Movie Review: Dawn of the Dead (2004)

I needed a shot of a good ol' zombie apocalypse while waiting for the next episode of The Walking Dead. Fiancé assured me that Zack Snyder had made a superior remake of Romero's seventies classic. I also spied Mekhi Pfeifer's name on the cast list. Count me in!

Dawn of the Dead tells its terrifying story with stylish flair within a crisp 100-minute running time. A nurse goes home on the night that a bitten patient puzzles hospital staff, and wakes up to a zombie child standing in their bedroom doorway. Her husband gets chomped, nurse escapes, and starts her adventure with other survivors at Crossroads Mall. The group initially consists of a man and his pregnant wife, a former Marine, and a guy who I thought was Tim Roth but turned out to be fellow Middlebury alum Jake Weber. Well, they're both English, okay?

The small group gets bigger. First, they encounter mall security, 2/3 of whom are jerks; then they see a man who runs a gun shop across the street with whom they communicate via whiteboard and binoculars; a brave woman who picked up other survivors smashes her truck against the mall; and finally, they find a dog in the parking garage. CHIPS!!! Little Chips becomes a plot point later on, because obviously a character plunges into danger to save the furry guy.

Anyway, the characters mill together in the mall for a little while and represent, in no particular order: the tough healthcare worker, the tough dad, the foreigner, the weak one, the tough cop, the tough old lady, the young lovers, the sarcastic rich guy, the clueless guy, and the guy who redeems himself in the end. Romero's Night of the Living Dead expressed clear themes, and I'm sure his 1978 Dawn of the Dead did, too. Here Snyder limits himself to just a few broad thematic strokes, namely -- dubious exclusion in the name of safety, misguided attempts to save loved ones, and the importance of staying together. Because you know if you separate from the group you're dead, right?

Snyder directs his debut film with aplomb, the characters do a great job, and the writers came up with a plausible screenplay. Dawn of the Dead will satisfy your zombie craving while you wonder excitedly what the next wringer will be for The Walking Dead characters. Recommended.

In other news, we have a Halloween party to go to tonight. I'm dressing up as Shameless Employee, R version, and Fiancé is excited about the Captain Kirk costume he found at the Garment District. We're so made for each other.