Snyder. Zack Snyder.
NB- I feel like I was having a crack at being the A.O. Scott of 2004 with a lot of these early reviews. Please forgive my pompous bloviating and accept it for a comic insight into contrarian critical overreach, at very least.
The cab driver, post screening, was a lovely gent named Mehti.
Mehti had a few interesting ideas when it came to screen theory, chief amongst them the notion that the Poms make shite movies.
Low budget ones, with far too many English people in them.
Instinctively, my inner ‘snotty cineaste’ curled up in the foetal position and began shivering impotently in a deep dark recess of the old cerebellum.
Now, I hates to admit this, but, as we explored this notion of ‘Quality v. Englishness’, I sort of came to see Mehti’s point.
Well, at least in the context of Dawn of the Dead.
Frankly, in its first five minutes, this mean, cagey little prick of a movie efficiently guts and leaves for dead 28 Days Later, that recent, terror-free Brit entry into the zombie canon.
Dawn of the Dead (let’s not go with ‘DOTD’, eh?) is a brutal, ugly exercise, devoid of the standard, glib parade of self reflexivity that laid the horror genre low for much of the nineties.
Plunging us directly into the zombie apocalypse, Dawn of the Dead exults in hard, fast and messy carnage, soaking its protagonists in baths of gruel and lurid, meaty explosions of offal.
Then there’s an opening credits sequence.
Featuring a solid B-list cast, including man monolith Ving ‘I Shit Michael Clarke Duncans’ Rhames and Toni Collette Junior Sarah Polley, Director Zack Snyder spares little time in dispensing with one and all in gruelling, jibs-akimbo fashion.
(Dawn of the Dead is scribed by the bloke what wrote ‘Scooby Doo’*; I will, accordingly, be deferring all praise in Snyder’s direction.)
Snyder, it must be said, is one callous little bastard.
Obviously one of those flinty-eyed kids who inflicted Mengele style depravities on defenceless fauna, the director revels in some absolutely glorious sick fuckery.
Have you, like me, always felt that the history of cinema was noticeably lacking in its depiction of pregnant immigrant Russian zombies giving birth to (yes!) cute widdle zombie offspring?
Well, that particular filmic ledger has finally been balanced.
Ripped, lean and totally stripped of subcutaneous fat, this remake of George Romero’s 1978 original is as fast, mean and predatory as the zombie types that inhabit its grim mise en scene.
Regardless of my pompous displays of attempted erudition, Dawn of the Dead is exactly the type of dirtily witty, blackly comic zombie threshing machine that John Carpenter’d still be making if he wasn’t hacking out trite, ‘gots ta pay them gun club fees’ horseshit like Ghosts of Mars.
The man wouldve had a field day with zombie celebrity (exploding) head.
Addressing, but quickly dispensing with, Romero’s overstated consumerist satire- yes, George, that’d be, what? shot twenty seven of some random undead hillbilly gawping lustfully at a new telly?
Dawn of the Dead, 21C style, opts for a grim, relentlessly bleak take on the material: it’s a nihilistic flaying machine par excellence: the precious little indie darlings behind Twenty Eight Days Later would do well to take note.
Next time, we’ll discuss Mehti’s ‘Two Hour Rule’ and the little-known but influential ‘Must Feature Eugene Levy Principle’.
*2016 addendum: that was a mistake.