Dawn of the Dead (2004) - Unrated Director's Cut

Genre(s): Horror / Thriller
Universal || Unrated - 110 minutes - $12.98 || October 26, 2004
Reviewer: Brian Oliver || Posted On: 2004-10-22


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.:: F I L M ::.
The Film

S P E C I A L
.: F E A T U R E S :.

Special Features

A U D I O &
.:: V I D E O ::.

Audio and Video

.:: O V E R A L L ::.
Overall
.::MOVIE INFORMATION::.
Director: Zack Snyder
Writer(s): George A. Romero (1978 screenplay), James Gunn (screenplay)
Cast: Sarah Polley, Ving Rhames, Jake Webber, Mekhi Phifer


Theatrical Release Date: March 19, 2004


.::DVD INFORMATION::.
Supplemental Material:
  • Director & Producer Commentary
  • The Lost Tape - Andy's Last Horrific Days
  • Special Report: Zombie Invasion
  • Deleted Scenes
  • Splitting Headache: Anatomy of Exploding Heads
  • Attack of the Living Dead
  • Raising the Dead


Technical Information:
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Widescreen (2.35)
  • English (Dolby Digital 5.1), French (Dolby Digital 5.1), Spanish (Dolby Digital 5.1)
  • Subtitles: English, French, Spanish

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.::THE FILM::.

IMAGE

It is rare for me to actually be scared while watching a movie, but the latest horror remake, Dawn of the Dead certainly did. However, not only is it scary, but it also has humor and now it actually has a little character development as well. Director Zack Snyder adds about 10 minutes to the film with an "Unrated Director's Cut".

In all honesty, I'm not the biggest fan of the horror genre fan. Add into the mix, that I haven't seen many zombie movies and the one's I have were merely decent (like 28 Days Later). The main problem that I've seen with the latter, in particular, is there is no explanation of why or how these zombies do what they're doing. While Dawn of the Dead has this problem, it didn't matter. This was, simply put, a great popcorn movie to see in the middle of March.

The film is about five strangers caught up in madness when suddenly an entire city seems to be falling into ruins and the people are turning into zombies (they seem to love to setting things on fire. . .). The group consists of: Ana (Polley), a wife who sees her husband become one of them, Kenneth (Rhames), a cop, Andre (Phifer) and his pregnant girlfriend Luda (Inna Korobkina), and Michael (Weber) who. . . I can't really remember why he was there. Anyways, the five of them have the idea to hold out at the local mall called "Crossroads Mall" (I would think at that point, it wouldn't look too promising). After breaking in, they encounter the mall's three security guards, the leader, named CJ (Michael Kelly), is the take charge kind and who also looks out for numero uno.

After clashing heads and some zombie killing, the group bands together to make a game plan- one part included making signs on the mall roof in hopes of getting the attention of the rescue team and another part to figure a way out and through the swarm of zombies that have gathered at the Crossroads Mall.

Of course, no horror movie would be complete without some more people (to be zombie food). So, in comes another truck load of five or six characters including a rich jerk named Steve (Ty Burrell), and a father and his daughter.

This is basically a popcorn flick in March. Before you go in, you must leave logic and common sense at the door because you ain't going to find it here. Do no ask yourself: How did these zombies come into being? The movie does begin at the hospital where a patient had come in after he was bitten (not shown) and while this satisfies how everyone else becomes infected, we don't know how this individual was infected (not even, shock of all shocks, the government knows). But all of that isn't even a quibble with me after the movie got rolling. It became what intended: a gory, popcorn romp, thriller. Plain and simple.

The acting for the most part isn't anything spectacular or even memorable but actors like Sarah Polley and the new Mr. Cool (nabbing the title away from Samuel L. Jackson), Ving Rhames both do good jobs playing the leaders of the pack. The others are more charactertures rather than flesh and blood characters but they too are decent for the roles they were playing. For instance, you've got CJ, the head security guy who starts out calling the shots but soon loses his position to Michael. And there were the usual comedic relief involving Andy the gunshop owner from across the street, taking out some celebrity-looking zombies.

