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Dawn of the Dead

Starring Sarah Polley, Ving Rhames and Mekhi Phifer
Screenplay by James Gunn
Based on the film by George Romero
Directed by Zack Snyder

IN SHORT: Terrible, as simple as that. [Rated R for pervasive strong horror violence and gore, language and sexuality. 100 minutes]

See, here's the thing. When a horror flick like this is made on a shoestring indie budget, most of the money goes into the effects shots (which is all the fans want to see. The gorier and more disgustingly executed, the better). Critics make allowances. Heck, critics make a lot of allowances for indieflicks, period. When big studio budgets come into the picture, however, we expect two things. 1) a better story. 2) scarier and more disgusting effects.

This "re-imagining" of Dawn of the Dead, originally a sequel to Night of the Living Dead, drops just about every ball there is to drop. It isn't scary. It has no idea how to build suspense and the limitations of the setup -- the "monsters" can only be killed by shooting them in, or otherwise destroying, the head -- give us only one good snuffing to speak about. 'course we can't speak about it 'cuz that would give the only good killing away.

Everett, Wisconsin. Vivian (Hannah Lochner) is a cute eight year old kid. When first seen, we think she's a friendly neighborhood kid, known to our star. Ana (Sarah Polley). At six thirty the next morning, give or take a minute or seven, Vivian is in Ana's house, standing in the bedroom doorway waiting for Ana and her husband/ boyfriend/ whatever Michael (Jake Weber) to wake up. When whatever bends over to check on the little girl, and find out what she is doing in his bedroom at six thirty or so in the morning, she rips his neck out with her teeth.

Breakfast is, after all, the most important meal of the day.

Ana discovers that the world has gone upside down thanks to some kind of virus that has turned humans into zombies. Don't ask how. Just learn, as Ana does from what TV broadcasts remain, that any zombie who bites a human turns 'em into a zombie, and the walking dead in this movie are very, very hungry.

Stumbling across what few humans still walk, Ana and Company -- including Kenneth (Ving Rhames), Andre (Mekhi Phifer), and comic relief Nicole (Lindy Booth) head for the nearest closed in space, the Crossroads Mall. There they make their last stand with some particularly unpleasant security guards, led by CJ (Michael Kelly), who redefines the adjective "ass".

The script is particularly weak (and considering the whole point is to get to the gore, that's saying a lot). There are two particularly gruesome killings of zombies that are truly stomach turning for the uninitiated, both of which had us wishing we had passed on the screening.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Ten Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Dawn of the Dead, he would have paid . . .


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