Friday, April 1, 2016

Alive Inside, or Thoughts on Zack Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead

 The zombie cinematic landscape was bleak in the early 2000’s, no pun intended, the last great zombie movie had come out in 1985 with The Return of the Living Dead when the genre suddenly returned to life in 2002 with the release of Shaun of the Dead, the first Resident Evil and 28 Days Later (2002).  Think about that for a moment, three major studios released zombie movies in the same year, almost concurrently, and shaped the pop culture world well into the next decade.
The fast zombies of 28 Days Later returned in Zack Snyder’s remake of Dawn of the Dead (2004).  I have a reflexive dislike for remakes that is legendary in scope, but I remember thinking that since the original had come out in 1978, enough time had elapsed for a proper remake.  I also considered it a respectful retelling with cameos by Tom Savini, Scott Reiniger and Ken Foree, all from the original George A. Romero film.  It was still set in a mall but the political aspects were dropped, and the revolutionary fast zombies were introduced along with a quick acting zombificiation virus from single bites.
The movie sets up the premise fast, even in 2004 we all knew what a zombie outbreak meant, and we had all grown up on midnight viewings of Night of The Living Dead (1968), thanks to VHS.  The credits tell you everything you need to know.  Johnny Cash, sings his apocalyptic The Man Comes Around, including the pale horse quote.  Newsreels show post 9/11 paranoia, riots, civil unrest, and religious extremism interspersed with biting zombies and a White House spokesman who answers every question with “we don’t know.”
Sarah Polley plays Anna, the resourceful and practical heroine who figures out the zombie bite infection before everyone else.  From her first panicked run outside her house, 10 minutes into the story where she takes a moment and watches her world collapse, we know what she’s in for.  Like Rick, she wakes up to a new world order, but at least she has more information and Ving Rhames with his trusty shotgun.  They end up in an empty shopping mall and create a mini-society that works for a while, but ultimately breaks down.
It’s a fast-paced plot, with no existential asides where a random character deals with the morality issues or demands an explanation; everybody just gets on board with the idea of killing zombies and survival.  But what’s most interesting, especially when compared to Zack Snyder’s latest movie Batman v Superman (2016), is the level of emotion and humor in the movie.  Matt (Max Headroom!) Frewer’s pre-zombie scene shows real emotion, and there are numerous situations that deal with the inherent absurdities of the basic premise.
I have so many favorite moments; Ben Kozine flopping in the fountain, Chip the dog, the rooftop chess matches, the Burt Reynolds zombie, Bart’s coming out story, the zombie baby and the final credits with the video on Steve’s yacht.  It remains, along with John Carpenter’s The Thing (1982), one of my favorite remakes of all time and the only Zack Snyder movie worth a re-watch.


my first novel? thanks for asking:) I wrote a 4 book supernatural martial arts series concerning the ongoing feud between a group of kung-fu killer witches in san francsico’s chinatown.