Posted in: Disc Reviews by David Annandale on October 29th, 2004
A plague is sweeping the world: the dead are rising to bite and eat the living, turning theirvictims into yet more ferocious zombies. A group of survivors (headed by Sarah Polley and VingRhames) take refuge in a mall. Tensions keep threatening to tear the group apart, not to mentionthe fact that they don’t know what their next course of action should be. Outside, the zombiesgather in ever increasing numbers.
This is the unrated version, running nine minutes longer t…an the theatrical release. Thosenine minutes involve more gore (of course) and a few character scenes. The zombie birthsequence, for example, is nastier, though it still pulls some punches (not all the footage was ableto be restored, and the entire sequence fumbles an obvious chance to freak the audience out in aserious way).
Director Zack Snyder’s remake of George Romero’s classic differs from its model in uppingthe number of survivors in the mall, making the zombies extremely fast, reducing the amount offlesh being eaten, and evacuating the story of its social satire. This last is the film’s most seriousflaw, and the soulless quality of the new (undeniably exciting) product is driven home by havingone of the original’s most crucial lines (the zombies come to the mall because it was animportant place in their lives) set up only to be eliminated. The sheer number of charactersdilutes the development of each, and the fast zombie thing was already done (and done better) by28 Days Later. Those looking for a film that is true to Romero’s spirit should turn toDanny Boyle’s movie or Shaun of the Dead. Snyder’s film is much more action-oriented,and does have terrific drive. The opening is marvellous, and really drives home the idea of all-encompassing apocalypse. To sum up: this is an exciting horror film, that doesn’t desecrate itspredecessor, but it has none of the subtext, and surprisingly blows some opportunities for trulyhard-core scares.
I may have mixed feelings about the remake, but I have none about the sound. The mix isloud and proud, an in-your-face assault that pumps up the chills no end. Special care has beengiven to the creation of an environment: surround effects are present at every conceivableopportunity. Their level is just right, so they don’t drown out dialogue and aren’t distracting, butplunge the viewer deep into the nightmare.
The picture is equally superb, with near-astonishing contrasts and extremely strong colours.So the blood is nothing short of spectacular. There is no grain, nor are there edge enhancementhalos. The blacks are profound, the picture is never murky, and the image is razor sharp. In otherwords, all the hideousness and ugliness looks just beautiful. Howzat for a paradox?
Director Zack Snyder and co-producer Eric Newman’s commentary is very much on thenuts-and-bolts and behind-the-scenes-anecdotes side of things. I really wanted to know why, forinstance, the screenplay avoided the crucial moment mentioned earlier, but they were too busytalking about the shoot colliding with a funeral. Oh well. Snyder also introduces the unratedversion (but doesn’t tell us anything beyond the obvious) and provides optional commentary onthe deleted scenes. The other extras are featurettes. Those available on both R and unratedversions of the DVD are “The Lost Tape” (Andy’s home movies, chronicling his slowdisintegration, but oddly implying that the zombie plague ended, thus undermining the movie’sdownbeat ending) and “Special Report: Zombie Invasion” (the news report of the plague, with avery unconvincing anchor). The extras exclusive to the unrated version are “Splitting Headaches:Anatomy of Exploding Heads”, “Attack of the Living Dead” and “Raising the Dead” — as theirtitles suggest, all three focus on the make-up effects. Though promotional in nature, they are notuninformative. There are also some DVD-ROM features. The menu’s main screen and (long)intro are animated and scored, while the secondary screens are scored.
It’s fun, it’s scary, and it’s exciting. Still, it isn’t the best of the recent zombie movies. Itseems that these days, when it comes to making zombie movies, leave it to the British.
Special Features List
- Audio Commentary
- “Splitting Headaches: Anatomy of Exploding Heads” Featurette
- “Attack of the Living Dead” Featurette
- “Raising the Dead” Featurette
- “The Lost Tape”
- “Special Report: Zombie Invasion”
- Deleted Scenes with Optional Commentary
- DVD-ROM Features