At the very last part of the ending credits of Zack Snyder's Dawn of the Dead, he actually thanks the Centers for Disease Control. Was he commending them for actually curbing some rampant zombie disease that we've never heard of? Or was he urging them to ensure that no such virus ever actually takes over humanity? Because after watching 110 minutes of bloodthirsty, avaricious zombies eat flesh, bleed uncontrollably and lap up blood like sun-parched dogs, seeing a very real "thank you" to a real-life agency is, well, a tad unsettling.
It's that sense of realness that makes this year's Dawn of the Dead so good, and so very different from the 1978 film of the same title. George Romero's original is good for its solid camp-factor (my favorite scene: "Ghetto Holocaust"), yucky zombies and unbelievable outrageousness. For this "Widescreen Unrated Director's Cut," Snyder did the exact opposite - only loosely basing his movie on the original and, in turn, truly making his version a believable freak-out fest. The premise is the same as in Romero's classic: An unknown virus infests humans, kills them and then resurrects them as cannibalistic freaks. Few escape the virus, and the world lies in chaotic shambles. Oh, and the survivors take shelter from the undead in a shopping mall. But that's where the similarities end.
Snyder's zombies are inescapable maniacs -- an ingenious cross between Romero's zombies and the British ones of 28 Days Later who sprint toward their prey and puke blood like bulimic fire hoses. It becomes clear that avoiding this pandemic forever is unlikely, and that the food court's supply of orange chicken and Cinnabons won't last forever. Inevitability is where the horror lies in this Dawn of the Dead. It's fascinating to watch the characters' worst nightmares unfold.
Sure, watching people become zombies can be taken only so seriously, but the special features on this DVD increase the story's believability. In addition to commentary by Snyder and producer Eric Newman, there is "The Lost Tape" (rendered in home-video format), which documents the last days of Andy, a character fighting off the undead from his gun shop. Also featured is a news bulletin feature called "We Interrupt This Program!" - a montage of news clips and believable footage of the "outbreak."
The extra features make the zombie attack seem real. We should alert the CDC right away.
Publication date: 11/11/04