June 25, 2024

If you’re reading this article and visit Collider regularly, you almost certainly know who Zack Snyder and James Gunn are Snyder is a former music video director who successfully crossed over to movies, where he made his name in a string of visually striking and overly serious comic book adaptations, among others. 300, Lookouts, The man of steeland Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Gunn began working in low-budget horror films before jumping into superheroes, solidifying his A-list status with Marvel’s fun and heartwarming. Guardians of the Galaxy saga (the last part will open in a few months). The two directors, shall we say, passionate fan base behind – the fan base that often butts its head today because Snyder was the main creative force behind the DC Comics cinematic universe before being sidelined in favor of a new direction, Gunn was recently named co-CEO of DC Studios. and is responsible for charting a course far removed from Snyder’s original vision.

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Suffice it to say, this has led to a bit of drama on Twitter, and I honestly have no interest in talking about it! Instead, let’s discuss the sweet irony that these two guys appeared on many moviegoers’ radars at the same time when they made a zombie movie together in 2004. And not just any zombie movie: Snyder and Gunn foolishly decided to remake it George Romero‘s Dawn of the Dead, one of the most famous horror films of all time. Sounds like a terrible idea, doesn’t it? Turns out it wasn’t! And long before their names were daily trending topics, the pair crafted one of the most shocking remakes in horror film history.

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The Zombie Genre rose from the grave in the early 2000s

A zombie from Dawn of the Dead 2004
Image via Universal Pictures

In the early 2000s, the zombie genre was experiencing a bit of a renaissance. Danny Boyle introduced the world to zombies that could actually run 28 Days Later in 2022 Edger Wright 2004 proved you can get the humor out of the dead Shaun of the Dead. And Romero himself returned to his iconic zombie universe 20 years later Day of the Dead with those of 2005 Land of the Dead. Located within this run was Snyder and Gunn’s Dawn of the Dead remake – hereafter identified as full-length Dawn of the Dead ’04. dawn It was Snyder’s directorial debut and Gunn’s fourth screenplay. (Gunn wouldn’t make his directorial debut until two years later with the magnificent creature, slide.)

Its plot follows the same basic set-up as Romero’s undisputed 1978 classic: a zombie apocalypse has thrown the world into chaos, and a small group of survivors barricade themselves inside a massive shopping mall as they figure out how to survive the coming weeks. From there, the films largely run their course. Each movie has a completely different character. Romero’s original version, like most of his films The dead saga, has a strong satirical bent, with dawn Taking a hard look at American consumerism in the late 70s. Snyder and Gunn’s version pays lip service to that theme, but is more concerned with providing action sequences that eschew Romero’s slow-motion walkers in favor of wild, brutal zombies that can run at near-absurd speeds.

Which, again, doesn’t seem like the kind of thing that should really work. Anyone who wants to return Dawn of the Dead? But it turns out Dawn of the Dead ’04 he’s not stupid, he’s just different. And Snyder and Gunn made sure it was different in all the right ways. The film opens with what is, to this day, one of the most shocking sequences of social collapse in film history. Overworked nurse Ana (Sarah Polley, when she was better known for her acting than her work behind the camera) returns home from her shift one night with her boyfriend. But the next morning, the zombie girl next door bites her, and she turns into a vicious zombie, and Ana is forced to flee her house, her street, and the entire neighborhood by fleeing for safer havens.

Dawn of the Dead ’04 it surprisingly lacks many of the visual flourishes that Snyder would later introduce. There is no speed here! But it quickly establishes what can effectively sell a sequence based on camera placement and movement. There’s a great shot from inside Ana’s house where Polley, trying to escape her zombified boyfriend, stumbles back through a door and falls into a bathtub. And that’s just the beginning. Within minutes, we’re following Ana in her car as she wreaks havoc around her: zombies fill the streets, cars crash and explode, chaos fills the frame on all sides. It’s a thrilling 10 minutes of pandemonium and quickly establishes Snyder as a filmmaking force to be reckoned with.

