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For the original film, see Dawn of the Dead
Dawn of the Dead is a 2004 horror film remake of George A. Romero's 1978 film of the same name. The remake and original both depict a handful of human survivors living in a shopping mall surrounded by swarms of zombies, but the details differ significantly. Directed by Zack Snyder, the film was released by Universal Studios and stars Ving Rhames, Sarah Polley, and Jake Weber with cameos from original cast members Ken Foree, Scott Reiniger and Tom Savini. It was released in the United States on March 19, 2004, and in the United Kingdom on March 26, 2004.
The story concerns a rapidly-spreading contagion which turns its infected hosts into reanimated flesh-eating ghouls. While the source and exact nature of this plague remain unexplained, it is confirmed that it is spread when a victim is bitten by an infected person.
Ana, a nurse, finishes a long shift at her Milwaukee County hospital and returns to her peaceful suburban home. She and her waiting husband, Louis, make love and go to sleep, missing warnings trickling through the local media. The next morning they are awoken by their now-zombified neighbor, a little girl, who bites Louis in the throat when he goes to help her. Ana locks the zombie out of the room, but despite her frantic efforts, Louis dies, immediately reanimates as a zombie, and chases Ana into the bathroom. Ana escapes out the window and flees from her now chaos-torn neighborhood in her car, before a failed hijacking attempt sends her crashing into a tree. The opening credits roll, showing the worldwide collapse of human civilization.
Ana meets Kenneth, a grim police sergeant and former Marine traveling to meet his brother at Fort Pastor, a nearby US Army base. With the route to the base blocked by zombies, they join three others - jack-of-all-trades Michael, petty criminal Andre and his pregnant wife Luda - and break into the nearby Crossroads Shopping Mall. A scuffle with a zombified mall security guard results in Luda getting a minor bite-wound. They then confront three living security guards (C.J., Bart and Terry), and give up their weapons in exchange for refuge. After the group secures the mall, they head up to the mall's roof to dispose of bodies and paint SOS signs. While there, they "meet" another survivor, Andy, who is stranded alone in his gun store, across the mall's zombie-infested parking lot.
A delivery truck arrives at the mall, carrying the driver Norma, jerkish Steve, working man Tucker, elderly Glen, trampy Monica, bitten Frank and his teen daughter Nicole, and a severely-injured obese woman. These newcomers bring word that Fort Pastor has been overrun by zombies and no help will be coming. The obese woman dies, reanimates and is killed by Ana, who thrusts a fireplace poker into her eye. The group determines that bites are how the zombies multiply their numbers; after Ana and Michael argue about what to do with the rapidly-deteriorating Frank, the man is put in a store with Kenneth guarding him, where he is allowed "every last second" before dying. Michael and Ana achieve an awkward reconciliation, which is interrupted by Kenneth's shotgun blast as he destroys Frank's reanimated body.
Though the mall provides many material distractions and Ana edges into a romance with Michael, the undead surround the refuge in ever-increasing numbers. Finally the mall’s power goes out and Michael, C.J., Bart and Kenneth enter the underground parking garage to turn on the emergency generator. After they meet an unaffected dog, a zombie swarm kills Bart and traps the others in the generator compartment, where they douse the zombies with gasoline and set them ablaze with C.J.'s cigarette lighter. Andre, faced with the fact that Luda -the aforementioned victim of a zombie's bite wound that the rest of the group didn't know about -will soon die, sinks totally into denial, and has his heavily-pregnant and heavily-infected wife tied to a bed in the mall's children's store. Even as Luda gives birth, she dies and reanimates. Norma checks on the couple, discovering the zombie-Luda and the demented Andre clutching a small bundle of blankets. Norma shoots Luda in the head, causing Andre to snap completely. They exchange more gunfire, mortally wounding each other. Ana arrives onscene and opens the bundle to reveal a zombie baby. She pulls her revolver and a single shot rings through the mall.
At an impromptu memorial, Kenneth says anything is better than "sitting around waiting to die". The remaining mall-dwellers thus plot to fight their way to the local marina, and from there travel out on Steve's small yacht to an island in Lake Michigan. They reinforce two small shuttle buses from the parking garage in preparation for their escape, welding on a snowplow, metal bars, and barbed wire, boarding up the windows with shelving, and cutting slits through the sides for the deployment of weapons. Chainsaws, propane tanks, and other supplies are also loaded onboard. Meanwhile, Andy is starving, and will not have the strength to join the escape (and contribute much-needed ammunition), so the survivors in the mall strap a pack of food on the dog from the basement, and lower him into the parking lot in a sling. Unfortunately, while "Chips" makes it safely to the gun-shop, a zombie gets in as well and badly injures Andy -he is unaware of the nature of the zombie bites and the mall-dwellers helplessly listen to him over their newly-established radio communication, deciding not to tell him about his ultimate fate. Nicole, nearly insane with grief over the recent loss of both of her parents and distraught over losing Chips (which she now desperately clings to like a security blanket), takes the delivery truck and barges her way into the gun store, where a now-zombified Andy traps her in a storage closet.
