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Dawn of the Dead Remake (2004)
Dawn of the Dead Remake (2004) I had quite a mixed reaction when I first heard they were remaking the George Romero classic. I mean, it's one of the best horror movies ever made. Why remake it? But then I thought about last year's TEXAS CHAINSAW redo and was pleasantly surprised at how well they handled that.

First, I have to say that the new DAWN OF THE DEAD isn't a bad movie. In fact, there were scenes that had me gnawing at my fingernails. The actors were good, the special effects suitably gory and a pervading sense of dread was accomplished. Yet, in comparison, 28 DAYS LATER is a much better zombie movie and the new DAWN comes nowhere near the thrill of the original film.

Basically, the only thing in common with the original is that there are people stuck in a mall with a bunch of flesh-eating zombies trying to get in at them. All the characters are different. And instead of four people taking refuge in the mall there ends up being about a dozen of them, which turns out to be the movie's biggest problem. There are far too many characters here for proper development. They have the good black guy, the bad black guy, the two young people falling in love, the asshole who turns out to be a hero in the end. My biggest surprise was that the two characters I liked the most were neither of the two people I'd thought they'd be. There is the blonde woman and the black guy, as in the first movie, but they take a back seat to some of the other characters. And Sarah Polley, who is the female lead here, is extremely underutilized. If you want to really see her act rent out the Canadian drama MY LIFE WITHOUT ME (2004).

The movie also goes beyond the mall scenario. In the end the survivors end up rigging these small buses with armor and barbed wire-and then drive through the massive crowds of zombies in order to get to a boat so they can take refuge on one of the nearby islands. This is kind of the ending of DAY OF THE DEAD. You also have to sit through the end credits to find out how the movie really ends.

The cameos, all within the same ten minutes at the beginning of the film, were entertaining. There's Tom Savini as a sheriff being interviewed on television, Ken Foree as a tv preacher telling his viewers 'that when there's no more room in Hell the dead will walk the earth.' And when several of the characters first set eyes on the shopping mall we see that one of the store signs says 'GAYLEN ROSS', which of course is the name of the lead actress in the original movie.

I wouldn't say not to see this movie. As zombie movies go it's a good one. But don't have high expectations of it equalling the original. You'll be sorely disappointed.

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