Dueling Dawn of the Deads – By Brian Morton

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Now, I know, most people aren’t fans of the ‘remake’ or the God Forbid ‘re-imaginings’ of any of our favorite movies, but every once in a while one comes up that really matches, if not surpasses the original. And I know that in the land of the horror movie I speak blasphemy when I compare the original Dawn Of The Dead with the new remake, but I have to tell you after sitting down and comparing them, I think the new movie is, in it’s way, a far better movie than the original.

Okay now, before you get out your torches and form up with the rest of the villagers to chase me into the windmill and burn it down, hear me out! I sat through both recently and maybe it’s an attention span issue, but the original, while a classic and a great movie, has its flaws. The original slows down in the middle to a near stop, while the update slows in the middle, but never reaches the complete halt that the Romero original does. Now if you’re thinking that I’m not a fan of the original, you’re wrong. I truly love the original Dawn Of The Dead, but after re-watching it, years later, it lacks something and seems dated. Maybe I’ve been affected by the MTV and the VH1, and my attention span has been shortened dramatically, but, while the original Dawn has those great effects that broke ground in horror and the story still holds up in most ways after twenty some-odd years, in the middle of the movie it turns into a love story about two of the characters in the mall and it just slows down the pacing of the whole film. While in the remake, all the same elements are there, the mall, the group of people trapped and surrounded by zombies, and there’s even the same love story, but not as much time is spent on it as in the original and the remake keeps getting back to what we’re really there to see, hardcore zombie fighting.

You all know the story of the original, it’s the morning after Night Of The Living Dead and a group of people takes a helicopter to find safe haven from the zombies. They find a mall and decide that it’s a great place to set up shop. They land, take over the mall, bar all the doors to keep the living dead out, kill all the zombies in the mall and haul them outside and then live inside the mall safely. But the safety comes to an end when a group of traveling bikers decide to loot the mall and take it over. Now, our group of heroes is forced to fight both the undead and the dirty bikers. And in the end, only two of our heroes escape in the helicopter to look for a new safe place to live. The remake follows the same basic plotline. The dead have risen overnight and are now feeding on the living, and a group of people, who meet by chance decide that the mall will be the safest place to hide until the authorities arrive to rescue them and, in the end, are also forced to leave the safe haven of the mall.

It’s really the differences between the two that make the ‘re-imagining’ a stronger movie overall. First, the zombies in the remake aren’t the shuffling, slow monsters that Romero made famous, these zombies run and jump and chase their victims like an angry, rabid version of the Boston Marathon. Then, there’s the cast, with Ving Rhames leading the cast, it’s not the unknowns that made the original a more realistic movie, but the cast is strong and the story, while familiar, takes some original turns that add to the story. First, there’s the pregnant woman who’s bitten by a zombie, and gives birth to an undead baby. There’s Matt Frewer as a dad who’s been bitten by a zombie and is slowly changing and eventually has to be killed. And there’s the gun store owner, Andy, who we never hear speak and has no interaction physically with the rest of the cast, but, for some reason, he’s a very likable character and we come to like him enough, that when the zombies move in and kill him, we’re stunned.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that the original is a bad movie by any stretch of the imagination. It’s a groundbreaking movie that shocked us all with its gory special effects and it’s no holds barred style. Make no mistake, without the original Dawn Of The Dead, there wouldn’t have been any Freddy or Jason or Michael Meyers or any of the other ghouls and killers that we love to have scare us so much! This was the movie that re-set the standard for horror, as we know it. It’s a classic and deserves the respect that it’s given. It’s just that on second viewing it has a few flaws in its story telling. The pacing slows and we just don’t care about the characters as much after they’ve secured the mall and are living in relative safety. While the re-imagining of Dawn Of The Dead had many of the elements of the original, it seems tighter and moves faster and has more of what a modern horror movie needs. It’s part horror and part action and even after the mall is secured, you really get the feeling that these people still aren’t safe.

So now you can send me your hate mail and call me all the names you’d like to, but I’m sticking to my guns. I prefer the remake of Dawn Of The Dead to the original. I’m not saying the original was bad, I’m just saying that I feel the update is a superior movie. Okay, light up the torches, I only ask that you give me a five minute head start running toward the windmill!