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UNIVERSAL

MOVIE INFO

Director:
Zack Snyder
Cast:
Sarah Polley, Ving Rhames, Jake Weber, Mekhi Phifer, Ty Burrell, Michael Kelly, Kevin Zegers, Michael Barry, Lindy Booth
Writing Credits:
George A. Romero (1978 screenplay), James Gunn

Tagline:
When there's no more room in hell, the dead will walk the earth.

Synopsis:
Packed with more blood, more gore, and more bone-chilling, jaw-dropping thrills, Dawn of the Dead: Unrated Director’s Cut is the version too terrifying to be shown in theaters! Starring Mekhi Phifer, Ving Rhames and Sarah Polley in an edgy, electrifying thrill-ride.

When a mysterious virus turns people into mindless, flesh-eating zombies, a handful of survivors wage a desperate, last-stand battle to stay alive … and human.

Box Office:
Budget
$28 million.
Opening Weekend
$26.722 million on 2745 screens.
Domestic Gross
$58.885 million.

MPAA:
Rated NR

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Widescreen 2.35:1/16x9
Audio:
English Dolby Digital 5.1
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles:
English
Spanish
French
Closed-captioned

Runtime: 109 min.
Price: $29.98
Release Date: 10/26/2004

Bonus:
• Audio Commentary with Director Zack Snyder and Producer Eric Newman
• Deleted Scenes with Optional Commentary
• “The Lost Tape: Andy’s Terrifying Last Days Revealed”
• “Special Report: We Interrupt This Program!”
• “Raising the Dead”
• “Attack of the Living Dead”
• “Splitting Headaches: Anatomy of Exploding Heads”
• Previews


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EQUIPMENT
Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.

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Dawn Of The Dead: Unrated Director's Cut (2004)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (October 25, 2004)

Rarely do we see remakes of sequels. It does happen, but not with much frequency. I can think of examples like The Bride, which redid the classic Bride of Frankenstein, but not many others.

2004’s Dawn of the Dead went back to the 1978 shocker for its inspiration. This made it unusual right off the bat, but the 2004 Dawn also stands out because it’s decidedly superior to its predecessor.

At the start of the film, we meet hospital nurse Ana (Sarah Polley). She sees one odd case when a patient with a wound to his hand ends up in the ICU, but nothing else out of the ordinary occurs immediately.

That state of normalcy doesn’t last long. After an evening with her husband Luis (Justin Louis), neighbor girl Vivian (Hannah Lockner) appears in their house and violent chaws at the dude’s neck. Luis dies but immediately comes back to life and attacks Ana. She escapes and emerges into a world gone mad, as calamity reigns over the Milwaukee area. The credit sequence shows us the widespread presence of these monstrous killers.

Ana passes out after she crashes her car. When she awakes, she finds police officer Kenneth (Ving Rhames) with a shotgun pointed at her head. She quickly establishes her continued humanity and the pair warily go on their way. They soon meet up with three others: Andre (Mekhi Phifer), his wife Luda (Inna Korobkina), and Michael (Jake Weber). This trio used to be an octet, and they choose to go to the nearby mall to seek safety.

They scope out the joint, which eventually leads to a few confrontations with the zombies. As they flee, they run into a mall security trio who demand they leave. Eventually, lead guard CJ (Michael Kelly) allows them to stay if they cede their weapons. They reluctantly do so, and the guards put strict restrictions on their movement.

The two sides warily deal with each other and also see a little about the mayhem on the streets via TV coverage. From there they attempt to create a plan and set into action some methods to halt the zombies’ progress as well as attract the attention of potential rescue parties. Essentially the rest of the movie follows their struggles, the arrival of additional survivors, and various intramural squabbles and conflicts.

While I liked the original Dawn, I thought the remake improved upon it in most ways. Essentially, it’s a tighter version of the tale with substantially better acting and production values. I don’t doubt that the actors from the first flick did their best, but there wasn’t a whole lot of talent to be found there.

