Has Zack Snyder ever had an original thought? I ask because the prevalent few of his filmography are remakes or based heavily on stories that have a clear start and end to them. He and his audiences find comfort in the conformity of the genre, and there is nothing wrong with that if it is done right. Dawn of the Dead, then, offers the remake portions of fanbase, who cannot stomach the classic George A. Romero original, and need something sleeker, slicker, and bigger in budget. Bearing all the hallmarks of the modern horror and its necessity for action, Dawn of the Dead provides an amicable break from the story-heavy original, in its place bringing all the sex, violence and tension of the modern-day remakes.
Corresponding well with the need for dumb characters in dire circumstances, Dawn of the Dead is packed to the gills with fools. Worse still, its director and writer are one and the same. Skipping over the slight details that are needed to make a plot understandable and engaging, there are many moments throughout that imply changes in the mood and tone of these characters, but we are never shown. Kenneth (Ving Rhames) is the assumed leader of the pack, but Snyder struggles to corroborate this with the rest of his cast. In-fighting is the obvious solution to this, but some moments linger on him and him alone far too often. A key difference between this and the inabilities of Justice League, though, are Snyder’s intentions at formulating this group. Here, it is clear to see what he is trying to do, Dawn of the Dead has the usual fights and flirtations between characters it is difficult to care for, whereas Justice League has a cavalcade of characters and doesn’t know what to do with them.
Still, the additions and changes Dawn of the Dead makes to the original are, to some degree, interesting. Andy (Bruce Bohne) is an interesting dynamic to bring for Rhames, yet the rest of the cast are given little to do. It is hard to care for characters who are hardened stereotypes. An underdog nurse, the snobby suited man, the love interest for the nurse and everything in-between. Fine performances with terrible dialogue and the thematics Snyder wishes to display aren’t exactly strong, but are still his best efforts with writing so far. Gone is the unintentional criticism of suburban middle-classism and their devotion to the palace of consumerism, in its place there is nothing. A replacement is necessary to ditch these themes, but Snyder cannot offer anything great, aside from a knockout soundtrack.
Fitting it must be to have The Man in Black, Johnny Cash, open this debut directing effort, Dawn of the Dead doesn’t quite hit the effective notions and messages of the original, but it is entertaining and gory enough to make for a good bit of horror. For all its faults, and there are many, it is fine fun. Oddly endearing at times, the hypermasculinity and brooding action shots give a great sense of self-awareness, but are not enough to improve upon the strengths of the original. Was Snyder intending to improve upon that? If yes, then he is a fool, and if not, then why bother remaking Dawn of the Dead? Gorier, but not greater.