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PCR # 208  (Vol. 5, No. 12)  This edition is for the week of March 15--21, 2004.

This Week's PCR
Movie Review
"Dawn of the Dead"

Movie review by:
Michael A. Smith

Three stars

Movies are rated 0 to 4 stars

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 by Mike Smith
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Starring: Sarah Polley, Ving Rhames, Jake Weber, and Mikhi Pfeifer
Directed by: Zack Snyder
Rated: R
Running Time: 1 hour 40 mins

25 years ago, when I was just a movie geek working at the local theatre, many of my friends were fellow movie geeks, working in other movie theatres. I'm not sure which friend it was, but one day I received a phone call telling me to grab my pals and come to his theatre at 8:00 that night. They had been chosen to present an unannounced sneak preview and, while he couldn't tell me the name of the film, he knew that it was something we wanted to see. Well, we bought our popcorn, settled into our seats and for the next 90 mins we screamed our heads off. We had been introduced to George Romero's "Dawn of the Dead." Now, a quarter decade later, a new generation will get their chance to scream their heads off. And scream they will!

More a "re-imagining" then a remake, the new "Dawn of the Dead" is an excellent combination of horror and humor that many films try to achieve and few seldom do. The original story, briefly: The dead have risen and are slowly munching their way through the living. Of course, when you are killed by a zombie, you become a zombie. A small group finds their way into the local shopping mall, where they do their best to survive. The new film pretty much sticks to the plot line, but mixes in enough new scenarios that it can stand on it's own. The film begins with various shots of world turmoil, as if suggesting that all of the negativity in the world is the cause of the dead being angry. Shown in news style footage, while the great Johnny Cash song, "The Man Comes Around," plays on the soundtrack, it helps set up the story you are about to see. I should mention one main difference in the two films. While the zombies in 1979 were very slow and plodding, today's zombie is physically fit and has no trouble sprinting after you to make you his next snack. Another difference is that, rather then one small group of a few people, there are different groups that form one larger band, which adds more backstories to the film. Polley is a nurse who has seen, first hand, the effects of death by zombie. Rhames is a cop who is hoping to find his brother. Pfeifer is the young man concerned for his soon to give birth girlfriend. Surrounded by death, they decided to do what everyone does when there's nothing else to do.........go to the mall. As they make their way through the deserted complex, accompanied to the strains of "Don't Worry, Be Happy" on the Muzak, they do what they can to make the mall a secured fortress. While painting a plaintive SOS on the roof, they begin a silent friendship with the owner of the gun shop across the street, who has barricaded himself on his roof. Soon, they are exchanging messages via sign boards and even engaging in games of chess. Of course, they soon realize that they can't hide in the mall forever and make plans for their final escape.

I really loved this film. Sometimes when you have a fondness for something, you hate to accept a "newer" or "improved" version. If you doubt my word, ask someone about "Planet of the Apes." This film keeps the spirit of the original but updates it enough to play perfectly in our time. The make up effects are top notch and cameos from original make up genius Tom Savini and original stars Ken Foree and Scott Reineger are perfect branches connecting the two films. Much credit must go to writer James Gunn, who got his start writing such classic Troma films as "Tromeo and Juliet." He has adapted Romero's original screenplay to the present without a false note. How he got hired to write both of the "Scooby Doo" films is beyond me. He surely deserves better. Snyder, making his directorial debut, has a keen eye for camera placement and story pacing. Even if he stays in the horror genre, he's got a career ahead of him. Rated R for excessive violence (there is really no bloodless way to kill a zombie), the effects, while not as shocking as Savini's original work, are still top notch. If you are in the mood for a little fright, go see this movie come Saturday night! On a scale of zero to four stars, I give "Dawn of the Dead"  Three stars

This week's movie review of "Dawn of the Dead" is ©2004 by Michael A. Smith.  All graphics this page are creations of Nolan B. Canova, ©2004, all rights reserved. All contents of "Nolan's Pop Culture Review" are ©2004 by Nolan B. Canova.