So the lights go down and the movie starts and it’s like an assault. And my new friend Brian, who had been assuring me that I couldn’t possibly be more psyched to see this film than he was, he who had obviously made something of a hobby of zombie movies at some vulnerable point during his formative years — and it’s true; I had only seen the original Romero flick for the first time the day before — turns to me and asks plaintively, “I wanted to see this?”
And that’s the thing with this new Dawn of the Dead, the thing that makes it more than just another slasher/
It feels real.
Sure, that sounds silly — this is a movie about zombies. Over at the Cinemarati Roundtable they’re talking about how dumb it is for zombies to move fast, like hungry rats, like they do here, as if it makes any more sense for dead people to get up off the ground and casually perambulate. But there’s a groundedness — a terrible authenticity — to how it all feels that has nothing to do with the gruesome, cadaverous decomposition of the hoards of the undead wandering through the film.
Instead, it’s in the desperate urgency of Ana, a nurse, to escape the sudden outbreak of zombie cannibalism, which invades her home one morning as the film opens: grab the car keys, run in your jammies, no time to put your shoes on. And it never stops from there, just relentless onslaught and running and barely stopping to catch your breath. It’s true: the zombies move fast as hell here, on you before you even realize they’re there, and it’s a whole different feeling than the Romero film. The humor of the original is gone — though the small crew of survivors here holes up in a shopping mall, as Romero’s did, the idea simply cannot have the same kind of bite today that it had a quarter of a century ago, when indoor shopping malls — hermetically sealed, self-
So in place of the satire is a tireless reality — we come in in the middle of the story and we leave it… well, let’s just say nothing wraps up neatly enough for you to leave feeling too optimistic about the state of the world. Even the few ironic laughs are acrid, like the American flag waving majestically in the breeze of a ravaged world, a symbol of confidence — or arrogance — made immediately obsolete in the almost instantaneous collapse of civilization. And the mall… it becomes something of a bittersweet symbol of all things suddenly lost — from baby clothes to soy lattes — to the gang assembled there.
And the reality is in them, too, a superb cast — not a phrase often heard in association with a horror movie — of wonderful actors, not the usual gaggle of listless teens lining up for the slaughter. Sarah Polley’s (The Event, The Claim) nurse Ana, who had something of a happy-
Fun? I can’t say that this new Dawn of the Dead is fun, not in the way the Romero one was. But that’s okay. It’s unsettling, and that’s perhaps more where a movie about the walking — or running — undead should be.
If you need some extra jolty intensity from your zombie-