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  Dawn of the Dead Shopping Maul
Year: 2004
Director: Zack Snyder
Stars: Sarah Polley, Ving Rhames, Jake Weber, Mekhi Phifer, Michael Kelly, Ty Burrell, Kevin Zegers, Michael Barry, Lindy Booth, Jayne Eastwood, Boyd Banks, Inna Korobkina, R.D. Reid, Kim Poirier, Matt Frewer, Bruce Bohne, Tom Savini, Ken Foree, Scott Reiniger
Genre: Horror, ActionBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 7 votes)
Review: Anna (Sarah Polley) is a nurse who should have finished her shift at the hospital an hour ago. She finds it strange that a bite victim admitted in the morning should have stayed all day, but she wants to get back to her husband at home, so thinks nothing more of it. That night, curled up in bed, their sleep is interrupted by the bedroom door opening and the little girl from across the street appearing - and launching herself at Anna's husband, tearing out his throat with her teeth. Anna locks the bedroom door as the little girl bashes against it, and tries to save her husband, but it's no use. When he returns from the dead shortly after, Anna realises its her own self she must now save...

Written by James Gunn, Dawn of the Dead took George A. Romero's horror classic and transformed it into one of the many Hollywood action shockers that arrived in the 2000s. The social satire of the original was pared away to concentrate on the bloody effects and zombie-evading techniques, making it a non-stop rollercoaster ride that lasts three quarters of the running time. It's still recognisably the same story, but it's to the film's credit that you don't miss the sardonic commentary on modern life, perhaps because it all goes without saying in these paranoid times, such is the influence of the Romero series.

Escaping from a Milwaukee suburb going up in flames, Anna heads down the highway as helicopters buzz overhead and anonymous figures wander aimlessly through the menacing landscape. She crashes her car when someone jumps onto it, which leads her to meet Kenneth (Ving Rhames), a cop who nearly shoots her. Slowly a band of survivors, including Michael (Jake Weber) and Andre (Mekhi Phifer), accompanied by his recently bitten, heavily pregnant wife, is assembled, who head for the safety of the local mall.

The mall is being held by three security guards led by CJ (Michael Kelly), who reluctantly take them in, and so the siege begins. As in the original, the undead head for the mall, but this time it might not be because it's where they went in life, but rather because they want to eat the living inside. In fact, any moments where the story tries to fit in social commentary or even character scenes look like a distraction; fortunately the cast skillfully sketch their roles with what little they are given. There's not much time for grieving. And you'll be fine if you're a dog, apparently.

The zombies now sprint after their prey, replacing the slow but insistently unstoppable dead of the original with more panic-inducing, wild-eyed monsters, which certainly picks up the pace. The gore is plentiful, but not imaginative - mostly gunshot wounds to the head - and you can guess who will end up as zombie fodder, whether they've suffered a bite or not. A drop of gallows humour doesn't go amiss, as in the "shoot the celebrity lookalike" game, or the ironic muzak, but this effort rumbles relentlessly on, sufficiently nasty (the zombie baby - you knew it had to happen!) to build to a storming climax with a great escape sequence.

However, there's something missing: you get the impression everything is done solely for effect. If you like your horror slick instead of grungy, then dive in, you won't be disappointed, but there's a nagging feeling this is a cynical money making exercise for people who don't enjoy anything made over ten years ago. If you keep watching the credits to the end you're treated to a big "fuck you" to the characters, which is less a throwback to the bleak endings of seventies horror, and more a twist with both eyes on a profitable sequel. Still, as cynical money making exercises go, you could do a lot worse, this is pretty good fun, despite being tantamount to sacrilege for some fans. Music by Tyler Bates.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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