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"It's The End Of The World As We Know It"

If it's possible, the remake of Dawn of the Dead projects a far nihilistic view of the world's end than even George Romero's 1979 classic. First time director Zack Snyder's vision paints a gory and uncomproming end for the thinking man, a species replaced by its own people, in a rabid state, lacking any soul. But it's the quality performances from stars that refuse to perform as if they're in a schlock film that raises this remake to the level of modern horror classic.

Unlike the original which began moments after the events of Night of the Living Dead concluded, this remake starts in a tranquil modern world with no sign of the horrible things to come. Mild-mannered Nurse Ana (Indie star Sarah Polley, Go, Sweet Hereafter) returns to her cookie cutter home after an exhausting day at work. She chats with a local child, makes love with her husband and peacefully passes out. The two awake to the neighbor girl at their bedroom door covered in blood. Ana's husband attends to the girl only to have the rugrat chomp into his neck with her incisors. Ana attempts to save her husband gushing throat to no avail. She would normally mourn, make funeral arrangements and go on; however, her husband chose to move on first. The dead man re-awakens and attacks his stunned wife with the ferocity of a caged lion.

Ana escapes only to discover the entire city in disarray. She finds refuge along with a cop (Ving Rhames, Pulp Fiction), a pregnant woman and her husband (Mekhi Phifer TV's ER) and an electronics salesman (Jake Weber, Meet Joe Black) at a local mall. But apparently, even without a sale at Macy's, the zombies gravitate to the shopping fortress and the survivors. Vicious and out for blood, the zombies attack our heroes with no remorse, turning on loved ones. Ana and her clan though aren't through living. Armed and ready, the amateur team of everymen wage war with the creatures.

George Romero's film was a revelation in 1979. It came during the summer of gore, sandwiched between Alien, Prophecy, Phantasm, Amityville Horror, Frank Langella's Dracula, Klaus Kinski's Nosferatu and several other horror films. Dawn contained more gore than any of the above flicks, but Romero fused cartoonish violence with riotous humor and stinging satire. Though this remake contains the light edge of the original, the humor's more self-aware than the original and the satire has been removed. Though the survivors still hide in a mall, malls in America have a different meaning today. Visit your gallerias on any month other than December. It can be a ghost town at times. Stores close quickly, galley-ways are empty. There's ripe material for satire that was avoided. The movie doesn't falter without it but it would have been an interesting angle. Another missed opportunity would have been to set the film in the nation's largest mall, Mall of America in Minnesota. Instead Snyder relies on tried and true methods of his schooling in music videos and television commercials, bringing camera tricks and a punchy soundtrack to the mix. His style makes for an enjoyable horror film but weighing the context of our generation in the film's themes, it may lack the resonance to be remembered 25 years from now, as the Romero film is today.

Snyder has serious aces up his sleeve however. By casting solid actors, not rejects from the WB network (who usually populate these films), he assembles a powerful energy that seeps through the material.

Sarah Polley's one of our best young actresses. A multiple critic award winner, she brings depth to all her roles. As opposed to slumming in a trash pic, she believes in Ana and portrays her in this unrealistic situation in a truthful way. You empathize with this tiny warrior. Polley and her cohorts make this shocker a winner. It may be the end of the world, but this crew will make you revel in it. Grade: B+

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