March Media Madness

Todd Vanderwerff

Todd Vanderwerff

Dawn of the Dead

Adam Simon’s documentary The American Nightmare suggests that in the Vietnam and Watergate era, cheaply made independent horror films that broke the rules of the cinema (as it were) expressed a country’s anguish. Perhaps it is fitting then, that in a time which seems like a remake of those times (political division and paranoia), we get remakes of the horror classics. Just like our modern times, however, these new films are rather glossy and sanitized for your protection. The new wave started with the over-baked The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and continues with the surprisingly good Dawn of the Dead.

Dawn of the Dead is not a patch on the original (since it eschewed most of that film’s brilliant social satire), but it is a rather effective zombie film. What it does better than almost any horror film with this large of a scale is show the utter devastation and apocalyptic feel of this world-ending event. The film opens with an extended prologue that shows the world falling apart through the eyes of a nurse named Anna (played by Sarah Polley, the wonderful independent film actress). First, the girl across the street attacks her husband, then her husband attacks her. Then, she escapes into the greater Milwaukee metropolitan area, where we get a glimpse of the horrors of the zombie plague.

Dawn of the Dead never quite reaches those heights again, but it isn’t for lack of trying. Director Zack Snyder and his excellent cast make every stupid horror movie clich