Dawn of the Dead (2004) Blu-ray (Collector’s Edition)
Director: Zack Snyder
Screenwriter: James Gunn
Cast: Sarah Polley, Ving Rhames, Jake Weber, Mekhi Phifer, Ty Burrell, Lindy Booth, Matt Frewer, Tom Savini, Ken Foree
Distributor: Scream Factory
Rated R/ Not Rated | 101 / 110 Minutes
Release Date: October 24, 2017
Directed by Zack Snyder (300, Watchmen, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice) and written by James Gunn (Slither, Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy series), 2004’s Dawn of the Dead is a remake of George A. Romero’s 1978 film of the same name. Arguably Snyder’s best film, and one of the better horror remakes of the past 20 years, the 2004 movie honors the original while offering a fresh, innovative take on the zombie subgenre.
A mysterious virus is turning people into flesh-eating zombies. Unlike Romero’s slow but relentless living dead, Snyder and Gunn pull from Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later playbook and apply the rabies-like symptoms of the 2002 film’s “Rage Virus” to their reanimated corpses, creating a horde of aggressive, fast-moving zombies that can run, jump, and climb. Essentially, the zombies of the new millennium are CrossFit enthusiasts on bath salts.
Sarah Polley (Splice, Stories We Tell) stars as Ana Clark, a nurse who returns to her suburban Milwaukee home after a long shift at the hospital, eager to begin a scheduled date night with her husband, Luis (Louis Ferreira). The next morning, a neighborhood girl breaks into the house and enters their bedroom covered in blood. Luis approaches the sick girl to see what’s wrong and she bites him on the neck. Now infected with the same disease, Luis attacks Ana, who manages to escape as bloodshed and mayhem engulf their neighborhood.
After crashing her car, Ana meets up with a handful of survivors, including Police Sergeant Kenneth Hall (Ving Rhames), Best Buy employee Michael (Jake Weber), petty criminal Andre (Mekhi Phifer), and his pregnant wife, Luda (Inna Korobkina). Together they seek shelter in the Crossroads Mall shopping center.
There they are confronted by security guard C.J. (Michael Kelly) and his two lackeys, Bart (Michael Barry) and Terry (Kevin Zegers), who confiscate their weapons in exchange for refuge. The next day, another group of survivors arrives, including snarky rich dick Steve Marcus (Modern Family‘s Ty Burrell) and gay church organist Glen (R.D. Reid). Together, Ana and her fellow survivors must fortify the mall from the swarm of zombies outside and find a way to safety, if such a thing still exists.
Dawn of the Dead (2004) works more as a high-octane action-horror film like Aliens than the disturbing social commentary Romero’s Dead flicks are known for. It’s more visceral than intellectual, but Gunn and his uncredited co-writers Michael Tolkin and Scott Frank infuse the bare-bones plot with plenty of tongue-in-cheek humor and sight gags that offer a new experience altogether – a quirky but violent amalgam of Romero’s oeuvre, 28 Days Later, and Shaun of the Dead, lensed by Matthew F. Leonetti (Poltergeist, Rob Zombie’s Halloween).
What carries the film is its performances, with Polley, Rhames, and Weber as the standouts. The ensemble embodies the best and worst of humanity and gives us people to root for, people to wish death upon, and moments of redemption for even the biggest assholes among us. It’s also great to see cameos by original cast members like Ken Foree, Scott Reiniger, and special make-up effects master Tom Savini.
Snyder’s feature-length debut, Dawn of the Dead feels like a big-budget Troma film, with skull-smashing special effects by Heather Langenkamp-Anderson, and David LeRoy Anderson‘s AFX Studio. While it isn’t as thoughtful or full-bodied as Romero’s original, it’s an entertaining B-side; a speed metal cover of a classic song that hits the same beats but faster, with more intensity.
Scream Factory’s two-disc Dawn of the Dead Collector’s Edition Blu-ray looks great, with healthy grain retention and full colors. With a 1080p transfer in the film’s original aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix for home theater enthusiasts, Snyder’s impressive debut has received a definitive high-definition release. As for special features, there are tons of new special features, as well as featurettes from previous releases.
Disc one includes the theatrical version of the movie with a new HD master derived From the digital intermediate archival negative as well as four newly produced interview segments. There’s “Take A Chance On Me – An Interview with Ty Burrell,” “Gunn for Hire – An Interview with James Gunn,” “Punk, Rock, & Zombie – An Interview with Jake Weber,” and “Killing Time at the Mall: The Special Effects of Dawn of the Dead,” an interview with special makeup effects artists David Anderson and Heather Langenkamp-Anderson. There’s also a selection of deleted scenes with optional commentary by Snyder and producer Eric Newman.
On disc two, you get the longer, unrated version of the film with a new HD master, commentary by Snyder and Newman, and several previously released featurettes. There’s “Splitting Headaches: Anatomy of Exploding Heads,” “Attack of the Living Dead,” “Raising the Dead,” “Andy’s Lost Tape,” “Special Report: Zombie Invasion,” and “Undead and Loving It: A Mockumentary.” There’s also a “Drawing the Dead” segment, as well as storyboard comparisons and a hidden Easter egg!
This release is another home run for Scream Factory – if you’re a fan of the zombie subgenre or Zack Snyder’s filmography, you won’t find a better release of 2004’s Dawn of the Dead than this two-disc Collector’s Edition. You can purchase the Blu-ray now at Amazon.