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Zack Snyder
Sarah Polley, Ving Rhames, Jake Weber, Mekhi Phifer, Ty Burrell, Michael Kelly, Kevin Zegers, Michael Barry, Lindy Booth
Writing Credits:
James Gunn

A nurse, a policeman, a young married couple, a salesman, and other survivors of a worldwide plague that is producing aggressive, flesh-eating zombies, take refuge in a mega Midwestern shopping mall.

Box Office:
$28 million.
Opening Weekend
$26.722 million on 2745 screens.
Domestic Gross
$58.885 million.

Rated NR

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
Spanish DTS 5.1
French DTS 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 109 min.
Price: $14.98
Release Date: 9/30/2008

• Audio Commentary with Director Zack Snyder and Producer Eric Newman
• “U-Control” Picture-in-Picture


Panasonic TC-P60VT60 60-Inch 1080p 600Hz 3D Smart Plasma HDTV; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


Dawn Of The Dead [Blu-Ray] (2004)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (May 10, 2016)

Rarely do we see remakes of sequels. It does happen, but not with much frequency. I can think of examples like The Bride, which redid the classic Bride of Frankenstein, but not many others.

2004’s Dawn of the Dead went back to the 1978 shocker for its inspiration. This made it unusual right off the bat, but the 2004 Dawn also stands out because it’s decidedly superior to its predecessor.

At the start of the film, we meet hospital nurse Ana (Sarah Polley). She sees one odd case when a patient with a minor wound to his hand ends up in the ICU, but nothing else out of the ordinary occurs immediately.

That state of normalcy doesn’t last long. After an evening with her husband Luis (Justin Louis), neighbor child Vivian (Hannah Lockner) appears in their house and violent chaws at the dude’s neck. Luis dies but immediately comes back to life and attacks Ana. She escapes and emerges into a world gone mad, as calamity reigns over the Milwaukee area. The credit sequence shows us the widespread presence of these monstrous killers.

Ana passes out after she crashes her car. When she awakes, she finds police officer Kenneth (Ving Rhames) with a shotgun pointed at her head. She quickly establishes her continued humanity and the pair warily go on their way. They soon meet up with three others: Andre (Mekhi Phifer), his wife Luda (Inna Korobkina), and Michael (Jake Weber). This trio used to be an octet, and they choose to go to the nearby mall to seek safety.

They scope out the joint, which eventually leads to a few confrontations with the zombies. As they flee, they run into a mall security trio who demands they leave. Eventually, lead guard CJ (Michael Kelly) allows them to stay if they cede their weapons. They reluctantly do so, and the guards put strict restrictions on their movement.

The two sides warily deal with each other and also see a little about the mayhem on the streets via TV coverage. From there they attempt to create a plan and set into action some methods to halt the zombies’ progress as well as attract the attention of potential rescue parties. Essentially the rest of the movie follows their struggles, the arrival of additional survivors, and various intramural squabbles and conflicts.

While I liked the original Dawn, I thought the remake improved upon it in most ways. Essentially, it’s a tighter version of the tale with substantially better acting and production values. I don’t doubt that the actors from the first flick did their best, but there wasn’t a whole lot of talent to be found there.

The 2004 edition, on the other hand, packs a very good cast, especially for a genre movie. Many don’t view this sort of film as something that requires deep acting, but I disagree. It’s not just about watching zombies chomp on people; to some degree, we have to care about the humans involved, and good performances contribute to that.

From Rhames and Polley on down, there’s a lot of talent on display here, and they help make the flick more effective and rich than the original. Even though the new Dawn presents a larger roster of prominent characters, they feel more fleshed out and better drawn.

This Dawn also benefits from tighter pacing. While fun, the original tended to drag at times. That doesn’t happen here, as the 2004 flick moves well. It’s more of a heart-pounding action effort than the goofier and chillier original. It pours on one gripping set piece after another and makes itself quite the adrenaline-pumper.

