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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Dawn of the Living Dead
Dawn of the Living Dead
Other // R // August 7, 2007
List Price: $14.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Ian Jane | posted August 21, 2007 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie:

Joe Estevez and Amanda Baumann play Jeffrey and Renee, a charming young couple who have just invested in a nifty house in a remote section of the Southern California desert. What they don't realize before they move in is that the house has been filled with ancient Mayan artifacts. Initially, they're unsure of this and Jeffrey is none too keen to share his new abode with what he considers creepy trinkets from the past, but Renee seems quite fascinated by it all.

Renee's psyche gets a kick in the groin the next night, however, as she suffers from an extremely vivid nightmare where she sees a couple and their children slaughtered in the very house that she and Jeffrey now call home. Making matters even more unusual, the next day when she wakes up she starts tidying the place up. Eventually she heads upstairs to the musty-dusty attic where she finds a book of photographs featuring, you guessed it, the same family from her dream the night before. This doesn't flip her out nearly as much as you'd think that it would, she just keeps on doing her thing until later she's paid a visit by one of the children she saw murdered in her dream. This macabre munchkin convinces her to go to a weird cornfield where they meet up with the rest of the family that, at this point, we have to assume are ghosts. Renee, after this experience, begins to study Mayan history and more or less confirms her suspicions.

Meanwhile, a pair of immigrant smuggling punks named Danny and Trish are trying to sneak a pair of Mexicans across the border illegally. The pull up to the house, Trish does a sexy little dance for her Mexican amigos, and then the family that Renee saw murdered appear in zombie form and pretty much eat everyone up. While this is going on, Renee is trying to explain things to Jeffrey, who reveals to us that Renee is actually heavily medicated and not quite sane. The next day Renee wanders around the area and meets up with Rudy (Todd Bridges... yes, that Todd Bridges), a strange toothless hillbilly type who makes a living repairing windmills. She takes a shining to him and invites him over for dinner, and he agrees. Everyone drinks a lot of wine, Renee spills her guts about her past, and the zombie family shows up to chow down...

This movie was obviously made with a lot of enthusiasm and very little money. Although it was shot on film rather than on video or DV, it's still very obviously a poverty stricken production and that is, unfortunately, made very apparent in the production values and make up effects. There are plenty of times where low budget films work just fine even with obvious flaws but here, there's nothing to compensate for the cheap looking zombie effects and poorly contrived script. The Mayan aspect of the production has very little to do with the outcome and feels very much like it was tacked on as nothing more than a very simple (and almost unnecessary) reason for the dead family's return to the land of the living.

The film borrows a bit from other zombie movies (the name should make that painfully obvious to anyone even remotely familiar with the films of George A. Romero) but it doesn't bring anything new to the table nor does it do anything interesting with the ideas that it's pilfered. We've seen zombies attack a remote house before, because we've all seen Night Of The Living Dead. Granted, this takes place in a desert and not in Philadelphia, but regardless, the only thing that the film really offers us is the novelty casting of Todd Bridges, who really isn't in the movie enough to make it interesting. It's obvious that the filmmaker's tried hard with what they had at their disposal, but more care needed to be put into the script and effects, because quite simply, Dawn Of The Living Dead fails on pretty much every level. A few nice gore effects do spice up a couple of scenes but these aren't memorable enough to save this turkey.

The DVD

Video:

The 1.33.1 fullframe presentation looks like the right aspect ratio for the movie. Shot on 16mm film stock things are going to be a bit on the grainy side here and the fact of that matter is that yes, the image quality is a little on the rough side. Color reproduction is flat and the black levels are really more like dark gray levels. Much of this has to do with the elements and the materials used for the transfer rather than the DVD itself but it is what it is and what it is happens to be a rough looking low budget film.

Sound:

The English language Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo track doesn't sound like a whole lot more than a 2.0 mono mix but it gets the job done. It isn't in the least bit fancy but the dialogue is fairly clean and the score sounds all right for what it is. Audiophiles won't find much to chew on here as things are minimalist but again, what we're left with is at least an acceptable presentation.

Extras:

Extras are pretty slim but a couple of supplements keep this disc from falling into the dreaded 'bare bones' category. First up is a trailer for the film. It pretty much gives away most of the movie so don't bother with it until after you've seen the feature. From there, check out a five-minute interview with director David Heavener where he talks about the music used in the film, some of the effects and various ideas that he had for the picture. Some behind the scenes footage is also included here. While there is a menu, there are no chapter stops included for the film.

Final Thoughts:

A rather poor film gets a mediocre DVD presentation. Those with a bit tolerance for low budget shenanigans might dig this one and the Todd Bridges fan base (?) will enjoy seeing their hero in a zombie film but unless you fall into either of those admittedly elite categories, you can safely skip Dawn Of The Living Dead. You're not missing anything.

Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.

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