[MOVIE REVIEW]Humankind versus the sprinting deadIt must be kind of cool to be a zombie. Other than where to find more brains to eat, you don’t have any worries.
Money? Not an issue. Mortality? You’re already dead. Anxiety about your place in the world? You eat brains ― that’s your place in the world.
It’s the simplicity of it that makes the zombie lifestyle so appealing, and the same goes for zombie movies, the latest of which, “Dawn of the Dead,” opened in Korea last week.
Like Greek tragedy, zombie cinema has a formula as rich as it is simple. In zombie movies, the dead are walking the earth for some reason ― virus from space, voodoo curse, “no more room in hell,” whatever.
They eat chunks out of people (brains, classically), and the victims die, get up and become zombies themselves, eating chunks out of more people in turn. This becomes a plague phenomenon, usually leading to the end of civilization and TV news anchormen having weepy on-air breakdowns.
Inevitably, the film’s heroes are a squabbling band of humans barricading themselves against the zombie horde. As zombies fight their way in, some of our heroes get zombie-bitten. This is what gives the zombie film its moral depth. It’s about raw survival, and whether compassion can exist under such conditions. If somebody you knew was about to turn into a zombie, could you shoot him in the head? That’s the kind of issue people would probably never think about if it weren’t for zombie movies.
A remake of a 1978 classic of the same title, “Dawn of the Dead” mostly takes place in a Wisconsin shopping mall, where our heroes have holed up. You’ve got your cool-headed cop (Ving Rhames), your plucky nurse (Sarah Polley), your sleazebag (Ty Burrell) and, in a provocative move, a woman about to deliver a baby (Inna Korobkina). When a nine-months-pregnant woman turns up in a zombie movie, you know you’re in for something special.
“Dawn’s” finest and scariest moment, by far, is the opening credits, which condense the end of the world into a frightening, three-minute montage of blurry video clips: panicky soldiers firing automatic weapons, press conferences by sweaty, terrified government spokesmen, news crews set upon by flesh-eaters. It’s set to the quavering, heart-stopping voice of Johnny Cash, singing an apocalyptic song called “The Man Comes Around.” He sounds like fear on legs.
The movie never gets that good again, but it’s got enough black comedy, suspense and bursting heads to satisfy. Its zombies, unlike the classic, foot-dragging model, are hyped-up sprinters, which is probably a necessary upgrade for the digital age. Unfortunately, last year’s far superior “28 Days Later” also had sprinting zombies, so what would have been “Dawn’s” one breakthrough contribution to zombie filmdom isn’t a breakthrough. In the strictest sense, though, “28 Days Later” wasn’t a zombie movie. Its “zombies” were living human beings infected by a “rage virus,” whereas to technically qualify as a zombie, you have to die and rise again. I was trying to explain the distinction to some co-workers the other night, but they all seemed to become really engrossed in their work at about the same time.
Dawn of the Dead
Horror, Action / English
by David Moll