The 2004 edition, on the other hand, packs a very good cast, especially for a genre movie. Many don’t view this sort of film as something that requires deep acting, but I disagree. It’s not just about watching zombies chomp on people; to some degree, we have to care about the humans involved, and good performances contribute to that.

No one in Dawn will win an Oscar for their work here, but a number of them could – and probably should – snare awards for other efforts in the future. From Rhames and Polley on down, there’s a lot of talent on display here, and they help make the flick more effective and rich than the original. Even though the new Dawn presents a larger roster of prominent characters, they feel more fleshed out and better drawn.

This Dawn also benefits from tighter pacing. While fun, the original tended to drag at times. That doesn’t happen here, as the 2004 flick moves well. It’s more of a heart-pounding action flick than the goofier and chillier original. It pours on one gripping set piece after another and makes itself quite the adrenaline-pumper.

Don’t think that the 2004 Dawn fails to pay homage to the original, though. A few of the old flick’s participants show up here in cameos, and actress Gaylen Ross gets a store named after her! The two share the same basic story structure and neither wastes any time with exposition. The 1978 flick assumed you already knew 1968’s Night of the Living Dead, while the 2004 edition presumes an acquaintance with the genre in general.

This means that unlike the similar 28 Days Later, we get absolutely no explanation for the zombie plague in Dawn. Heck, I don’t even remember if any called them zombies here. This gives the story a good point of view, as we’re stuck with our characters’ perception of things. It makes the story scarier since we find so little concrete information; we can better put ourselves in the participants’ shoes.

If fans who want nasty blood and gore worry that this Dawn will tame the graphic original, don’t fret. Especially in this “unrated director’s cut”, we find plenty of goo and grossness. If anything, the 2004 Dawn may be even more disgusting than the first flick.

Speaking of the director’s cut, let me toss out a few details about it. The unrated version runs about nine minutes longer than the theatrical edition, and it indeed includes more graphic violence. It also presents a little more character development, though not much; heck, this is a zombie flick, after all!

And a damned good one at that. Fans of the George Romero Dead series will probably disagree, but I think the 2004 Dawn of the Dead is the strongest zombie movie yet released. Granted, it lacks the originality of its predecessors, but it compensates with a taut, thrilling experience. From head to toe, it’s a blast.

”Reading the credits pays off” trivia: we see one “Heather Langenkamp-Anderson listed as part of the production crew. This is the same Heather Langenkamp who starred in three Nightmare on Elm Street movies.


The DVD Grades: Picture B-/ Audio A-/ Bonus B

Dawn of the Dead appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. An erratic picture, many good elements emerged, but more than a few problems showed up along the way.

Sharpness generally appeared solid. A little softness interfered at times, but those issues were reasonably modest. Overall, the movie came across as nicely defined and distinct. Jagged edges and moiré effects cropped up occasionally, and I noticed moderate edge enhancement at times. As for print flaws, the movie mostly avoided them. It demonstrated occasional examples of specks and grit, but these weren’t terribly significant. The image also displayed a fair amount of grain, though some of that seemed to be a cinematographic choice.

Dawn featured a very stylized palette. Much of the film demonstrated a sickly green tone, and it also showed blown-out imagery at other times. Colors looked solid across the board, as long as we examined them within their stylistic parameters. Black levels also came across as deep and dense, while shadow detail was usually appropriately heavy without excessive thickness. As often occurs, dark-skinned characters got a bit of a raw deal, as some shots that featured them looked a little dense. Overall, Dawn was decent but unexceptional visually.

Happily, the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Dawn of the Dead worked much better. The soundfield presented a broad and consistently engaging affair. All five channels received a strong workout, as they offered a variety of elements throughout the movie. Music showed good stereo separation and breadth, and effects seemed to be well placed and accurately localized. These aspects came from logical places and they moved neatly between speakers. The surrounds played an active role in the film, but the many action pieces provided the best examples of the engulfing audio. All of the speakers came vividly to life and the sound melded together tremendously well to create a clear and vibrant impression.

