The DVD also offers, as a bonus feature, several more scenes which were not included in any version of the film, including an expanded version of the fictional live broadcasts shown in the mall's televisions, which chronicles the worldwide effects of the zombie plague.
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.
The film has received generally positive reviews from critics. It holds a "Certified Fresh" rating of 76% on Rotten Tomatoes, with the site's consensus calling the film a "Gruesome, but fun remake." Roger Ebertsaid 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." 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." 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."
The film grossed over $59 million at the domestic box office, and over $102 million worldwide, and is one of the few zombie films to make over $100 million at international box office.
Comparisons to the original
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.
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 1 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.
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 nod to actress Gaylen Ross, who played Fran in the original film.