Don’t think that the 2004 Dawn fails to pay homage to the original, though. A few of the old flick’s participants show up here in cameos, and actress Gaylen Ross gets a store named after her! The two films share the same basic story structure and neither wastes any time with exposition. The 1978 flick assumed you already knew 1968’s Night of the Living Dead, while the 2004 edition presumes an acquaintance with the genre in general.

This means that unlike the similar 28 Days Later, we get absolutely no explanation for the zombie plague in Dawn. Heck, I don’t even remember if any called them zombies here. This gives the story a good point of view, as we’re stuck with our characters’ perception of things. It makes the tale scarier since we find so little concrete information and we can better put ourselves in the participants’ shoes.

If fans who want nasty blood and gore worry that this Dawn will tame the graphic original, don’t fret. Especially in this “unrated director’s cut”, we find plenty of goo and grossness. If anything, the 2004 Dawn may be even more disgusting than the first flick.

Speaking of the director’s cut, let me toss out a few details about it. The unrated version runs about nine minutes longer than the theatrical edition, and it indeed includes more graphic violence. It also presents a little more character development, though not much; heck, this is a zombie flick, after all!

And a damned good one at that. Fans of the George Romero Dead series will probably disagree, but I think the 2004 Dawn of the Dead beats any of those films. Granted, it lacks the originality of its predecessors, but it compensates with a taut, thrilling experience. From head to toe, it’s a blast.

”Reading the credits pays off” trivia: we see one “Heather Langenkamp-Anderson” listed as part of the production crew. This is the same Heather Langenkamp who starred in three Nightmare on Elm Street movies.

The Disc Grades: Picture C+/ Audio A-/ Bonus C+

Dawn of the Dead appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Originally created for HD-DVD, the transfer seemed dated.

Overall sharpness appeared good most of the time, but some exceptions occurred, and those instances became exacerbated by edge haloes. Those weren’t major, but they created distractions and made the imafe looser than I’d like at times. No jaggies or shimmering occurred, and the image lacked print flaws. Zack Snyder loves grain, so plenty of that showed up, but that was a stylistic 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 DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack of Dawn of the Dead worked 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 to life and the sound melded together 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.

How did the Blu-ray compare to the original DVD? Audio appeared a bit warmer and fuller, while visuals showed improved clarity. While the Blu-ray topped the DVD, it wasn’t as big a step up as I’d expect due to the Blu-ray’s visual drawbacks.

The Blu-ray drops or alters many of the DVD’s extras. For a repeat component, 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.

In addition, we get a “picture-in-picture” piece called U-Control. This mixes behind the scenes footage as well as storyboards and interviews. We hear from Snyder, Newman, Zombie Survival Guide author Max Brooks, producers Marc Abraham, Richard P. Rubinstein and Eric Newman, screenwriter James Gunn, special makeup effects artist David LeRoy Anderson, production designer Andrew Neskoromny, composer Tyler Bates, and actors Sarah Polley, Inna Korobkina, Scott Reiniger, Jake Weber, Ving Rhames, Tom Savini, Jayne Eastwood, Mekhi Phifer, Ty Burrell, and Michael Kelly.

“U-Control” looks at the original movie and its remake adaptation, story/characters, zombie design and makeup/effects, cast and performances, sets and locations, and music. The DVD had a bunch of featurettes, and I suspect “U-Control” cannibalizes these for its purposes.

The Blu-ray should have stuck with the separate featurettes. We get some good info here – mainly about zombie design/execution – but lots of dead spots pop up across the “U-Control”, so it’s an inefficient format. Even with a mix of useful tidbits, it’s too much of a chore to access everything.

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 Blu-ray boasts excellent audio but comes with inconsistent supplements and flawed visuals. I like the movie but the Blu-ray doesn’t live up to expectations

To rate this film, visit the DVD review of DAWN OF THE DEAD

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