First-time director Zack Snyder remakes zombie master George A. Romero's classic 1978 gore-fest DAWN OF THE DEAD, wisely replicating only the basic elements of Romero's movie, instead sticking to his own vision of a world overrun by undead flesh-eating creatures. The action begins with nurse Ana (Sarah Polley) waking up to discover her boyfriend has become a tasty midnight snack for a formerly cute neighboring kid. To her horror, she realizes that the whole town is in a similar state of ghoulishness, until she runs into still-alive cop Kenneth (Ving Rhames); the levelheaded Michael (Jack Weber); and Andre (Mekhi Phifer), a rebel with a pregnant wife in tow. As in Romero's original, the group heads for the local mall where they barricade themselves inside. More survivors surface, while in the outside world the zombies go about their day by slowly taking over the planet. Undeterred by the odds against them, the survivors plot, scheme, and enjoy their mall paradise. As they plan their escape, some incredibly gruesome special effects are deployed, often with a dash of wry humor added for light relief.
Placing the messages from Romero's version--a funny, scary look at consumerist society--on the back burner, the 2004 version of DAWN OF THE DEAD instead concentrates on delivering a witty blood-fest. The zombies appear to have taken their cues from the fast-moving corpses of Danny Boyle's 28 DAYS LATER, and are generally much more agile than their 1978 counterparts. Director Snyder gets the balance between humorous set-pieces and plot development exactly right throughout, producing an enjoyable remake that can easily hold its own alongside the deservedly hailed original film.
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