Dawn of the Dead (2004)

Sarah Polley (Ana), Ving Rhames (Kenneth), Jake Weber (Michael), Mekhi Phifer (Andre)

Directed by Zach Snyder (300)

From IMDB: "A nurse, a policeman, a street gang member, his wife, a salesman, and other survivors of a worldwide plague that is producing aggressive, flesh-eating zombies, take refuge in a mega Midwestern shopping mall."

What is it with me and zombie horror flicks lately? Can't tell. But I love this junk, all the while grimacing and feeling rather guilty-sick about my enjoyment.

And do you know what I love even more than zombie flicks? Sigh... Jake Weber, who I've lusted after before. He's the perfect blend of tough guy and Englishman, the thinking woman's protector. He sits in the background until the chips are down, and then he rocks out like a commando. Who knew? And the restrained emotion he displays when his character, Michael, talks about being a dad -- past tense, used to be a dad -- hinted at a depth of character the zombies kept us from discovering.

The incredibly modest chemistry between Weber and Sarah Polley reminded me of a Ripley/Hicks simpatico. Michael shows Ana the chainsaw portal in the armored bus and flirts a tiny, tiny bit, just like Hicks shows Ripley how to use the grenade launcher and flirts a tiny, tiny bit. A great homage, if Snyder or his screenwriter meant it intentionally. That scene, as well as the modest kiss on Ana's hand, worked.

Oh wait, I mentioned Hicks. Gotta include a photo. You know, I was only about eleven when I saw Aliens for the first time. Michael Biehn must have been my first crush, but I was too young to even know it at the time. Just noticed him, you know?

I have watched Sarah Polley's career develop for the last decade, and her lead in this movie offered further proof as to her versatility. Her Ana is tough, but not a he-woman badass. She has her head screwed on straight, aided by Polley's deliberate smarts and energy. She watches everyone and puts the pieces together. Plus, she kept reminding me of Jessica. They could be sisters!

Anyway, I liked how Ana grabbed the car keys -- even though her partner was trying to eat her alive. Grab keys! Keys mean life! And speaking of that scene, I must say Snyder knocked the "opening hook" concept out of the park. Dang, but that's the most action I've ever seen before the opening credits.

Obviously, because Dawn of the Dead is a modern-era zombie flick, I thought to compare it to its recent predecessor, 28 Days Later. And in such a comparison, DotD loses out -- but not by nearly so much as I would have guessed. In fact, aside from a few positively goofy plot contrivances, this is a damn good movie.

However, the contrast between zombie nasty and human nasty was not as well developed here. The filmmakers probably intended the characters of CJ and Steve as our windows into human assholeocity, with one redeemed and the other doomed to die an unrepentant shit, but no one tops Christopher Eccleston's morally ambiguous turn in 28 Days Later.

No matter. The pacing and quick strokes of characterization help mask the glaringly stupid survival choices. I knew the finale, which took a little of the suspense away, but a good number of viewers might appreciate how few punches Snyder pulls. As in none. Icky, squicky fun.


Jessica said...

What, Ana was opinionated and bossy? :)

Yeah, it was a fun movie. It's on Sci-Fi every once in a while and I usually leave it on for gory fun. :)

carrie_lofty said...

'Course she was opinionated and bossy. Otherwise the physical resemblence wouldn't have mattered so much!!

I can think of worse people to be compared to. She's so darn cute :)

Maya said...

Hi Carrie,
Thought I'd drop in again (it's been awhile) and saw your movie review -
Get this - that movie was filmed in a mall slated to be demolished about five minutes from where I lived at the time. Not in the American midwest, but just north of Toronto, with a great library and a fantastic bagel bakery down the road (what doesn't say zombies like 'Mother Goose Circle Time' and fresh bagels ????) As I recall (since everyone in town was morally obliged to see the movie, whether or not they like zombie films)there is a scene where some undead person or other is vanquished in a green tile sort of decorative fountain - my eldest, a toddler at the time, liked to splash in that fountain himself...

For people who like Sarah Polley - another, perhaps more throught-provoking film where she is even better is "My Life Without Me". Young mom struggling with various issues who finds out she will soon die - and doesn't tell anyone about it.

Ann(ie) said...

Brains, brains!