We see the important gatherings of the group taking place at a coffee shop called Hallowed Ground. It resembles, in some ways, what our churches can become. When a certain character and his loved one find reason to stay away from the Hallowed Ground, those individuals become isolated, and we viewers soon realize that all is not safe at the Crossroads.

(2004) Film Review

This page was created on March 24, 2004
This page was last updated on May 16, 2005


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CREDITS

Directed by Zack Snyder
1978 screenplay by George A. Romero
Screenplay by James Gunn

Producers
Marc Abraham ... producer
Armyan Bernstein ... executive producer
Thomas A. Bliss ... executive producer
Dennis E. Jones ... executive producer
Michael D. Messina ... co-producer
Eric Newman ... producer
Richard P. Rubinstein ... producer

Cast - in credits order
Sarah Polley ... Ana
Ving Rhames ... Kenneth
Jake Weber ... Michael
Mekhi Phifer ... Andre
Ty Burrell ... Steve
Michael Kelly ... CJ
Kevin Zegers ... Terry
Michael Barry ... Bart
Lindy Booth ... Nicole
Jayne Eastwood ... Norma
Boyd Banks ... Tucker
Inna Korobkina ... Luda
R.D. Reid ... Glen
Kim Poirier ... Monica
Matt Frewer ... Frank
Justin Louis ... Luis
Hannah Lochner ... Vivian
Bruce Bohne ... Andy
Ermes Blarasin ... Bloated Woman
Sanjay Talwar ... Doctor Rosen
Kim Roberts ... Cora

Original Music by Tree Adams (mall music) and Tyler Bates
Cinematography by Matthew F. Leonetti
Edited by Niven Howie


Rated
For rating reasons, go to FILMRATINGS.COM, and MPAA.ORG.
Parents, please refer to PARENTALGUIDE.ORG

TRAILERS AND CLIPS
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Night of the Living Dead (Millennium Edition) (1968)
Night of the Living Dead (1990)

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SYNOPSIS
Sarah Polley, Ving Rhames, Jake Webber and Mekhi Phifer head an ensemble cast in a re-envisioning of George Romero's apocalyptic horror classic, Dawn of the Dead. An unexplained plague has decimated the world's population and yet...the dead aren't dying. They've become zombies, stalking endlessly in a constant quest to feed on the flesh and blood of the few remaining living.

A ragtag group of desperate survivors in a Wisconsin town seek refuge in a large indoor mall, where they must learn not only to protect themselves from the ever-increasing zombie horde, but also to co-exist with each other as a last bastion of humanity. Sealed off from the rest of what used to be the world, the group uses every available resource (both within and without) in their against-all-odds fight to remain alive and human.

Dawn of the Dead is directed by Zack Snyder from an adapted screenplay by James Gunn; it is produced by Richard P. Rubenstein, Marc Abraham and Eric Newman.

Review by MIKE FURCHES
mike@furches.org

Web sitewww.furches.org


Mike is the Senior Pastor at United at the Cross Community Church in Wichita Kansas. United at the Cross is a church made up of individuals not often accepted in other churches. The church consists of former gang members, drug addicts, prostitutes and others. Mike also speaks nationally on various topics and is a freelance writer. To learn more about Mike and his ministry link onto www.furches.org. In the arts Mike has worked with top music artists such as Steppenwolf, Marshall Tucker Band, Kansas and has an active interest in film. Mike is pictured with his music band "Route 66."

"They're coming to get you Barbara."

Any fan of the horror genre will know this infamous line from the movie Night of the Living Dead, directed and written by George A. Romero. It is THE classic horror film, considered by many to be the best horror movie ever made, and it is without question the standard to which virtually every other horror movie is compared. It is the measuring stick and the launching pad for the specific sub-genre of horror known as the "zombie" film. Virtually no zombie movie can be made without a comparison, including the recent film 28 Days Later.

Dawn of the Dead is actually a remake of the second in the series of George A. Romero's original zombie trilogy: Night of the Living Dead (1968), highly praised Dawn of the Dead (1978), and Day of The Dead (1985). [Night of the Living Dead had a lackluster remake in 1990.] One of the things that makes Romero such a genius is his ability to intertwine social commentary into a captivating low-budget film. My hopes for the remake of Dawn of the Dead were quite high, and although I would have liked to have seen far more involvement from George Romero, James Gunn of Scooby-Doo fame does an adequate job and has a few nice touches. While in many regards this is a remake of a classic, it still lacks in the quality of story needed to hold its own with the original. That being said, I still liked this movie.

I know that many Christians seem to be critical of individuals who like the Horror genre. Personally, I have gotten used to that criticism and have also come to recognize and accept that many in our world actually like this genre, as indicated by the fact that Dawn of the Dead just bumped The Passion of the Christ from the top spot in the box office this week. I believe The Passion of the Christ will experience a bump back to the top as we approach Holy Week, so Christians need not be too concerned about the lack of "spiritual" influence and content from the well-received opening of Dawn of the Dead.

For those familiar with zombie films, you already know the basic plot: people die, come back to life, kill other people (usually by eating them), and then those people in turn become zombies. Usually there is only one of two ways to kill zombies: messing with their heads (literally) or burning them. It is somewhat strange that you must "kill" something already dead, but these creatures do need to be killed or you end up getting killed yourself. The horror is that it is not like killing a Frankenstein's monster, Dracula, or some other inhuman creature. You are likely to end up having to kill what seems to be your own brother, sister, or wife -- or even your own child. A being that seems to be human, but in reality is only a shell that resembles the loved one. This concept certainly gives credit to the idea that each body contains a soul that disappears upon death. One of the things we learn from these movies is that it normally doesn't take long for the person who is doing the killing to discover that the body left walking around is in reality not the loved one that the person once knew. If they don't recognize this, they soon will, and following the typical zombie story plot, there are always some who find out the hard way.