Zack Snyder and James Gunn’s ‘Dawn of the Dead’ features skilled character work

Dawn of the Dead 2004 actor
Image via Universal Pictures

Ana eventually meets Kenneth, a rogue cop (Ving Rhames), Best Buy salesperson Michael (Jake Weber), street-level thief Andre (Mekhi Phifer), and his pregnant girlfriend Luda (Inna Korobkina). The foursome head to the Crossroads Mall, where they talk to security guard CJ’s ass (Michael Kelly) and to allow his two lackeys to take refuge in the place. Eventually, more survivors join the group, and the mall becomes their home for a while (with a few losses and close calls along the way) before finally formulating a plan to escape to a local marina and then a nearby island, and hopefully they have it’s zombie free. After that kinetic opening sequence, the film becomes a writer’s piece for a while, giving Gunn time to shine. (Note that Michael Tolkien and Scott Frank he did too uncredited rewrite on the film, although Gunn is its sole screenwriter.)

Characters that are strictly stereotypes at the beginning evolve in surprising ways. CJ, who would have been an antagonistic presence throughout a lesser film, realizes that pretty quickly. the zombies who are the problem and who learn to work together and maybe even enthusiastic like Ana and her team. Michael, despite being such an effective leader after the zombie outbreak, was largely a failure at life in the previous times, and a sweet romantic connection develops between him and Ana. Perhaps an even more touching relationship will emerge between Kenneth and Andy (Bruce Bohne), a man trapped inside the gun shop on the other side of the mall parking lot. Kenneth and Andy are able to communicate and even play chess by going to their respective rooftops and using wipe boards and binoculars. Andy is a sharpshooter, and the whole team ends up playing a game where the trading team will write a celebrity’s name on the white board and Andy will find zombies that look like that celebrity among the hordes of the dead filling the parking lot and snip them. in the head Dawn of the Dead ’04 it may be at its strongest while the team spends hours waiting for help that will never arrive.

This is a Snyder movie, however, the director has finally taken the reins back, and is back in action. Mention Dawn of the Dead ’04 to any self-respecting horror fan, and the two-word response you most want to return is “zombie baby!” as the film’s final act begins, a zombie-fied Luda gives birth to her own zombie-fied baby, a truly disturbing piece of horror filmmaking that’s appropriately disgusting and taboo (and seems like the perfect blend of Snyder and Snyder). Gunn’s sensitivity). Indeed, in 2004 Snyder’s film was generally hailed as a slicker, more action-oriented version of Romero’s. Dawn of the Dead, watching it today highlights the film’s grind-house vibe. I think horror movies have gotten a lot neater since then.

The group’s escape from the mall is another twist sequence where the survivors are loaded into two juries armed with guns to try and blast the hordes of zombies surrounding the mall. Massive zombie vs. vehicle violence ensues, and someone accidentally takes a chainsaw to the upper trunk. It’s very good, very red stuff, and Snyder even gives it a bonus when the credits roll by giving the audience a little sequence of the movie they’ve literally just seen, showing a little bit of what happened to the survivors when they survived. the boat and then the island.

Michael Kelly fighting zombies in 2004's Dawn of the Dead

Long story short, Snyder and Gunn took a movie that didn’t need a remake and turned it into one of the best zombie movies of the last two decades, firmly establishing themselves in an industry where they’re at the top today, even if some of their fans see them as diametrically opposed forces. . And to this day, Dawn of the Dead ’04 continues to stand out in each man’s filmography. Snyder returned to zombies with the genre-mashing 2021 Army of the Deadbut that film feels like a significant step down from the tighter, more focused horror spectacle dawn offers And Gunn, who also wrote and directed DC Suicide Squad before landing the studio CEO gig, he’s apparently content to spend most of his creative life bringing popular comic book heroes to the big screen in huge marquee productions, which is great for him, but a little bad. those of us who enjoyed the odd little genres he was playing early in his career. Regardless, the two filmmakers should still be proud of the seemingly ill-advised but ultimately warm reception to the horror remake that first brought them together nearly 20 years ago.

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