Friday, September 30, 2016

Rewatch: Dawn of the Dead

2004, Zack Snyder (Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice) -- Netflix

Holy crap, Zack's first movie is one of my favourite zombie flicks, and it is still one of the best examples of the genre, even being a remake of the Romero classic. From the opening bit, in a cookie cutter suburb in Minnesota (social commentary!), where he establishes the speed and brutality of "fast zombies" to the artful credits roll, Zack sets his style to the movie. It is a style that could have easily lent itself to the adaptation of World War Z but Zack had already torpedoed his style by then. This is a great, standalone zombie movie.

Nurse gets off shift, goes to bed while zombie apocalypse begins outside. Immediately she loses her husband and races off as it happens all around her. Quickly, she ends up with a group of people who take shelter in a mall. This is the early 2000s, when malls were still somewhat relevant -- they are big, have lots of stuff and can be locked down. Perfect place to wait it out, wait for the rescue. But what if rescue is not coming?

All the tropes are visited or invented in this movie. Infection; a single bite turns you slowly into one of them. The bigger the bite, the quicker the change. Headshots kill them but significant damage can disable them. Preemptive kills; he's bit so do we let him turn or do we take him out NOW? Do the individualists really have a better chance than the empathetic? All these things that we now attribute to The Walking Dead were covered here, and better. And of course, its an action movie, so a wonderful gearing up scene has to happen.

The movie is filled with all kinds of familiar faces. The dad from Modern Family (Ty Burrell), the husband from Medium (Jake Weber), Sarah Polley, Ving Rhames, Mekhi Phifer (ER), Matt Frewer and a few other Canadians. We have nice people, mean people, assholes and capable people. And a dog. Most are skimpy in personality, because they exist to get eaten, but the movie even allows the asshole to turn into the capable guy.

Surprisingly, this is one of the least gory zombie flicks. It was done for wide release, and while the blood and violence is there, the movie takes place right at the beginning so the zombies are still rather... meaty. The stylistic decayed walking corpses are just not there yet. People do get torn apart, but unlike the famous buffet scene in the original movie, this one doesn't revel in that aspect. It is more about the living than about the dead.

In the end it was meant to have a sequel, supported by a plotted ending credits as the survivors make it to an isolated island, only to find it already taken over by the dead. But still, on an island, once you clean it up, very few should appear. That is, until they start walking out of the water...