Friday, March 19, 2004

Dawn of the Dead (2004)

It's been said that Zack Snyder's films have gory, fun, video game-like action, but no heart.  This is mostly true of Dawn of the Dead.

The film seems to be divided into three parts.  The first act focuses on the main character, a young nurse named Ana.  In true zombie film fashion, she goes to sleep peacefully one night, then wakes up the next morning to an apocalyptic nightmare.  Ana's story is initially rather boring.  While she is a likable character, the script and direction are simply not compelling.  The zombies shown in this film are not the slow-moving zombies of tradition, but fast-running, screaming ravagers.  While that sounds terrifying in theory, it's not all that scary in final rendition.  Rather than the haunting silence of zombie films of the past, this film relies on thrills with action scenes and badly-done suspense.  Indeed, some of the film's most horrifying moments are the times in which the zombies are not seen.

The second and largest section of the film begins when Ana meets more survivors of the outbreak.  Forming a group, they decide to proceed to a nearby shopping mall, which, being a sealed building filled with food and water, is seemingly a safe haven.  At this point, the film begins to focus on the interactions between the various characters, and is a bit more interesting.  However, the best part comes when the plot reaches the turning point: when the film stops being a horror film and becomes an action film.
If there's one thing Zach Snyder can direct, it's action.  It might not be the most clever or imaginative action, but it's still fun nonetheless.

All in all, however, the film comes off as being somewhat shallow.  The characters don't seem to have truly won or lost anything by the film's end, and one wonders what the purpose of the story actually was.  There's not enough action for it to be completely enjoyable on an adrenaline-fueled level, there's not enough character for it to be compelling, and there's not enough scares for it to be very thrilling.  What's left is an adequate but ultimately non-essential film.

But shooting zombies in the face is still awesome, so it gets a 6.