Review: “Dawn of the Dead”

An example of an MTV horror reinventon done right, ‘Dawn’ is a loud zombie-filled action fun-fest that’s pure theatrical entertainment. Like last year’s “Texas Chainsaw Massacre”, this is a stylishly shot reinvention of a classic late 70’s horror movie legend that is distinctly different from its progenitor just enough to work for a contemporary audience.

Gone is the Romero-style subtext about mass consumerism, the suspense and dark comedy. Instead we’ve got an action movie with horror overtones – something far more “Aliens” than “Alien”. Sure there’s the ubiquitous scares but the name of the game here is fast-paced chases and set pieces involving survival and escape.

One of the more surprising things is the setup. Debut Director Zack Snyder delivers an interesting, strong and determined sense of direction throughout although it’s best displayed in the adrenalin-pumping 10 minute pre-credits sequence. Kept tight and short, we see how the zombie plague begins – the feature never really questions how or why, rather keeping everything on the ground and focussed around these everyday people caught up in this growing hell on Earth.

85% of the film is set in and around an abandoned mall inhabited by a motley crue of survivors with a likable salesman (Jake Weber), a gruff cop (Rhames) and an assertive young housewife (Polley) being the best of the bunch.

So the story is pretty thin and the character development very little, but the film at least acknowledges that and never tries to fool itself into becoming something deeper. It’s only goal is action scenes with the odd scares which it delivers in spades with a deft sense of relentlessness and its break-neck pace.

Even the sly humour from its various choices of elevator music at the appropriate times, to the horror of its gruesome drawn out sequence involving a baby, it clicks because there’s never time to rest or ponder. It’s dumb as a bag of hammers, at times it’s groan inducing as hell, but as modern horror/action films go this is up there with the likes of the first “Final Destination” in terms of sheer fun.