Kenneth, Michael, C.J., Terry, and Tucker gather their meager weapon supply and go into the sewers, while Steve is assigned guard-duty on their exit door. They reach the gun store, where Kenneth reluctantly kills Andy, and the group rescues Nicole and stocks up on weapons and ammunition. A detonated propane tank is used to clear a path back to the sewers, but the zombies pursue them, Tucker is killed and (thanks to Steve's negligence) the zombies swarm in through the exit door. Mall security is breached, and the remaining survivors pile into the buses and smash through the parking garage's front gates, where another propane tank is used to clear a path through the parking-lot horde. When Glen moves to take out a last hitchhiking zombie with a chainsaw, a sudden swerve sends the weapon slashing into Monica's shoulder instead and through her body. The resulting splatter of blood covers the windshield, causing driver Kenneth to lose control and crash into an alley. Glen and Monica are killed, while Steve flees the toppled bus and is attacked by the hitchhiking zombie.
The others scramble for the second bus, meeting zombie-Steve en route. Ana shoots him dead, then must linger long enough to get the boat keys off his corpse, allowing more zombies to catch up with them. Ana flees back to the bus, where Michael grabs her and pulls her in. After a few moments struggle, they pull away from the zombies and speed to the marina dock, where they crash the bus and dash for the boat. C.J. stays at the bus's rear exit, thanks to a newfound sense of selflessness, intending to hold back the zombies to buy the others more time. The zombies force him into the bus, only for him to realize that the front door (his intended escape route) is jammed, and he is swarmed, prompting him to detonate the final propane tank with a road flare, blowing up the bus, the zombies, and himself. The remainder of the group gets on the boat, except for Michael, who was bitten while helping Ana before. Ana pleads with him to come, saying she can save him, but he refuses, and the boat sets sail with Terry, Ana, Kenneth, Nicole, and Chips. Ana watches unflinchingly as Michael draws his pistol, places it under his chin, and a final gunshot rings out over the water.
The end-credits roll, interspersed with video footage taken by Terry, using a camera from the boat. Following a grim voyage where water, fuel and food supplies all run low, the remaining survivors succeed in reaching an island, only to be immediately attacked by a new swarm of zombies. As the survivors attempt to retreat to the boat, the camera falls to the ground and blacks out, leaving their ultimate fate unknown.
|Sarah Polley||Ana Clark|
|Ving Rhames||Kenneth Hall|
|Ty Burrell||Steve Marcus|
James Gunn is only partially responsible for the screenplay, despite receiving solo writing credit. After he left the project to concentrate on Scooby Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed, both Michael Tolkin and Scott Frank were brought in for rewrites. In a commentary track on the Ultimate Edition DVD for the original Dawn, producer Richard P. Rubenstein explained that Tolkin further developed the characters, while Frank provided some of the bigger action sequences.
The mall scenes of the film as well as the rooftop scenes were shot in the Thornhill Square Shopping Centre in Thornhill, Ontario and the rest of the scenes were shot in the Aileen-Willowbrook Neighborhood of Thornhill, Ontario. The set for Ana and Louis's bedroom was constructed in a backroom of the mall. The mall was defunct, which is the reason the production used it; the movie crew completely renovated the structure, and stocked it with fictitious stores after Starbucks Coffee and numerous other corporations refused to let their names be used. (Two exceptions to this are Roots and Panasonic.) The mall was demolished shortly after the film was shot.
The first half of the film was shot almost entirely in chronological order, while the final sequences on the boat and island were shot much later and at a different location (Universal Studios Hollywood) than the rest of the movie, after preview audiences objected to the sudden ending of the original print.
The song that plays over the film's opening credits is "The Man Comes Around" by Johnny Cash. The track has suitably apocalyptic lyrics, contains mentions of Armageddon, numerous Bible references and quotes from the Book of Revelation 6:8. The film also featured "People who Died" by The Jim Carroll Band, as well as both the original version of "Down With The Sickness" by Disturbed and the lounge version by Richard Cheese and Lounge Against the Machine. Have a Nice Day by Stereophonics was also used early in the film.
