Another week, another Horror Movie Marathon. This week I am covering Dawn of the Dead (2004), Zombieland, and World War Z. Three Zombie movies after my addition to the favorite movies list was also a Zombie Movie. Three movies that are fairly different in terms of tone, and quality.
Dawn of the Dead (2004)
I love the original Dawn of the Dead. In fact, don’t be surprised if it is eventually covered in the My Favorite Movies series. But, does this remake, directed by Zack Snyder, live up to the original. Eh. The answer is complicated.
I do really like this version, but in my opinion, it is not quite as good as the original. The original was smart and made political statements. This version is a very fun, thrilling, zombie movie, with interesting characters. It is not bad, it is just, not as good.
I usually do not like Snyder as a director. His movies always feel dragged out. Partly because they are overstuffed, partly because they are too long, partly because he insists on using slow motion. Thankfully, this barely feels like Snyder film. There is only one moment with slow-mo that I remember, and it was actually somewhat well used.
The one thing I always like in Snyder films is how he directs action. And this film does have great, tense, zombie action. The Sewer scene is great, as is the parking garage scene. And, the movie is written by James Gunn, which means it has good characters, and some actual storytelling. Sometimes the tender moments feel a tad forced, but they mostly work overall. And despite an ensemble cast, the story feels balanced. The characters all feel distinct, and they all serve a purpose to the story.
I actually care when a character dies. There are a couple characters I want to die, but even then, they feel like full characters, not meatbags designed only to add to the body count. We are shown that actions have consequences in this world.
Overall, it is an entertaining zombie film. It fails to live up to the original, but it didn’t need to do that. It is its own thing, and still one of the better Zombie movies.
Another movie that could easily make the My Favorite Movies list. Not strictly a horror film, in fact, it has very few horror elements and it closer to comedy, but it still counts as a horror movie.
Zombieland is one of the funnier comedies to come out in recent years. I loved the rule rules of survival thing. It works in multiple ways. For one, it is a great medium for comedy. This scene at the start sets the comedic tone early.
But the rules also work to show that these are smart characters, who have survived because they adapted to the new world. Columbus survived because he is cautious and analytical. Tallahassee survived because he is a badass who is adept at zombie killing. And Wichita and Little Rock survived because they are clever and got by on their smarts and teamwork. It makes sense that these people are survivors. I love a horror movie where the characters are smart, and these people are mostly smart.
The zombie action is mostly good. Some of it is pretty basic, but it really picks up in the finale, when they get to the theme park. Tallahassee running around the park, using different rides to mow down zombies, is, in particular, a great scene.
The cast is amazing, with great performances by Emma Stone, Jesse Eisenberg, and Woody Harrelson, as well as a great cameo role by Bill Murray. They play off each other really well.
The story is fairly straightforward, but the simple story works well for this movie. It didn’t need a complex plot to unweave, it needed an excuse to move these character forward and give them more chances to interact. I think these characters together would make for an amazing sitcom set in a Zombie Apocolypse. Because it does have a very sitcom feel, which is a compliment.
World War Z
I loved World War Z, the book. Max Brooks book about a collection of stories gathered in the aftermath of a zombie apocalypse, was such a novel way to tell a story about zombies. It was anything but generic. It was told someone who loves zombies stories and wanted to do it right.
The movie is the opposite. World War Z, the movie, is a soulless, generic, waste of time. It does nothing new, or interesting. The main character has no personality. Their idea of creating a character people will care about is showing he has a family, that disappears after the first act. Why write a compelling character with depth, when you can write the most boring person ever, and get people to care about his survival so he can get back to his family. It is the most tired, overplayed, boring motive for a character to have.
Their idea of making the character seem capable is having every other character mention that he is a super agent from the UN. No need to show him being good at his job, just tell us. Tell us over, and over again, maybe the audience will start to believe it. It is the same thing Suicide Squad did, where instead of showing us that these characters are criminals, and selfish, they just keep stating that over and over again.
I was bored out of my mind watching this movie. It is no surprise that the production was a mess, with changing directors and writers, and major reshoots. It is easy to see how much of a mess the making of the movie was because the movie itself feels disjointed. There are mistakes everywhere. For one, the time it takes for someone infected to turn is super inconsistent. Which, would usually be okay, except the movie itself makes a big deal about how long it takes. Early on, the main character notes how long it takes, and they make sure the audience picks up on this fact. But then it changes later on. And I have to assume this is because different people write and directed different scenes, and everyone was too lazy to notice.
World War Z is awful. It has nothing to do with the book, and a wasted chance to make something good.