Zack Snyder’s ‘Dawn of the Dead’ Turns 15 — Proof that Remakes can Rock!

When I first entered the theater for Zack Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead in 2004, I didn’t know what to expect. Even with a script from Guardian of the Galaxy’s James Gunn, at the time, all I knew was that it was a remake of George A. Romero’s 1978 original. Fortunately, what I didn’t know didn’t hurt me, and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. You ever sit, watch something and get that instant feeling of, “Yeah, this is for me!” Well, that’s exactly what happened there.

For starters, the opening credits use Johnny Cash’s “The Man Comes Around.” That, by itself, was an impressive and highly memorable song choice. It instantly transforms the film into something unique, and also separates it from Romero’s original (which obviously didn’t include many songs to set a mood, relying instead on the film’s score). When you think the opening credits are cool, you know you’re on to something. Also, the initial zombie scenes are pretty epic, and lets you know that these zombies mean business!

Is The Action A Minus Or A Plus?

The zombies in this Dawn of the Dead are faster than in the original. This, of course, is where some people have a problem. They don’t like the fast-paced zombies and the relative lack of digs at consumer culture. However, I actually applaud the choice to mostly set this film apart. The slow zombie thing can obviously work, but why completely rule out faster ones — especially when they’re depicted well?  t seems that film critics often forget the importance of new approaches.

Sure, some people say 2004’s Dawn of the Dead is more action-oriented, but I don’t find myself complaining about that. In fact, I would say the action doesn’t choke off the other dynamics t all. We still learn about the characters, there are still memorable zombie scenes, and the undead seem a little more pissed off here. It’s done differently, but it’s done well.  Also, you’ll always have the original Romero films to fall back on.

The film also has great performances, which happen to be wrapped up in the action sequences. There isn’t a single lousy actor here, as far as I’m concerned. Sarah Polley (Go 1999), Ving Rhames (Pulp Fiction 1994), Jake Weber (The Cell 2000), Mekhi Phifer (ER TV series), Michael Kelly (House Of Cards TV series) and Bruce Bohne (Fargo 1996) all bring something unique to the table. I even like the scene where they’re beefing up their getaway vehicles, which could have been a mindless montage.

The other cool music didn’t hurt, either. And speaking of cool music, you also have to love “People Who Died” by Jim Carroll Band, and the unforgettable sequence featuring Richard Cheese’s version of “Down With the Sickness.” This movie does wonders in demonstrating how important songs can be in scenes. In fact, it almost seems like Dawn of the Dead should be shown in film school classes for this reason.

Proof That Re-Makes Can Rock

It’s tempting to trash talk remakes in general. After all, don’t most of them suck? Don’t they prove that Hollywood’s run out of ideas? Don’t they blah blah blah blah blah? Yes, we’ve all heard these charges, but there are exceptions to the rule.  Dawn of the Dead is a notable one. Sure, these people use the mall a little differently than Romero’s did, but you can’t hinge all your expectations on the past. If this film reminded me of anything, it’s that horror is always changing. People change. Hell, even zombies can be updated. Isn’t that the point of a zombie film remake to begin with?

What are your thoughts on Dawn of the Dead? Let us know in the comments!

About wadewainio

Wade is a wannabe artist and musician (operating under the moniker Grandpa Helicopter), and an occasional radio DJ for WMTU 91.9 FM Houghton. He is an occasional writer for Undead Walking, and also makes up various blogs of his own. He even has a few books in the works. Then again, doesn't everyone?

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