Comparisons to the original Edit
In the original film the zombies moved very slowly and were most menacing when they collected in large groups. In the remake, however, the zombies are fast and agile, and are, on the whole, closer to the quick-moving, psychotically violent victims of the 'Rage' virus in the 2002 British horror film 28 Days Later than the traditional shambling Zombie archetype. Many admirers of the original (as well as Romero himself) protested this change, feeling that it limited the impact of the undead. This is somewhat borne out by the fact that the remake has almost no close up shots of zombies that last more than a second or two. Snyder mentions this problem in the commentary track of the remake's DVD, pointing out that they seem too human when the camera lingers upon them for longer.
In the original, all 'recently dead' are reanimated by an unidentified source. Zombie bites seem to somehow induce rapid death, and subsequent reanimation. The workings aren't elaborated upon. In the remake, it springs up worldwide overnight, and is definitely blood borne, relying on zombie bites for transmission. In the original, anyone who dies for any reason returns after an hour or two (so long as their brain is intact). In the remake, only those infected return and after a period of less than a minute after death.
The original had a smaller cast than the remake, allowing more screen time for each character. Many fans and critics protested the resulting loss of character development.
In the original version the story unfolds over several months, indicated by the advancing stages of Fran's pregnancy. In the remake the events transpire within approximately 1 month, as evidenced by the supplemental feature The Lost Tape: Andy's Terrifying Last Days Revealed, located on the DVD in the special features section. The character Andy owned the gunshop across the street from the mall in the film, and in this bonus feature Andy records a video diary of his ordeal for future reference. He begins recording on May 7, 2004, the day after he first encountered the flesh eaters, and continues to record until his death on June 6. Also included on the DVD was the supplemental "Special Report", a news program detailing the world-wide effects of the zombie epidemic on humanity. (This second feature is the only time in the production when any onscreen character uses the word "zombie".)
Three actors from the original film have cameos in the remake, appearing on the TVs the survivors watch: Ken Foree, who played Peter from the original, plays an evangelist who asserts that God is punishing mankind; Scott H. Reiniger, who played Roger in the original, plays an army general telling everyone to stay at home for safety; and Tom Savini, who did the special effects for many of Romero's movies and played the motorcycle gang member Blades in the original Dawn of the Dead, plays the Los Angeles County Sheriff explaining the only way to kill the zombies is to "shoot 'em in the head."
Additional references to Romero's original Living Dead movies include: A store in the mall is named Gaylen Ross, the actress that played the female lead in the original Dawn of the Dead. A sign for "Wooley's Diner" can be seen, a nod to the character of "Wooley" in the 1978 version. The character Tucker's name is a reference to Rod Tucker, one of the SWAT team members in the original. A truck from the BP corporation is seen, the same company as in the original. The WGON helicopter from the first film is seen flying into the frame in one early sequence. The film's tagline, "When there's no more room in hell, the dead will walk the earth", is the same one from the first film, and is delivered in both films by actor Ken Foree. The mall-dwellers' ultimate escape plan echoes a similar attempt by a group of ex-policemen at the start of the original Dawn, while the re-make's opening sequences contain at least two references to the original Night of the Living Dead film: a car crashes into a gas station and explodes, and the female lead crashes her car into a tree.
Scenes cut from the film's original theatrical release were added back for the "Unrated Director's Cut" DVD edition. Along with gore effects removed to obtain an "R-rating", they include a clearer depiction of how the survivors originally break into the mall, and a short scene where the character of Glen "tortures" the imprisoned CJ and Bart with his reminiscing about his homosexual coming-of-age. The DVD also offers, as a bonus feature, several more scenes which were not included in any version of the film.
In the UK, both this film and Shaun of the Dead were originally scheduled to be released the same week, but due to the similarity in the names of the two films, UIP opted to push back Shaun's release by two weeks.
Heavily derided by some fans before its release, on release the film received mostly positive reactions from both moviegoers and critics. Some felt that the film did not retain the social satire and poignancy of the original. George A. Romero is quoted as saying of the film, "It was better than I expected. [...] The first 15, 20 minutes were terrific, but it sort of lost its reason for being. It was more of a video game. I'm not terrified of things running at me; it's like Space Invaders. There was nothing going on underneath." The film grossed over $59 million at the box office, (over $102 million worldwide) and is currently the highest-grossing zombie film ever made.
Dawn of the Dead's success also launched the career of director Zack Snyder. A few months after the release and subsequent success of his debut film, Snyder was hired to direct 300, an adaptation of Frank Miller's graphic novel of the 300 (comics). Despite a mixed response from critics, 300 was well received by fans, and became one of the top-grossing R rated films of all time. Snyder is currently set to direct another graphic novel adaptation, Watchmen.
- Dawn of the Dead at IMDb
- Official Site
- Mistakes Database
- April 24, 2003 draft screenplay
- Thornhill Square Shopping Centre
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