Dawn of the Dead: Unrated (Blu-ray)

January 28, 2012 8 Min Read

Review by: Matt Brighton

Plot: What’s it about?

“When there’s no more room in hell, the dead will walk the earth.”

The original “Dawn of the Dead” stands as one of George Romero’s die-hard (pardon the pun) cult classics. And in the realm of “zombie” movies, there’s little competition to dispute that fact. But this is 2004 and we just re-make old classics because coming up with original story ideas is too hard. Only kidding. First time Zack Snyder actually hit the nail right on the head with his adaptation of “Dawn of the Dead”. I’ll be the first to admit that when it comes to movies like this, I usually tune out. If the movie had not been done before, I’d say that it was just trying to copy of last year’s great “28 Days Later” in which London becomes overrun by zombies. “Dawn of the Dead” is less scary and more eerie when you really think what’s happening. The chain reaction in which an epidemic can spread (in this case, the dead killing the living and thus becoming the “living dead”) is what is most disturbing.

The plot is fairly simple and straight forward and the expanded prologue serves to introduce us to the main character of Ana (Sarah Polley). Ana’s a nurse and she’s worked a long shift. She comes home to her suburban Milwaukee home for “date night” with her lover. She awakens the next morning to her neighbor’s child who promptly kills her lover, only to have him turn into a flesh-eating zombie. Ana manages to escape and runs into Kenneth (Ving Rhames), a police officer who has also managed to stay alive throughout the morning. They meet up with a group of three (who we learn was a group of eight earlier in the day) and manage to make it to the shopping mall – which is, of course, closed. Now this is where things get interesting. This group meets up with three mall security officers (who take their jobs a little too seriously), who have made the mall into their “Alamo” so to speak. The leader, C.J. (Michael Kelly) borders on the insane, but once he’s made his point clear (that he wants to live), they start to understand. Naturally, these people can’t live in the mall forever and the zombies seem to all be flocking to the mall parking lot for some reason. They must escape before they all end up dead…or worse.

The premise is simple, and the tagline really says it all “when there’s no more room in hell, the dead will walk the Earth”. There’s really no back plot to the story, things just start to happen and take their course. We don’t know if the phenomenon is relegated to the Milwaukee area, the United States or the world (we assume the world) and if there is any safe haven for our heroes. While this differs from the original version, there are some different aspects to both. I enjoyed the original more as it had more of a unique feel to it. But I’d have to say that for a first-time director; Snyder has done pretty good work here (even casting himself in a few different small parts). This version reviewed is the “Director’s Cut” which contains some 9 minutes of extended and deleted scenes edited back into the movie. Gross? Bloody? Yes. For a good double feature, watch this and Danny Boyle’s “28 Days Later” for a zombie fest (and interestingly enough, the word “zombie” is never used in this movie). Recommended.

Video: How does it look?

It seems that this remake of “Dawn of the Dead” is a pretty reliable catalog title for Universal, since it’s now been released on both HD DVD and now Blu-ray. Director Zack Snyder has used nearly every film stock in the book here and they all appear decent. The 2.35:1 HD transfer looks good and for the most part, the colors are very bright (you’ll get to see every bit of blood and gore on the zomibie’s faces), but the dark scenes tend to retain that sharpness that doesn’t give way to artifacting. The ending credits are shot on a DV camcorder that really give a genuine look and feel to the movie. Though not quite perfect, this is certainly a step up from the standard DVD and fans won’t be disappointed in this new HD version.

Audio: How does it sound?

The HD DVD had a very good-sounding Dolby TrueHD track and why this has been replaced with a DTS Master Audio track is beyond me. The two tracks are identical in sound and there are plenty of opportunities for guns, explosions, tires squeeling, etc. The dialogue is very clean, free of any distortion and while the surrounds take charge during some of the key scenes, the soundtrack is mainly limited to the front stage. There were a few instances, mainly at the end of the movie, where the surrounds broadcast the “crowd” effect of the zombies and I was fairly impressed. The addition of this TrueHD track does give the soundtrack a depth I didn’t think possible and I think that viewers will really dig this amazing new soundtrack.

Supplements: What are the extras?

Now here’s where I’m left scratching my head. Universal’s HD DVD version of this movie contained a plethora of supplements and this Blu-ray version has most of those removed. We still have the commentary track with director Zach Snyder and producer Eric Newman and Universal has put their “U-Control” in that gives us some picture-in-picture footage, but aside from that; that’s it. The featurettes have been removed and though some of the material from the HD DVD pops up during the U-Control segment, that’s all we get. For die hard fans of the movie, the HD DVD version is the one to get in terms of supplements but aside from that everything else is identical.

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