McMurphy posted this nice review of Dawn of the Dead in the Movies and TV section. It obviously took a while to write, and I thought I deserved to be put in the reviews section.
McMurphy said:I had the chance to watch Dawn of the Dead (2004 remake) a few weeks ago. I came out of the theatre with mixed feelings.
Strengths: Its horror formula works best when it is campy and light-heartedly self-aware that the movie is a remake of a sequel of the cult classic, Night of the Living Dead. Let the zombies leer through the mall's glass window at the main characters. Let the news broadcasts sound a bit over-the-top and deadpanned. Let the zombies lunge out from a hidden, off screen place and give a good show of moaning. Its cheesy, its campy, but, most importantly, it worked for the original, and the audience bought the ticket to consume popcorn and soda while reliving the original undead formula. There are moments, although they don't happen as much as they should, that effectively tap into that effect. The opening and ending sequences are the best examples. Near the end, the main characters look through the binoculars from on top of a mall complex to a befriended owner of a gunshop across the street. They and the audience have become accustomed to reading the thoughts of the gunshop owner by spotting his messages scribed on a markerboard he would hold above his head. Instead of a new message, he holds up the board smeared with blood. "He's infected," a hushed and horrible revelation both the audience and the characters feel at the same time. When the strengths aren't goose bumping the flesh of the audience, it is making them chuckle at macabre moments that they never thought they would....without guilt. Back to the gunshop owner with the markerboard.
During a mid-movie sequence, the sharp shooting retail owner starts killing zombies who are absentmindedly trying to find a way to break into the mall. Our "heroes" write a famous figure's name on their markerboard, the shooter reads it, and shoots the zombie best fitting that description. Sounds tactless, and it is, but it also comes across as funny, especially when they decide against writing "Rosie O'Donald" because she would be too easy of a target.
The music for the film also earns a favorable nod. The opening credit sequence assaults the freshly seated viewers with flashes of worldwide chaos as zombies wreak havoc while playing Johnny Cash's chilling song, "When the Man Comes Around." After hearing the song played over the carnage, it is hard to think of a song that could be better suited. The heavy metal band, Disturbed, has their hit single, "Down with the Sickness" covered as a lounge-act tune: a priceless treat that matches a sequence as the odd-coupled bunch of survivors get used to a life trapped in a mall. Afterwards, you are left disturbed. But grinning.
Weaknesses: The film certainly has more than its fair share of moments that disables it from being truly a worthy example of horror in cinema. First, too many "Hollywood moments" bleed through and ruin the campy tone. It feels like a juggle, maybe even a compromise, of being either a typical Hollywood horror film or an exercise of indulgence for cult classics. Stephen King wrote in On Writing that Night of the Living Dead marked the beginning of unnecessary gore in horror films, and I believe that Scream marked the beginning of the annoying "hip" college aged yuppies conquering supernatural killers (who are usually tied into rural characteristics, but the debate over urban fears of rural settings is better left in a Sociology paper) formula. Dawn of the Dead teeters back and forth in both influences with unsatisfying results.
Horror films have become all about seeing just how far they can dare push the proverbial envelope in gross outs. This film is no exception and, like others, can overstep the line. A sequence involving a pregnant lady becoming a zombie is a showstopper, and the audience loses respect for the film.
In the end, I would suggest waiting to rent the film, but not paying high ticket prices, if you are a horror film fan. The wait will be short.