HELLABRATION DELUXE! Thirty-One Days of SHOCKTOBER: Day Eighteen – 10/18/18

10/18 – 2004: SHAUN OF THE DEAD/DAWN OF THE DEAD

What the hell do you do with a year that not only gave us one of the best remakes ever of a George A. Romero masterpiece, but also the great horror dramedy that was inspired by the original version of said film?  Why, you review them both, of course!

The now-famous horror-comedy team of SIMON PEGG and NICK FROST, together with their frequent partner-in-crime, director EDGAR WRIGHT, had long since been fans of Romero’s entire body of work, when they began to cook up their own impossibly nutty take on not just that film, but the entire zombie genre, SHAUN OF THE DEAD. Think of what would have happened if the MONTY PYTHON group had gotten hold of the original script for DAWN, and put their own special “stamp” on it, and you’re pretty much there.

 

Pegg plays the titular electronic store clerk Shaun, of course…a rather ordinary bloke living a rather ordinary existence, save for a few unfortunate things…like his strained relationship with his mum, and his girlfriend, who’s now his ex. And like every guy who’s been through this, even though he has his best bud and roomie, Ed (FROST) who has his back like always, nothing is going to be the same for him, until he has his girl, Liz (KATE ASHFIELD) back.  But there is the bothersome matter of a zombie apocalypse to deal with, right in the middle of his “get my ex back” campaign.

  

There’s plenty of action in this, in between the guffaws and gaffes, not to mention enough bloodletting to satisfy gorehounds who might otherwise be inclined to skip it.  But as writers, Pegg and Wright never forget to give us fully-realized characters, and some stunning and memorable setpieces, including a look at Shaun’s daily routine in before-and-after apocalypse mode, which even with repeat viewings is still as funny and frightening as it was the first time.

A dead-on (pun intended) skewering of everyday British life, pop culture and the human condition (not to mention the condition of the undead who were once your family, friends and neighbors) SHAUN is never less than a brilliantly-conceived, funny-as-hell, sometimes gory and sometimes even touching tribute from two absolute super-fans of not just George Romero, but the sub-genre of horror that he singlehandedly created. In fact, the mutual admiration society they had going on was so intense, that George actually gave both Simon and Nick cameos in LAND OF THE DEAD!

Which brings us to the ‘new and improved’ version of DAWN. If it had been any other writing/directing team, I could imagine this remake of a classic would have sunk from the multiplexes without a trace. Until you consider that the writer and director in question are JAMES GUNN and ZACK SNYDER.  Now we’re talking!

The original DAWN opening, somewhat picking up from NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, was pretty scary stuff, and you’d think that there wouldn’t be too many ways to make it scarier. But that’s where Snyder and Gunn say “Here, hold our beers.”

A family morning wake-up call has never been more horrific.  In the blink of an eye, the drowsy family morning routine of Ana (SARAH POLLEY) goes from being blasé, to a total bloodbath, when their infected daughter bites and kills her husband, turning HIM into an undead flesh-eater. The shocking sequence where she escapes, only to witness her entire neighborhood descending into mayhem is as unforgettable as anything Romero ever pulled off.

  

That’s not the only place where Gunn as a screenwriter stuck to the original Romero story beats, but still brought his own vibe and dark sense of humor to the proceedings. As Ana takes her chances with a group of survivors who decide to hole up in a local mall, just like in the original, the story pulls in the rest of the outstanding cast including VING RHAMES, JAKE WEBER, MICHAEL KELLY, TY BURRELL and MEKHI PHIFER.

And Phifer’s other half in the film, Luda (INNA KOROBKINA) is very, very pregnant, soon providing us with the horrific answer to a question we didn’t exactly get from, say, THE WALKING DEAD: what happens to pregnant women in the zombie apocalypse, who give birth to…well, you fill in the blank.

Not the biggest ‘feel-good’ zombie film in the bunch by a long shot (and those who have seen it multiple times know exactly why), this DAWN remake still stands tall as one of the better ones in the scads of Romero tributes, knockoffs and wanna-be’s.

POST-MORTEM SCRYPT: SAW, THREE…EXTREMES, SHUTTER, THE VILLAGE and GINGER SNAPS II: UNLEASHED were just some of the other goodies dropped on horror fans in 2004.


Posted by Samuel Glass

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