Back Shelf Beauties
by Willie Waffle

Dawn Of The Dead

When there's no more room in hell, the dead and dumb take over Hollywood and make movies like this. Sadly, the film with the best trailer of 2004 is a disappointment.

Sarah Polley stars as Anna - a Wisconsin nurse who goes to sleep in suburban paradise one night, and wakes up to find ZOMBIES all over the neighborhood the next day. As she tries to escape the undead trying to eat her, she runs into several other survivors including a local cop, Kenneth (Ving Rhames); a man, Andre (Mekhi Phifer), and his pregnant wife, Luda (Inna Korobkina); and a sensitive guy, Michael (Jake Weber). Everyone heads to the mall, which is the only safe place in the city (which sounds just fine to me. If I am going to die, I want it to be at Mrs. Fields, so I can die happy).

Can they hold out at the mall forever on a diet of Orange Julius and Auntie Anne pretzels? How long until the zombies figure out how to break in? Who is going to hook up with whom?

Dawn of the Dead is not a movie. It's an exercise in gory makeup and showing off how many ways the special effects crew can blow up human heads. Instead of trying to craft a plot, have the characters try to figure out why the zombies are after them or develop some interesting stories about the lone survivors and their attempts to continue humanity, director Zack Snyder and writer James Gunn (remaking the 1978 original by George Romero) are content to gross us out, show people running around and have the special effects team blow stuff up. While the two introduce some very twisted humor, they fail to fill the movie with any meaningful dialogue, or create characters that we care about.

Snyder starts with a bang and plenty of suspenseful, tense scenes as the survivors try to avoid getting eaten by zombies, but, once they get to the mall, the movie just meanders along with no rhyme or reason. Even the climax of the film is fairly pointless as the survivors decide on a course of action that is unnecessarily risky and makes no sense under the circumstances. Then, he makes the audience sit through the credits to see what has become of our heroes, but it's annoyingly irritating and difficult to watch. Snyder may think he is being stylistic by editing the credits like this, but I found it unfair to an audience that just paid anywhere from $7 to $10 to sit through the movie. How about just showing me what happened instead of trying this baloney where I have to piece together a bunch of brief flashes?

Polley is a wonderful actress, so this material seems beneath her. Along with Rhames and Phifer, the three "class up" the project and bring more credibility than is warranted. The rest of the cast plays the stereotypical horror film heroes/heroines/victims/villains with no one standing out, and no material to help make that happen. Although, there are two cute, future Hollywood starlets (names Lindy Booth and Kim Poirier girl) who undoubtedly will hope that an appearance in Dawn of the Dead will lead to another movie where they can play Adam Sandler or Matt Damon's girlfriend (after the required pictorials in Maxim or FHM).

Dawn of the Dead isn't much of a movie, but it's not the worst thing you will ever see.

1 ½ Waffles (Out of 4)

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