Being a zombie movie fan i have much enjoyed the recent (continuing) resurgence of the genre. As i believe that Romero’s Dawn is not only the best zombie movie ever, but one of the best horror movies, i was both excited and sceptical to hear about a remake. Reasons for excitement- 1. It’s zombies. 2. A big budget. 3. If done right, could be brilliant. Reasons for scepticism- 1. A big budget. 2. Less gore, less shock value. 3. If done wrong could be awful, and possibly tarnish the name of the original in some people’s eyes.
I soon heard that the zombies would be able to run- a source of many arguments among fans and purists. On one side, the zombies were scarier because their slow speed was irrelevant, they would probably get you in the end through sheer numbers or by the fact that they don’t get tired. Slow zombies were scary because they were falling to pieces. However, on the other side, people who have recently turned may still be in good shape so should be able to run until they begin to decay. Fast zombies make the threat more immediate and therefore give rise to more jumpy moments. Fast zombies mean we have an even smaller chance of survival as we may not be able to outrun them. Some have said the zombies in this are ‘super-fast’, but this is nonsense. A zombie should only be as fast as it was before it turned, more likely slower, but will not get out of breath. All this running will however mean quicker decay. What it all boils down too in the end is whether you can make your choice effective, and in both films, both directors succeed.
A Nurse, Ana, during and after a heavy shift fails to notice the news reports that the dead are attacking the living. It is probably rubbish anyway, and she just wants to get home to suburbia. The next morning, her young neighbour enters her bedroom; She seems to be hurt. When her husband investigates, she attacks him, biting off part of his throat. He dies, the phone is engaged, but he quickly rises again and goes for his wife. When she escapes the house she witnesses chaos, people screaming, houses on fire and being attacked, her neighbour with a gun, promptly run over by an ambulance. She escapes in her car only to crash after seeing the scale of the madness. Soon she meets with a cop- Kenneth, Michael, Andre and his pregnant girlfriend Luda. They decide to hide in a local mall only to find that Store guards have claimed it for their own. However, they work out a compromise and soon other survivors join them. As the days pass, they try to work out a solution, how to maintain their safety and sanity. When an attempt to send food to Andy, a survivor on the roof of a gun shop a few hundred yards away goes wrong, the zombies get into the mall, and the remaining survivors flee. Their plan to escape to an island by boat seems good, but it is based on pure hope, and the desire to get out of their present situation, rushed, and the hordes continue to chase.
The film lacks the brains and atmosphere of Romero’s masterpiece. But it makes up for this by giving an excellent view of how contemporary people would likely react to the situation. The film begins quickly, and to the director’s credit, the pace continues throughout. Anytime something good happens, something worse happens to bring the characters to an even lower state. It is frantic, but never out of control, and their is a fair amount of tension. Once we realise the zombies are fast, we are on edge, prepared for one or one hundred to come racing round the nearest shadowy corner. The actors all do well, particularly Polley and the excellent Weber. His character is just a normal guy, a failure at many things, but who will not give up. Rhames is tough, but doesn’t set out on his own, knowing that he is needed. The soundtrack is more conventional,with booming rock songs being played over each attack, but this heightens the chaos. There is little hope left at the end, and little time for discussion over why this has happened. There are a few good set pieces, and the gore is good for a modern mainstream film. There are a few funny moments, and of course, another staple of zombie films, an annoying character-Steve. The best of the recent serious zombie films by a wide margin, lets see if Romero can regain his crown.
The DVD has a few good extras, the commentary is amusing, and the last days of Andy feature is well worth watching.