Back at the maul

Dawn of the Dead

Directed by Zack Snyder. Starring Sarah Polley, Ving Rhames and Mekhi Phifer. Rated R.
Rated 3.0 The good news here is that first-time director Zack Snyder’s take on George Romero’s gut-cruncher opus makes for bloody good, scary fun. Not so much a remake as an homage to the genre, Dawn opens with a tepid bit of character development that explodes into one of the most satisfying pre-opening credits in recent memory, as seemingly overnight the world dies. Sort of. And of course, when there is no more room in Hell and the dead walk the Earth, the survivors hit the mall.

The bad new is the weakness of James Gunn’s script. Granted, while replacing the social satire of the original with the equivalent of dead-baby jokes (both figuratively and literally); the script does manage to maintain the uneasy balance of being both scary and funny at the same time. Unfortunately, as narrative it bites. The frightened mall rats here are a loosely sketched lot of stereotypes: the feisty heroine, the taciturn black cop, the nice guy, blah, blah, blah. In other words, no one here inspires empathy, thus serving as nothing more than zombie fodder.

Add to that plot holes one could drive a city bus through and random contrivances that threaten to derail the whole project, and one has to admire Snyder’s ability to keep things cracking at a pace that demands that the viewer not notice the complete lack of internal logic until after leaving the theater. As an immediate horror show experience, this bad boy rocks.