Dawn of the Dead (2004)

Director: Zack Snyder

Screenplay: James Gunn (with a writing credit to George A.Romero)

Starring: Ving Rhames, Sarah Polley, Jake Weber, Michael Kelly, many more

Bit part: Matt 'Max Headroom' Frewer)

In one line: A plague of zombies attack a shopping mall.


Most people would consider it a heresy to say that this re-make, 're-imagining' of Romero's 'classic' is better than the original, but it is.

Romero's heavy-handed 1979 satire wasn't that good to begin with (and wasn't a patch on the brilliant Night of the Living Dead) with its slow moving plot a perfect device to accompany its slow moving zombies. Its critique of capitalist and consumerist values may have proved a boon to film and media studies lecturers over the years, but once you work out the analogy you have to sit through two hours of crap acting and aesthetically-challenged actors.

The 2004 re-make is a real MTV generation classic. Fast cutting, fast zombies and any number of brilliant set pieces. Danny Boyle may have been the first to feature 'zombies who run' in the reasonably good 28 Days Later, but director Snyder (who will soon be directing Alan Moore's legendary Watchmen) makes good use of a far bigger budget and isn't hampered by having to include Christopher Eccleston doing 'posh'.

The escape from the besieged shopping mall is the film's highlight. Snyder is good at building up tension, but his skilful use of saturated fast film stock and his eye for a number of startling shots help to reveal a director of some promise. His most extraordinary shot is of the road the escapees must take to reach safety. An aerial shot of their route sees the city as a sea of thousands and thousands of zombies, all waiting in agitated expectation for their prey. It reminded me of coming out of Derby County's Baseball Ground in any chosen year between 1971 and 1979.

Michael Kelly  (as a cynical security guard who discovers his humanity and courage) is the pick of the actors on show, but this is a director's genre. A suitably nihilstic ending is played out to Jim Carroll's People Who Died  and is a far better use of the song than the piss-poor use of it to accompany the piss poor film version of Carroll's own autobiographical novel The Basketball Diaries.

A film to watch alone, at night, with a bottle of absinthe.  

SV (2009)