Some horror movie remakes are as good or even better than the source material - the '78 version of "Invasion of the Body Snatchers," John Carpenter's "The Thing," and Cronenberg's "The Fly" spring to mind.
The "Dawn" remake, though a very good movie that all involved should be proud of, doesn't quite pull it off. It's quite entertaining and even has the trademark bleak, ambiguous ending of the series, but it just doesn't have the teeth or the soul of the original.
I don't know what to say about the remake. It certainly wasn't scarier than the original - zombie movies are hardly ever scary anyway. It was more "intense," if intensity can be measured by the volume of the sound effects in the movie and the speed of the zombies. The visual effects, set design, and score were all pretty much spot-on and, dare I say, better than the original.
Why didn't I walk away with the same "Whoa!" feeling I had when I first watched "Dawn" '78 on VHS?
Is the acting and characterization better than '78? Rhames and Polley are very good, and some of the other characters really stand out - C.J., Michael, and Andy. Everyone else seems to be window dressing, unfortunately. The original had four wonderfully drawn, complex characters - this one still has about four strong characters, but it also includes half a dozen people to be zombie chow. Too many people are introduced too fast for my taste - some of them literally only have one or two lines before getting munched by one of the new uber-zombies.
Ah, yes, the fast zombies. These guys can sprint as fast as when they were alive, they can punch through car windows and doors, and they can jump like spiders. They can crawl through dog doors like a snake, and they scale fences and climb buses arguably faster than living humans could. They are definitely more like "Return" or 28DL zombies, but with arguably less intelligence. They work pretty well IMHO, but the zombies aren't the problem.
The problem is the mall. Or, more specifically, the non-use of the mall. The original Dawn had that one half hour section in it (if you're a fan, you know the part) that will live on forever - the section where they live, hunkered down in the mall, for months, enjoying all its spoils, and realize that it's all meaningless, and that material things can't provide happiness. I LOVED this part - more than the gut-muching, more than the headshots, more than the rock-em-sock-em action - because it actually made me sad. I mean, how many horror movies make you sad and feel the bleakness that the characters feel? The original Dawn did this. The new one basically has people all bunched up in a coffee shop.
The social commentary is gone, as expected, and it has been replaced by dozens of gunshots. Not necessarily a bad thing, but I find myself wishing for classic lines like "When there's no more room in Hell..." There are quite a few homages and cameos for fans (I definitely cracked a smile when I saw "Gaylen Ross" as a store name).
All in all, a worthy remake that is better than I thought it would be, but I still wish Romero was involved.
3 out of 4 stars
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