03 October 2010

Dawn of the Dead

This movie oscillates between pretty good and pretty awful, across the board. Sometimes the acting is great (Sarah Polley! Ving Rhames! Matt Frewer!) and sometimes not so great (wasn't taken with any of the security guards, and a couple of the generic non-Polley ladies). Sometimes the music is great, but often the music is egregious, loud, and awkwardly shoehorned. Sometimes the pacing is great, but other times Snyder cuts from tragic moment to comic-action moment so sharply (notably, killing Frewer's character and cutting straight into the "everybody loves the mall" montage [one of the only callbacks to Romero's version] without pausing to catch our breath). Sometimes the action is good, and the horror scary, but other times the action is hokey or flat, the horror the same. I don't know why Zack Snyder thinks a slow-motion cartridge hitting the ground and wobbling is so important, but he cuts to those a lot in the middle of fast-paced scenes.

Mostly, I guess I liked this movie. The characters were distinct enough to be interesting but not deep enough to really care about. I wasn't bored, but I was frustrated a couple of times. Then again, I was amused or engaged more often than not, and that's something. I guess the obvious thing is that Snyder changed the zombies, made them fast and savage. It doesn't change much, really, plotwise, except that it adds urgency to the chases and such, but it shifts the tone and theme of the story quite a bit. The slow monsters provide a sense of dread -- it's much more agonizing when you are unable to outrun something methodical but relentless. The fast zombies just make the end of the world so fast, so sudden, that you can't really take it all in, which I think cheapens the impact. When everything collapses so fast there's no time to take stock of the losses. Of course that's the point here, as this Dawn of the Dead is meant to be funner, upbeat and exciting, whereas the humor and fun in the 1978 one is blacker, more gallows-humor, more meditative.

Anyway, it was interesting, and it may have been enough to kick me down a path. I've been waffling for a long time, not committing to this horror/thriller story idea, and maybe something in here knocked something loose for me. It's time for me to do like a Zack Snyder character would do: stop overthinking things, just pick a direction and run.

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