Thursday, March 25, 2004

Forget anything you may have heard about Dawn of the Dead; it's amazing. The first ten minutes create the most unsettling, haunting picture of absolute chaos I've ever seen in a movie theater. The rest of the movie is just relentless and punishing; as soon as you even start to get to like a character, that character is dead, and then that character is a zombie. We'll get an occasional reprieve as the characters relax in the mall and then all of a sudden the peace will rupture again and something unspeakably horrible will happen. Dawn of the Dead is a modern horror classic, period. The reviews I've read have really been getting on my nerves. Elvis Mitchell of the New York Times in particular comes across as a flip, smarmy idiot, way more concerned with making cheap jokes at the expese of the millions of people who went on to see this movie opening weekend. It's not a pointless splatterfest, it's not lowest-common-denominator, and it's not a soulless piece of Hollywood hackery. It is an absolutely startling piece of work. The original Dawn of the Dead is one of my favorite movies of all time, and though this one isn't as fun to watch (you don't get much of the sense of the survivors' glee as they run rampant on the abandoned mall), it's much scarier. And it seems unfair to pit the characters in the new movie against these hopped-up super-zombies when the first movie's characters only had to deal with your traditional slow-moving idiot zombies. But I keep reading about the wicked social satire of the first movie, and I just don't see it. It's not wicked social satire to show mindless zombies wandering around a mall trying to walk up a down escalator. It's a cheap joke, and the movie is no worse without it.