Dawn of the Dead (Snyder, 2004)

Here’s another case of a brilliant opening then a filmmaker succumbing to the blandness of modern day Hollywood horror. Director Zach Snyder’s debut film starts out with a bang, a tensely staged sequence following Sarah Polley’s Ana as she finishes her overextended rounds as a nurse and returns home for the night, all framed with glimpses of the apocalypse about to happen. After steamy lovemaking, she awakens to her husband being brutally attacked by the little girl from across the street, now a rampaging zombie. Her ensuing trek through the suburban wasteland is hell incarnate, panic, rage, and mob mentality ruling over the horrific processes. A digital long shot from above bases her personal situation within the greater doom occurring all around. As Ana meets the main characters who will share her plight in the mall, Snyder pulls out the book on cliched character and silly, extensive dialogue. Dawn of the Dead, much like 300, has astounding visuals but little to offer in terms of character. Both could have been stunning silent films, where character might have been flushed out through tension in the editing or score. Take out the words, add in a usable rock soundtrack and you have a distinct re-visioning of Romero’s 1978 masterpiece. But that would be a risk, and Snyder is obviously trying to impress the suits with his standard storytelling and marketability. I will give him credit for a cynical and brutal end credit sequence that almost exceeds his great beginning.

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