Dawn of the Dead
2004
Director: Zack Snyder
Stars: Sarah Polley, Ving Rhames, Jake Weber
Reviewed by Brian M. Sammons

When I first heard they were remaking one of my all-time favorite movies, like many folks, I was pissed. How dare they remake a classic? How do they think they can make it any better? Well they didn’t make it better; they were smart enough to make it its own thing, and I ended up liking that thing quite a lot. So how is this new Blu-ray from Scream Factory? Well, don’t think too hard on how dead people can run so fast and let’s find out.

The basics of the story are left intact. One day the dead rise up and some survivors take refuge in a large indoor shopping mall, and hilarity ensues. What sets this version of Dawn apart from the previous one are many things. First there is the sharp, funny, and far more action-oriented script written by James Gunn before his big Guardians of the Galaxy break. Then there is Zack Snyder’s over-the-top direction. While it (and he) has become a bit of a joke now, it works well here and is distinctly different enough from what George A. Romero did to avoid comparisons and that’s a good thing. Snyder’s fetishizing of violence is right at home in a movie where people get ripped apart and heads explode with wild abandon. The cast is larger, for the betterment of gory zombie munching, and everyone has fun and does a good job breathing life into these characters. The blood flows freely and there is enough chunky splatter to keep the gorehounds happy. Perhaps the biggest change comes in the zombies themselves, eschewing the slow shamble they had in Romero’s movies to the fast, sprinting action that a lot of “zombies” (infecting folks or actual undead) have today. While normally I’ll take the slow creeping dread of the undead any day over the dashing dead, here that turbocharged action works.

So yeah, in most of the ways that count, this movie is vastly different than the one it claims to remake. It is its own beast, and I am happy that it is.

Let’s get to those yummy special features that Scream Factory likes to give us. First, there are two versions of the movie here, the theatrical cut and the unrated cut. They are each on their own Blu-ray and they each come with their own set of extras. For the unrated cut there is an audio commentary with director Zack Snyder and producer Eric Newman. There is a featurette all about exploding heads in the movie that is five and a half minutes long. There are two different featurettes on zombies that together total almost 16 minutes. There is a 16 minute short film about Andy the gun store owner in the movie that’s a bit of fun. Another short movie is a special news report about the zombie invasion that’s over 21 minutes long. There is a mockumentary about using real zombies in the movie that runs five minutes. One of the storyboards is almost three minutes long, and then there are storyboard comparisons that are six minutes in length.

Now on to the theatrical cut extras. There is an interview with actor Ty Rurrell that’s 15 and a half minutes. An interview with writer James Gunn that runs nine and a half minutes long. There’s an interview with actor Jake Weber which is a respectable 23 minutes long. And there is also a featurette on the effects of the film that’s 26 minutes. There are a collection of deleted scenes with optional commentary with director Snyder and producer Newman. Last but not least there is a theatrical trailer and a photo gallery. So yeah, Scream Factory don’t disappoint when it comes to the goodies on this release.

You can’t go wrong with Dawn of the Dead (either version), and this is a great looking HD transfer that comes loaded with extras. Is it any surprise that I can highly recommend this release? No, I didn’t think so. Give yourself a treat and pick this up this Halloween.

About Brian M. Sammons

Brian M. Sammons has penned stories that have appeared in the anthologies: Arkham Tales, Horrors Beyond, Monstrous, Dead but Dreaming 2, Horror for the Holidays, Deepest, Darkest Eden and others. He has edited the books; Cthulhu Unbound 3, Undead & Unbound, Eldritch Chrome, Edge of Sundown, Steampunk Cthulhu, Dark Rites of Cthulhu, Atomic Age Cthulhu, World War Cthulhu and Flesh Like Smoke. He is also the managing editor of Dark Regions Press’ Weird Fiction line. For more about this guy that neighbors describe as “such a nice, quiet man” you can check out his infrequently updated webpage here: http://brian_sammons.webs.com/ and follow him on Twitter @BrianMSammons.