Audio quality also appeared to be top-notch. I thought dialogue always sounded warm and natural. The lines blended well with the action, and I heard no concerns related to intelligibility or edginess. Music sounded bright and showed good fidelity with fine dynamic range. Effects were the most prominent aspect of the mix, as they presented accurate and bold elements that really created a fine mix. Bass response was loud and tight, and the low-end really shook the house at times – literally. Ultimately, Dawn offered a fine audio track that really added to the movie.

A positive mix of supplements appears on the disc. We begin with an audio commentary from director Zack Snyder and producer Eric Newman, both of whom sit together for their running, screen-specific chat. Don’t expect much from this fluffy discussion. On paper, the piece sounds good, as the pair go over a lot of appropriate topics. They talk about adaptation issues, the changes between the theatrical and unrated editions, the cast and working with them, makeup and visual effects, storytelling, and locations, with an emphasis on challenges shooting in Toronto.

Unfortunately, much of the time Snyder and Newman do little more than praise the flick. This is “cool”, that’s “awesome”, the whole thing is “great”. Their enthusiasm becomes slightly contagious, and they can be fun at times, but unfortunately the track lacks much depth. They simply don’t give us a very good feel for the production.

When you start the movie, you get the option to watch it with a Director’s Introduction. It lasts 73 seconds as Snyder provides a minor overview of what to expect from the longer cut. It’s a pretty superfluous piece.

Next we find 11 Deleted Scenes. Taken together, these run 11 minutes and 29 seconds. Don’t expect much more action from these, as only short snippets of zombies appear. Instead, we mostly get character development. Some decent elements show up along with a couple of laughs, but they don’t substantially flesh out the participants.

We can view the deleted scenes with or without commentary from Snyder and Newman. They give us a little info about the snippets and also tell us why the segments got the boot. It’s a worthwhile discussion.

An unusual feature, The Lost Tape: Andy’s Terrifying Last Days Revealed runs 16 minutes and 23 seconds. Basically its own little mini-movie, this features Bruce Bohne as Andy and shows the character’s videotape journal from inside his store. We watch him go through his isolated journey all the way to his demise and zombification. It’s moderately entertaining, but frankly, Andy’s more interesting from a distance.

Another fictitious piece, Special Report: We Interrupt This Program! fills 21 minutes and three seconds. It gives us a look at a “news broadcast” that covers the events. It goes from the inception of the zombie plague through the use of the Emergency Broadcasting System. As with the “Lost Tape”, this offers some interesting material, especially the way it fleshes out little bits we see during the final movie. However, don’t expect more from it than some small pleasures.

After this we head to three more traditional featurettes. Raising the Dead takes seven minutes and 53 seconds to look at the creation of the movie’s zombies. We get behind the scenes shots and comments from Snyder, Newman, producer Marc Abraham, and special makeup effects artist David LeRoy Anderson. They discuss the look of the zombies during various stages and the execution of those elements. It’s a tight and informative examination of the subject.

Now we go to the seven-minute and 24-second Attack of the Living Dead. This includes remarks from Anderson, Snyder and actor Inna Korobkina as they go into more detailed information about some of the zombies. We see how they did up a few particular characters and also how they performed various stunts and graphic kills. As with the prior program, this one gives us a fine look at the topic, as it spills lots of good details about the production.

For the final featurette, Splitting Headaches: Anatomy of Exploding Heads takes five minutes and 36 seconds. We hear more from Anderson and Snyder. They look at the kill effects, with a logical focus on the gunshot wounds to various heads. Expect this to fit well with the prior two featurettes. It adds more useful information to the table.

The disc opens with a collection of Previews. We find ads for Van Helsing, Seed of Chucky, Shaun of the Dead, and a general promo for Universal’s horror titles.

Not too many remakes better their inspirations, but the 2004 Dawn of the Dead indeed provides a more satisfying flick than its predecessor. Tight and exciting, it melds the horror and action genres to turn into a lively piece. The DVD offers fairly average picture with excellent audio and a decent set of extras. I definitely recommend the 2004 Dawn to fans of this sort of flick, as it’s a lot of fun.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.2876 Stars Number of Votes: 73
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