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Dawn of the Dead - Director's Cut  (2004)


Rating: NR

Distributor: Universal Studios Home Video

Release Date: October 26, 2004
Review posted: November 2, 2004


Reviewed by Dennis Landmann




The survivors of a worldwide plague that is producing the flesh-hungry undead take refuge in a mega shopping mall. Thanks to IMDb.




Despite being a remake, Dawn of the Dead manages to be original on some levels. This update is a little more action-oriented than the original, yet it offers both good-natured and somewhat sick humor during moments; a little humor is good for stress relief and to lighten the mood a bit. In terms of mood and style, first-time director Zack Snyder does ad admirable job. The film is scary and very well realized, that is, the cinematography and the special make-up effects, as well some added CGI, look great. The first hour or so is especially very good, and there isn't really a concern with pace or running time, although the last twenty or so minutes go in a different direction than I would've expected.


Dawn of the Dead is not just another horror-slash-zombie film. The script shows a clear path in terms of the narrative and what the characters must do to survive. Characterization is important for a story like this, and screenwriter James Gunn, from an original screenplay by George A. Romero, makes the characters realistic and gives them some good dialogue. The actors playing the major characters share good chemistry as the film progresses, they become involved in interesting dialogue and react well to confrontations. Actors Sarah Polley, who plays a nurse, Ving Rhames, who tries to keep the peace as a police officer, and Jake Weber, who seems the most calm and resourceful, stand out.


The director's cut of the film runs approximately nine minutes longer than the version screened in theaters. This expanded cut incorporates more gore and zombies, but more importantly adds several character scenes, which fleshes out the characters a bit more.




Universal presents Dawn of the Dead in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. Colors look very bright and absolutely clear. Detail and sharpness are fine, and overall there are no issues to report. A solid effort overall.




Universal presents Dawn of the Dead in English 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround Sound. Dialogue is very clear and easy to understand, while the sound effects are actively reinforced by the rear speakers. The overall presentation of the music and sound effects makes this a solid auditory experience.




The Dawn of the Dead Director’s Cut DVD features multiple extras, but the added selling point is the addition of three featurettes exclusive to this DVD edition (they are the last three discussed in this review).


The audio commentary by Zack Snyder and producer Eric Newman is fairly good, it's informative here and there, sometimes a bit slow, but overall an insightful track with stories from the production and how things went on.

The deleted scenes for the film are actually pretty good. There are about 6-7 scenes, and only two are not really that important to the overall film. The others scenes consist more of the survivors searching the mall for zombies, and more zombies appearing outside the mall doors and scaring the people a bit more.

The Lost Tape: Andy’s Terrifying Last Days is kind of lame, though it’s a nice addition to the whole experience of the movie. However, this feature is a waste of time and was probably a waste of film, or videotape. It is just plain boring, and is obviously staged. And some things don’t add up. In the movie, Andy doesn’t turn into a zombie until after the girl gets to his gun shop and bites him, but in this feature he turns into one before she gets there. Oh, and Andy’s last days aren't all that terrifying, whatever.

The Special Bulletin extra was pretty good. It is hosted by Richard Biggs (RIP), from Baylon 5 fame, who plays the news anchor in this broadcast. Another nice addition to the whole feel and involvement to the film like ‘The Lost Tape,’ but this is actually good. This feature has nothing to with the movie, it is what the survivors in the mall would have seen on the news if they were watching TV. The feature shows news-like clips, very real-looking and convincing zombies taking over the streets of
Los Angeles and all over the world, such as London. This featurette is also a bit long, which is nice because you feel like this is really happening; as if this is the breaking news.

Raising the Dead is just like a behind-the-scenes look, but more of a behind the make-up. All this feature shows is make-up artists putting on makeup, masks, and wigs. It also has some interviews and explanations of how they turn extras into zombies. Structurally, it breaks down the stages of becoming a zombie: Stage 1 is still human, stage 2 adds decay and preliminary make-up, and stage 3 sees the zombies as really nasty looking creatures.

The Attack of the Living Dead extra focuses on the six most memorable zombies in the film, which include the Chinese man with one arm, the black janitor, the fat woman, Andre’s wife, and two others. All this featurette does is show the stages the creators took to create those zombies. They went into details with each zombie, showing them in their original stage, and showing them being turned into zombies and how they made them look so real, etc.

Finally the Splitting Headaches extra is nice. It focuses on scenes where the zombies get their heads blown off, like when they play the game of killing celebrity look-a-likes, the parking garage scene, and basically scenes where the zombies get shot in the head; heads explode, blood sprays, and so on.




This director's cut of Dawn of the Dead works just as good as the theatrical cut, although there are a few more character scenes. The DVD offers very good video and audio quality, and the extras are mostly good. If you're going to get this film on DVD, get the Director's Cut in widescreen.




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