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Dawn of the Dead ('04): Director's Cut

Universal // Unrated // October 26, 2004
List Price: $29.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by G. Noel Gross | posted October 25, 2004 | E-mail the Author

UPDATE (10/27): Two issues have risen since this review was filed. Foremost for CineSchlockers, the digital camouflaging of TWO BREASTS inexplicably deemed suitable for foreign viewers, but not for this "Unrated" domestic release. Second, the absence of a "Surviving the Dawn" cast featuertte available on the R-rated version. My extras rating has been lowered accordingly -- by a full star.

I can practically hear some of y'all now ...

"But, but you gave the Chainsaw remake TWO STARS!?! It's every bit a reinterpretation as this you, you hypocritical bonehead!!!"

"How dare you give FOUR stars to this abominable desecration of George Romero's classic!?!"

Believe me, I can't recall another crisis of CineSchlocker conscience that's so troubled my little black heart. But goldang it if this sucker ain't a heckuva ride! Is it a transcendent retool akin to The Thing or The Fly? Hardly. But it's good. Dern good. Here's 10 reasons why this diehard gorehound will admit to, gulp, loving a Tinseltown retread of zombidom's holy grail.

1. Reverence for the original: Three first timers land fan-friendly cameos. Gaylen Ross gets her own department store. Even a familiar green whirlybird does a flyby! There's more nods for those who look and listen. Most of all, the filmmakers respect Romero by successfully following their own surprisingly engaging path within the world he created. (For good or ill, they also don't attempt to crib his social satire.)

2. Quickening without weakening: I prefer my zombies lethargic and hungry over speedy and fussy, but the flick's action-oriented first and final acts clearly benefit from post-28 Days Later fast mo ghouls. I'd argue the remake's overall hastened pace actually harkens to what Dario Argento was aiming for with his European cut of the original.

3. We ain't laughin: There's physical and emotional severity from the get go. It's no joke. Dawn of the Dead? More like Dawn of the Muther Scratchin' APOCALYPSE!!! When a precious kiddo leaps choppers first for a fella's throat -- you expect the flick to go for the jugular too. This gorehound's delight does so without apology.

4. OK, maybe we are: Humor under such grisly circumstances is a welcome relief. Although, unlike typical Hollywood horror, one-liners aren't tossed off to neuter the impact of the carnage. It's used more as wry pit stops along the highway to H-E-L-L!!! Hollywood Squares, anyone? Oh, and notice how the gang's yuk monkeys are ultimately dealt with.

5. Gory, gory, hallelujah: No CGI splatter. Just 25 years of evolution in makeup FX set in motion by the original itself. A cavalcade of gloriously juicy, nauseatingly realistic head shots. A rich variety of increasingly ooey-gooey zombies. Plus, chainsaw antics a certain other remake didn't dare deliver. All of it made all the more delish thanks to this Director's Cut!

6. Inside the Actors Studio: A clear sign of unapologetic horror moviemaking is casting. Not just names, but gifted actors, committed to taking the macabre seriously. Sarah Polley hooks us emotionally. Ving Rhames is a rock equally ready to rumble or crumble. Jake Weber is quietly captivating. Their skillful investment invests US!

7. Don't know nuthin 'bout birthin' no babies: They really went there!?! Seeing Inna Korobkina's trussed up Russian bride birth unholy spawn is just wrong. But, bless 'em, that's just how the scene STARTS!

8. The ending: It succeeds where Danny Boyle faltered. A suitably downbeat, yet weirdly hopeful finale that's afforded a more dire flourish in this cut. Gotta love the video coda!

9. The Man in Black: Maybe I'm just a Johnny Cash homer, but that opening title sequence has to be the greatest movie marriage of his words to visuals -- ever. And kudos to Kyle Cooper's killer credits. Splatter scrawl hasn't looked that sweet since Blood Feast!

10: Land of the Dead: Buck up, Romero fans! Triumph or atrocity, Tinseltown's reacquaintance with hardcore horror and the box office jingle of zombie fever have finally set cameras ROLLING on the master's fourth Dead epic!

Four breasts. 558 corpses (Give or take six billion). Neck noshing. Gratuitous shower scene. Chainsaw massacre. Fire poker to the eye socket. Gratuitous music-video sequences. Multiple hit-and-runs. Geriatric slow-mo shoot out. Celebrity sniping. Lesbian tongue rasslin. Innumerable bullets to the brainpan. "A-Team" preparation montage. Ill advised use of croquet mallet. Highly defensive driving. Gratuitous fast mo. Wriggling maggots. Doomsday diddling. Multiple explosions.

The great Ken Foree is wisely tapped to reprise Dawn's signature line with a wickedly evangelical twist: "Hell is overflowing and Satan is sending his dead to US! Why? Because you have sex out of wedlock. You kill unborn children. You have man-on-man relations. Same sex marriage. How do you think your God will judge you? Well, friends, now we know. When there is no more room in hell, the dead will walk the Earth." Mr. Sarcasm has a plan: "While we're at it, why don't we swing by the marina, hop on my boat and take it for a pleasure cruise, you jackasses!" CJ doesn't play well with others: "Plan is you drink a nice tall glass of shut the f@#& up!"

Let's knock half a star off the "extras" rating for lack of a cast commentary (or even soundbites) and the conspicuous absence of that screen-clawing theatrical trailer. Otherwise this release comes fully loaded. (And not with those p@#&% nine-mils, either!) Why the picture works as well as it does is readily apparent through first-time director Zack Snyder's commentary. Never once does he shirk from the fact he's made a full-bore HORROR movie. No euphemisms. No film school chit chat. No hand wringing. A head explodes across the screen and his response is: "YEAH! That's what ya wanna see!!!" Atta boy, Zack. Next up, Bruce Bohne of Andy's Gun Shop was an inspired addition to Dawn and this disc reveals the haps from his dead-eye perspective via a video diary that cleverly dovetails with the flick. Same's true of additional "news" footage culled from more than 26 hours of increasingly calamitous coverage. Gorehounds will especially get a kick out of seeing more of Monroeville Sheriff Tom Savini's guide to zombie disposal!

2004, 110 mins [Uncut], 2.35:1 anam, DD 5.1, Commentary, Video diary [15 mins], News reel [20 mins], 11 deleted/alternate scenes of little consequence [12 mins], Three zombirific FX featurettes [20 mins], No trailers, Cardboard slipcover that serves no perceptible purpose.

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G. Noel Gross is a Dallas graphic designer and avowed Drive-In Mutant who specializes in scribbling B-movie reviews. Noel is inspired by Joe Bob Briggs and his gospel of blood, breasts and beasts.
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