It starts out strong and fast, within the first ten minutes all Hell breaks loose. A virus hits Milwaukee and by the morning most of the population is infected with a zombie-creating disease. These zombies are inhumanly fast and hungry for human flesh!!
A young nurse teams up with a muscular, black, and middle-aged policeman. They meet up with three others: a young black man, his pregnant foreign mate, and a young white man. Together, the five break into the first floor of a mall. They are attacked but manage to defeat the few zombies there, as the mall is almost completely locked down. They go upstairs in elevator and meet three armed security guards reluctant to let them in but, in the end, join forces. A truckload of people arrive and they join them as well.
Another man is in the building across the street and he and the policeman exchange messages on signs they can see from the rooftops.
They plan to escape through the mall’s underground parking causing all Hell to break loose!! A tour de force of gore, blood, and guts!!
Not much story is required in this gore-fest. Barricaded in a mall and plan an escape. Simple. This film’s mostly action-oriented. But it works well here. There are very few social undertones but if you dig very deep, there are some tiny bits of morals. Minor and probably unseen by most viewers, so don’t expect more than a gore-fest of action.
The atmosphere is fast-paced and chaotic. There isn’t much in the way of the setting except the underground parking scene. Most of the atmosphere is created by the psychotic ferocity of the zombies and the hopeless attitude of most of the characters. They use a last ditch effort to escape. There just isn’t much atmosphere in a modern mega mall.
Most of the characters are good and enhance the story. But, I feel that there are just too many characters to keep track of, let alone try to develop their characters. It does focus on about five characters, thus causing, by default, several characters with only a few lines of dialogue and most act as props that we don’t get a chance to really know or care about. Of course, it does enhance the highly impersonal way in which the virus infects everyone without a chance of survival. I wish there were half as many characters to build on character interaction.
Sarah Polley plays Ana nurse, the strong-willed, strong-minded heroine of the movie. Great job and tough too!
Ving Rhames plays Kenneth, the older but muscular policeman. His character’s action-oriented and hot-headed but he’s one of the stronger characters. We can’t help but admire him. Ving Rhames is a famed tough guy actor in dozens of action films.
Jake Weber plays Michael, one of the key characters. His character’s calm and level-headed. You grow to admire him. Great acting throughout.
Mekhi Phifer plays Andre, the young black husband /boyfriend to the pregnant woman. He later mentally snaps trying to protect his family. He did well with a very sad dramatic scene.
Ty Burrell plays Steve, sarcastic and un-politically correct. He annoys most of the others. I liked his character in a morbidly humorous way.
Michael Kelly plays CJ, the older guard leader. He starts out rude and bossy but he’s an asset by the end. He did what his character was meant to: be hated by everyone. He does get useful later on though.
Kevin Zegers plays Terry, the nice young guard. He plays a key role.
Michael Barry plays Bart, a young trigger-fingered and nervous guard.
Older Canadian comedian Boyd Banks plays Tucker.
Matt Frewer plays Frank, father to one of the girls. He’s famed for his 80s role as Max Headroom and as Trashcan Man in Stephen King’s “The Stand”. His role here is one of the saddest of the film.
Bruce Bohne played Andy, the man in the other building. He did well as the comic relief but plays a key role later on.
Ermes Blarasin played the bloated Woman / zombie and damn is she ever freaky looking!!
Tom Savini, famed special effects artist, plays a County Sheriff on TV.
Ken Foree, from the original “Dawn of the Dead”, makes a cameo appearance as a televangelist on TV who repeats his famous phrase “When there’s no more room in Hell, the dead will walk the earth.”
Very clear and crisp. Several disturbing scenes are seen throughout. Camera views are heads on; no dumb Matrix shots like in “House of the Dead”, just heads on action and gore!
The underground parking scene is reminiscent of the “Day of the Dead” cave and also the “28 Days Later” tunnel scene. Very creepy place to fight.
There’s also a disturbing scene similar to The Exorcist (in appearance only).
Great FX. The zombies themselves are the stars of the show. They’re all hideous and gruesome like dead zombies should look. Each zombie has it’s own identity, no two the same. All looked deranged, psychotic, and decayed. They’re perfect!!
The requisite weapons, themselves, are the other major aspect to this film. Some of the highlights in this film include a croquet mallet shoved through a head, a fire poker in the eye, countless by gun and shotgun, a napalm cookout, chainsaws, propane tanks, and more!
The sound is clear. The music’s much better than and more suited to an apocalyptic story than the corny music of the original. Most of the music is acoustic and atmospheric but the highlight is Distubed’s “Down with the Sickness,” which plays during the credits and the intermittent scenes played through the credits. A more upbeat Frank Sinatra-esque version is played during the funny midpoint scene. The acoustic music adds greatly to several scenes. But several violent scenes are without music, just the real sounds, which I felt made those scenes seem all the more realistic.
Overall, this is a great horror movie. Don’t expect a great story or great dramatic acting. Just expect ungodly amounts of gore, guns, and guts!! Not for the faint-hearted. Several disturbing scenes.
Now, let’s discuss originality and comparing it to the original 1978 version.
Both the original and remake have zombies attacking people in a mall (this time it’s mostly deserted of zombies). That’s the main similarities. But this time the zombies look more realistic and inhumanly fast. Better music in the remake. The original seemed a lot longer due to less characters, more development in characters and story, and more social commentary. The remake only looks better but is shallow in comparison. The original seemed scarier but less gore. Both have worthy qualities so it’s not good to try to compare them much. See both!!
Like each of the “Dead” movies, there’s a strong white heroine (Francine in the original Dawn). In this case she’s Ana, played by Sarah Polley. She’s on par with them in intensity. Similar to Alice in “Resident Evil”.
Like the original “Dawn of the Dead” there’s a pregnant woman (Francine) but this time she’s obvious signs of pregnancy from the outset.
Like the first two “Dead” movies, there’s a strong, action-oriented black man (Peter in the original Dawn). In this case he’s Kenneth, played by Ving Rhames.
Michael plays Ana’s love interest, like Stephen was to Francine in the original Dawn. Both Michael and Stephen share the same level-headedness but Michael seems more resourceful.
The ending is totally different than the original Dawn but just as dismal.
This movie also bears a few similarities to “28 Days Later,” mostly the super fast zombies, an improvement over the slowness of the original zombies.
Finally, there are some similarities to “Day of the Dead”. The underground cave and the bossy guard.
Do see this movie. It won’t disappoint horror fans!!
WARNING: Important events occur during the credits. Stay through them! :)