I must say, while the acting wasn't all too memorable, the direction by Zack Snyder, was, which is incredible considering this is his first and only credit to his name. I don't know what he did before but he definitely has a pretty cool "quick" shot style that I haven't seen much of.

In a genre that can easily fall into the traps of cliches, predictability and mediocrity, Dawn of the Dead instead is a very fun movie that not only has some good thrills and lots of gore (a must in for a horror movie), but also is a movie that I can see becoming a cult classic for the 21st century much like the film it was based upon was.



.::SPECIAL FEATURES::.

Warning: There are minor plot spoilers within, so be careful.

Because I had not seen the movie since it was fist released back in March, I could not remember what was or was not in the original release, but luckily director Snyder (along with producer Eric Newman) pointed out the extended or new scenes out on their commentary track. I don't know if the additions were particularly necessary, however, they did not detract from the film as a whole. For the true blue horror fans out there, though, you may appreciate the extra gore that was added. Most of the significant scenes involved some character development. One in particular was after the guards locked away our fearless heroes (Polley, Rhames, Weber, Phifer), they lounge around the department store (sleeping on display couches and beds) and butt heads with each other (it is revealed that Weber worked at a Best Buy).

The rest of the commentary tended to be standard information, but at least was interesting. Snyder and Newman banterred a bit, pointed out inconsistencies, budget concerns, stunt men and women (one of whom was a stunt double to the late Chris Farley), etc. One interesting comment: Snyder admitted that this being his directorial debut, he assumed the film would be shot in chronilogical order. While this was not the best commentary I've listened to, it was entertaining none-the-less.

The Lost Tape feature documents firearms salesman Andy's final days and includes some dialogue and incidents from the movie itself. I didn't find it entirely entertaining as it lasts more than 15 minutes, but it's still and interesting feature you don't normally see.

The Special Report: Zombie Invasion is kind of like the previously mentioned feature... and is just as entertaining. It takes the footage used sparatically throughout the film. It looks like a Hollywood produced feature rather than something you would actually see on TV. Now, again, it's interesting to watch for two minutes, after that, I found it useless.

I watched the Deleted Scenes with the director and producer commentary, which was somewhat redundent. The scenes were cut for the usual reasons including moving the story forward. Some of the scenes allowed for more character development as some of them just chit-chat about mundane things -- to show how much, and how long, they've been living in the mall.

The next three featurettes are exclusive to the Unrated Director's Cut edition. First, Splitting Headaches: Anatomy of Exploding Heads covers, well, how the filmmakers made the exploding heads so realistic. The featurette covers the head explosions from brains splatter on the wall to Andy's head being cut in half. It's a nice feature that gives good insight to the process seen in many films (not only zombie pictures).

Attack of the Living Dead, like the "Exploding Heads" one, profiles, if I remember correctly, six zombie kills including the armless jogger, the fat lady and the mall maintenance guy. This featurette shows how they got these characters into zombie form.

The last featurette, Raising the Dead, is a fairly in-depth look into the countless hours put in to make hundreds of extras into zombie-form. It also put forth something I didn't notice: the zombies go into three stages of zombie-ism. It was very fascinating to watch as 20 or more makeup artists work on the actors.



.::AUDIO & VIDEO::.

IMAGE

The picture side of things was excellent (as it should be) with the blood and gore coming across on my big screen TV coming across nicely. I was, however, disappointed with the sound, for the most part. It was pretty light when it came to the tank explosions but, in fairness, the bullets hitting zombie skulls, sounds clear. Not a big, though I was hoping for my bass to kick in at some point...



.::OVERALL::.

Forget the theatrical release version and go ahead and spend the extra five bucks or whatever for this edition. You get three featurettes which gives some insight into the making of the film and the commentary track does make reference to the extra scenes (the other version I believe does have this commentary but without reference to the unrated portions).