Dawn of the Dead appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. An erratic picture, many good elements emerged, but more than a few problems showed up along the way.
Sharpness generally appeared solid. A little softness interfered at times, but those issues were reasonably modest. Overall, the movie came across as nicely defined and distinct. Jagged edges and moiré effects cropped up occasionally, and I noticed moderate edge enhancement at times. As for print flaws, the movie mostly avoided them. It demonstrated occasional examples of specks and grit, but these weren’t terribly significant. The image also displayed a fair amount of grain, though some of that seemed to be a cinematographic choice.
Dawn featured a very stylized palette. Much of the film demonstrated a sickly green tone, and it also showed blown-out imagery at other times. Colors looked solid across the board, as long as we examined them within their stylistic parameters. Black levels also came across as deep and dense, while shadow detail was usually appropriately heavy without excessive thickness. As often occurs, dark-skinned characters got a bit of a raw deal, as some shots that featured them looked a little dense. Overall, Dawn was decent but unexceptional visually.
Happily, the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Dawn of the Dead worked much better. The soundfield presented a broad and consistently engaging affair. All five channels received a strong workout, as they offered a variety of elements throughout the movie. Music showed good stereo separation and breadth, and effects seemed to be well placed and accurately localized. These aspects came from logical places and they moved neatly between speakers. The surrounds played an active role in the film, but the many action pieces provided the best examples of the engulfing audio. All of the speakers came vividly to life and the sound melded together tremendously well to create a clear and vibrant impression.
Audio quality also appeared to be top-notch. I thought dialogue always sounded warm and natural. The lines blended well with the action, and I heard no concerns related to intelligibility or edginess. Music sounded bright and showed good fidelity with fine dynamic range. Effects were the most prominent aspect of the mix, as they presented accurate and bold elements that really created a fine mix. Bass response was loud and tight, and the low-end really shook the house at times – literally. Ultimately, Dawn offered a fine audio track that really added to the movie.
A positive mix of supplements appears on the disc. We begin with an audio commentary from director Zack Snyder and producer Eric Newman, both of whom sit together for their running, screen-specific chat. Don’t expect much from this fluffy discussion. On paper, the piece sounds good, as the pair go over a lot of appropriate topics. They talk about adaptation issues, the changes between the theatrical and unrated editions, the cast and working with them, makeup and visual effects, storytelling, and locations, with an emphasis on challenges shooting in Toronto.
Unfortunately, much of the time Snyder and Newman do little more than praise the flick. This is “cool”, that’s “awesome”, the whole thing is “great”. Their enthusiasm becomes slightly contagious, and they can be fun at times, but unfortunately the track lacks much depth. They simply don’t give us a very good feel for the production.
When you start the movie, you get the option to watch it with a Director’s Introduction. It lasts 73 seconds as Snyder provides a minor overview of what to expect from the longer cut. It’s a pretty superfluous piece.
Next we find 11 Deleted Scenes. Taken together, these run 11 minutes and 29 seconds. Don’t expect much more action from these, as only short snippets of zombies appear. Instead, we mostly get character development. Some decent elements show up along with a couple of laughs, but they don’t substantially flesh out the participants.
We can view the deleted scenes with or without commentary from Snyder and Newman. They give us a little info about the snippets and also tell us why the segments got the boot. It’s a worthwhile discussion.
An unusual feature, The Lost Tape: Andy’s Terrifying Last Days Revealed runs 16 minutes and 23 seconds. Basically its own little mini-movie, this features Bruce Bohne as Andy and shows the character’s videotape journal from inside his store. We watch him go through his isolated journey all the way to his demise and zombification. It’s moderately entertaining, but frankly, Andy’s more interesting from a distance.
Another fictitious piece, Special Report: We Interrupt This Program! fills 21 minutes and three seconds. It gives us a look at a “news broadcast” that covers the events. It goes from the inception of the zombie plague through the use of the Emergency Broadcasting System. As with the “Lost Tape”, this offers some interesting material, especially the way it fleshes out little bits we see during the final movie. However, don’t expect more from it than some small pleasures.
After this we head to three more traditional featurettes. Raising the Dead takes seven minutes and 53 seconds to look at the creation of the movie’s zombies. We get behind the scenes shots and comments from Snyder, Newman, producer Marc Abraham, and special makeup effects artist David LeRoy Anderson. They discuss the look of the zombies during various stages and the execution of those elements. It’s a tight and informative examination of the subject.
Now we go to the seven-minute and 24-second Attack of the Living Dead. This includes remarks from Anderson, Snyder and actor Inna Korobkina as they go into more detailed information about some of the zombies. We see how they did up a few particular characters and also how they performed various stunts and graphic kills. As with the prior program, this one gives us a fine look at the topic, as it spills lots of good details about the production.
For the final featurette, Splitting Headaches: Anatomy of Exploding Heads takes five minutes and 36 seconds. We hear more from Anderson and Snyder. They look at the kill effects, with a logical focus on the gunshot wounds to various heads. Expect this to fit well with the prior two featurettes. It adds more useful information to the table.
The disc opens with a collection of Previews. We find ads for Van Helsing, Seed of Chucky, Shaun of the Dead, and a general promo for Universal’s horror titles.
Not too many remakes better their inspirations, but the 2004 Dawn of the Dead indeed provides a more satisfying flick than its predecessor. Tight and exciting, it melds the horror and action genres to turn into a lively piece. The DVD offers fairly average picture with excellent audio and a decent set of extras. I definitely recommend the 2004 Dawn to fans of this sort of flick, as it’s a lot of fun.