This film in many ways follows the concept of the original: people escape zombies who are trying to kill them. A number of people end up together at, of all places, a shopping mall. I remember watching the original Dawn of the Dead during its initial release, back before shopping malls had hit their height of popularity. In many ways, Romero was prophetic in detailing how people would flock to the malls only to be caught up into themselves. Shopping malls would become the "me" centers of the "Me Generation." Don't lose sight of that thought in this movie. There are a number of other concepts that are certainly worth mentioning as well.

While in the "Crossroads Mall," each character has to come to a crossroads in his or her own life. We see a number of characters that I actually found quite attractive and representative of society. Without giving away too much of the story [I don't like spoilers], there is one character who we see at first as a rude, self-centered, obnoxious individual. Be sure to note how, throughout the movie, this one individual changes, demonstrating the truth that often those we don't think much of actually do have the ability to change. Gunn and Romero in the original seem to be telling us, "Don't give up hope for people. What you see initially may not be what an individual can ultimately become." Of course, this works both ways. Individuals who first appear to be fun, loving, caring, can often times end up being people who lead to death and destruction.

Once the audience has been brought to the mall, we see the important gatherings of the group taking place at a coffee shop called Hallowed Ground. It resembles, in some ways, what our churches can become. When a certain character and his loved one find reason to stay away from the Hallowed Ground, those individuals become isolated, and we viewers soon realize that all is not safe at the Crossroads. There are always some who would rather follow the evil that lies outside. Others seek the true Hallowed Ground that can often be found in relationships.

We also see in this movie a hero who has a faith that is important to him, a faith through which he realizes the importance of going to church. He faces the reality that there is a hell and that when hell gets full, the "Dead will walk the earth." While the director is using figurative examples here, there is also his commentary regarding the fact that we do make a choice on this planet as to whether we will follow the ways of hell or the ways of God. Those ways, as exhibited by this character and others, are to love and care for others, to make sacrifices that sometimes require the giving up of one's own life for another person.

I hate spoiler reviews but the next section could be considered a spoiler. Skip to the following section if you want to finish reading without seeing the spoiler.

Spoiler: There is also the ultimate hero, played by Jake Weber in the part of Michael. Michael is the sort of individual who seems always to have the best interests of others at heart. You never see him indulging in any actions that would destroy the living, only the dead. He is kind and gentle, and is one who understands and struggles with loss. He is also one who seems to have more peace than any other character in the movie. He is in many regards a Christ figure. He loves and cares, and is willing to sacrifice himself to save the many. He seems to be comfortable with the decisions he makes and with his future. We see this especially at the point where he allows the others to continue their journey towards freedom, the freedom to make wise or foolish decisions. Just when the audience believes that everything is now okay, we are reminded throughout the closing credits that even though we have been provided a deliverer, a savior, we still need to make wise decisions ourselves -- and we are responsible for the decisions we make. Unfortunately, this group does not make those appropriate decisions. For those not familiar with zombie films or George A. Romero, I will say that James Gunn holds true to the concept that far more times than not, you don't survive the zombie.
End of spoiler
The cast in this film is exceptional. Although there are far too many characters to describe in detail, they do a fine job of representing a whole cross-section of society. Gunn tells us just enough about each one so that we care, an important point in a zombie movie where the audience should care about those who eventually "turn" and then must be killed. If only we as Christians really cared that much about the real people we see from day to day -- those who are experiencing spiritual death in reality just as the characters in this movie are experiencing "real" death.

The soundtrack is wonderful, incorporating everything from Johnny Cash to Jim Carrol Band's "People Who Died." In fact, you will find yourself laughing at some of the background music, and laughter is actually another important aspect of this movie. There is a good dose of humor to balance with the almost nonstop action. The story line is a little weak, but still fun to watch. In fact, the opening credit scene would compare to the quality openings in the James Bond films. It is among the best opening sequences I have ever seen in a movie. I almost didn't breathe for the first 10 minutes.

For those who like gore -- this movie has got it. Dawn of the Dead may not be as bloody as some, but it's certainly bloody enough. And it is important to remember that this movie is appropriately rated R. There are a number of scenes that show sexual activity, and the language is quite harsh. So, it is certainly is not for everyone, and certainly not for children. For that matter, it is not for every Christian. On the other hand, there are many who enjoy a good read and a "good thought" who will find this movie worthwhile. Again, the social commentary and spiritual associations are far more frequent than many might realize. There would be many opportunities to open up discussion with individuals about the spiritual themes of life, death, souls, eternity, church, and more.

In contrast, last year I saw the atrocious House of 100 Corpses. In that movie there was virtually no one to look up to or to care about. That is far from the case with Dawn of the Dead. While the story may not be quite as good as 28 Days Later, it is well worth seeing and actually has connections that are more spiritual. Because of some weaknesses in the editing and story, I will not rate it as high, but still, I do recommend this movie.

On a scale of 1 - 10, for 2 Night of the Living Dead, 2 Dawn of the Dead, 1 Day of the Dead, 1 Return of the Living Dead, and 1 for the man himself, George Romero, I'll give this movie a satisfying 7, not as good as the original, but still pretty good.
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