Dawn of the Dead (2004): Part 1 of 2
Director: Zack Snyder
Writer: James Gunn; based on Dawn of the Dead by George A. Romero
Cinematographer: Matthew F. Leonetti
Producer: Richard P. Rubinstein, Marc Abraham, and Eric Newman
by Jon Cvack
The last time I watched this film was for my birthday years back in my first apartment in LA.I had long considered it the greatest remake ever made, featuring one of the greatest opening credit sequences of all time. It was one of the first films I watched on BluRay and with half a dozen people over who I thought it’d be one of the better horror screening experiences of my life. Yet it was shortly after that awful helicopter POV insert while they’re all standing on the mall’s roof that I had a feeling that this film and the curse of cheap 00s digital effects had finally exhibited the initial symptoms of millenial’s aging cinema.
By midway through the movie, I stopped the film and requested that we switch over DVD, convinced that the movie looked so bad that it had impacted the experience. I was convinced that it was a bad transfer, with the BluRay costing only $8 and including the DVD as well (a rare bargain, at the time), and after a long debate of how I was wrong (which I was), being my birthday, I was able to switch out the discs. Sure enough, though likely due to confirmation bias, I recall the film playing better; with at least of the people listening to the debate agreeing (though perhaps because they felt bad for me). Admittedly, something remained wrong with the film; as it seemed to have lost the badass edge it once had upon release; which I think the proliferation of zombie content, specifically the walking dead, likely contributed to.
I’m not sure what made me want to return to the movie, as I honestly haven’t even put the thing on for what has to be nearly six years since then, other than the strange desire for the familiar and fun. Like most, my favorite part of the film is the excitement it creates; to seek refuge in an abandoned mall with most things you could want, all while zombies linger outside, wanting to eat you. I can’t find more words than that; it’s a feeling that has remained since I first saw the original in high school. I struggle to think of a more exciting and fun setting for a zombie movie to take place; it’s a location appreciated and shared by all walks of life.
I put in the BluRay wondering if I should even just stream it, still a bit convinced that the transfer was bad. Sure enough, as the film opens up at the hospital and we meet nurse Ana Clark (Sarah Polley) whose doctor fails to empathize that she’s an hour over shift and anxious to get home. The first thing I noticed this time around were the dominant green walls, shot with a bleached out look that is a bit jarring at first. Again, I turned off the movie and put in the DVD, hoping I was right about the transfer, and all I saw was a shittier version of the same thing, so I went back to the BluRay and let it play.
Ana exits the hospital and sees a pair of legs sticking out an ambulance. I recall the first time watching, thinking it was a dead body and Snyder was getting right to it. A call comes in and we see it’s a man napping. He pops up and heads out, and what you realize the second time around is realizing that they’re likely going to a zombie attack and will soon die.
She heads home and meets her husband who appears to work in construction. They live in a freshly developed middle class Milwaukee suburb. Ana is greeted by one of their kid neighbors on rollerblades who shows Ana how she can skate backwards. Ana heads inside and greets her husband; the pair exhibiting the perfect amount of chemistry without the hackneyed platitudes. She’s able to get three days off and he’s tired from work. The two make love in the shower and then pass out.
The next morning, they’re greeted by who appears to the kid neighbor, working her way down the dark hallway before revealing her infected face and pouncing at the husband. Ana tries her best to save him, watching as the blood floods from his neck as she realizes there’s nothing she can do. He turns into a zombie and chases her into the bathroom and she hops out a window (leaving me wondering what married couple takes the first floor bedroom, but whatever; bit of a logic snafu). She hops into the car and in another effect that completely bombs in age, we see the town on fire, with CGI flames emanating all throughout the distance. No worries, cause it shifts and Ana speeds off, chased by a zombie, and we see her entire neighborhood under attack, then cutting to God’s eye as she speeds down a hallway, and a car t-bones another, narrowing missing her, and crashing into a gas station which explodes, causing Ana to spin off and crash into a ditch.
So begins the greatest opening credits of all time as Johnny Cash’s “The Man Comes Around” plays over a series of images of civilization falling into chaos, and while some of the images have become stale to the genre, it embodies the film’s spirit; pumping us up for what’s to come; serving as a type of overture. If a few of the clips were replaced, it could remain just as strong.
Continue to Part 2...
BELOW: One of the best credit intros of all time
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