Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Dawn of the Dead: Collector’s Edition Blu-ray Review

Reviewed by Jami Ferguson
Just in time for Halloween, Scream Factory released the Dawn of the Dead Collector’s Edition and Land of the Dead Collector’s Edition. Each collector’s edition contains the unrated cut and theatrical version. The 2004 Dawn of the Dead, Directed by Zack Snyder, is a remake of the George A. Romero classic. The Collector’s Edition includes new special features including interviews with Writer James Gunn and actors Ty Burrell and Jake Webber. See what happens when a mysterious virus has the dead walking among us…hungry for flesh.

Film (3 1/2 out of 5 stars)
Ana (Sarah Polley) returns home from a long nursing shift and settles in for a TV date night with her husband. The following morning a young neighbor stands in the doorway. Before they know what has happened the child has torn into the neck of Ana’s husband and he is bleeding out. When her husband dies, Ana probably thinks things couldn’t get any worse. Seconds later, he’s up on his feet and Ana is running for her life. 

Escaping out a bathroom window, Ana jumps in her car and hits the road. Yes, she was smart enough to grab car keys on her way out of the house. Ana’s neighborhood looks like a war zone. The farther she travels from home, the worse it gets. A car accident soon follows and she meets police officer Kenneth (Ving Rhames), who points his shotgun at her unsure if she is one of the infected. The zombies rise quickly after death and they move very quickly when chasing their next meal. They don’t have the ability to speak. After proving she can speak, Ana follows her new acquaintance. Kenneth hopes to make it to a nearby base, Fort Paster, to be reunited with his brother.

Minutes later they meet a small group of survivors that includes a former gang banger Andre (Mekhi Phifer), his pregnant wife Luda (Inna Korobinka) and Best Buy Salesman Michael (Jake Webber). The group heads to the nearby mall, hoping to find safety. The mall security guards are mostly safe and secure. The janitorial staff is not so lucky but they are quickly eliminated. They are able to let in another group of survivors, but soon learn that the bites are lethal and they create the zombies. Across the street, they can see, but not help a gun store owner Andy (Bruce Bohne). When the mall is no longer a safe solution everyone who is still alive decides to make a break for a boat. They hope that they can find an isolated island where the infection has not spread.

Dawn of the Dead is a rare instance where I am happy they re-made a film. Usually, the original film is better and even if a remake isn’t a disaster, I usually wish the filmmakers had left it alone. Writer James Gunn’s humor goes a long way to make the characters feel authentic. It has a point beyond people being eaten alive (which happens plenty). Each character has a rich history and makes you think about whether or not good people stay good when the situation goes back. It also makes you think about the fact that people can surprise you and your allies might not be the type you’d expect. The film is well cast, especially in the case of Ving Rhames. He’s the cop who isn’t completely good or bad and it is hard to decide whether or not you’d want him watching your back. If you only know Ty Burrell from "Modern Family" you’ll be amazed at what a terrible sleazeball he can play.
Video (4 out of 5 stars)
Both Blu-ray discs have an HD master derived from the digital intermediate archival negative. The unrated version includes HD inserts. Like it or not, this film is bloody. The zombies are clearly found in varying levels of decay, some with red blood still flowing, others with dried black blood. The effects team took great care to make the undead look real, using every shade of red. The film fares well in both no light and low light while looking great in the outdoors as well. Detail is excellent and the image is crisp. The film is not without grain and noise but it doesn’t take away from the action.
Audio (4 out of 5 stars)
Dawn of the Dead on Blu-ray offers a lot for the listener: screams, biting, tearing of flesh, etc. The high pitched squeal of a newly turned zombie will reverberate throughout your home. Dialogue is a bit quiet in the beginning but that may have been intentional. There are no issues when the action ramps up. The gun shots ring true and you’ll feel the bass when things explode. The score and dialogue are well prioritized. Another great release from Lionsgate.
Extras (3 out of 5 stars)
Disc one contains some new extras, with plenty of spoilers.

Disc One – Theatrical Version
  • NEW Take a Chance on Me – an interview with actor Ty Burrell (15:28) - Burrell talks about his excitement for the project, auditioning and having fun with a character with a different point of view. He also discusses his key scene and learning to go off script.
  • NEW Gunn for Hire – An interview with writer James Gunn (9:27) – Gunn talks characters, action, signing on without a pitch and wanting to make a movie separate from the first one. He touches on themes of redemption and fan resistance to his participation.
  • NEW Punk, Rock and Zombie – an interview with actor Jake Weber (23:10) – Weber discusses auditioning with Ty Burrell, eventually switching roles. He talks about playing the unlikely hero and how he saw the character Michael as a blank slate.
  • NEW Killing Time at the Mall: The Special Effects of Dawn of the Dead– an interview with special effects makeup effects artists David Anderson and Heather Langenkamp Anderson (25:36) – The owners of AFX studio explain the pressure to succeed and the huge responsibility they felt. They walk through building their effects lab inside the condemned mall and the stages of the zombie makeup effects. 
  • Deleted Scenes (11:30 total runtime) - Deleted scenes with optional commentary by director Zack Snyder and producer Eric Newman
  • Theatrical Trailer
  • Still Gallery
Disc Two – Unrated Version
  • Audio Commentary with director Zack Snyder and producer Eric Newman
  • Splitting Headaches: Anatomy of Exploding Heads (5:37) – See all the ways a head can explode. Includes test footage and details about exit wounds and brain matter.
  • Attack of the Living Dead (7:25) – See how they made the maintenance man, the flying legless zombie, the jogging zombie, the bloated woman and Luda.
  • Raising the Dead (7:54) – Zack Snyder explains his vision and desire for realism. See the facial appliances and the stages of the zombie extras.
  • Andy’s Lost Tape (16:23) “Unedited footage” from Andy’s camera. Andy explains how he came to be in his situation, his plans for survival and that head shots kill.
  • Special Report: Zombie Invasion (21:05) – Channel 3 News reports on the mass hysteria with live reports as the story develops. At first the White House statement maintains that it is a “minor, containable situation” but soon society unravels.
  • Undead and Loving it: A Mockumentary (5:10) Snyder and extras act as if zombies were real and worked as actors on the film. They don’t complain and are focused but there appear to be issues around craft services.
  • Drawing the Dead featurette (2:49) – Zack Snyder explains why storyboards are necessary and we look at his own thumbnail drawings and how they compare to the work of the storyboard artist.
  • Storyboard Comparisons (5:51) – Key scenes and their accompanying storyboards.
  • Hidden Easter Eggs
Summary (3 1/2 out of 5 stars)
Dawn of the Dead is by far one of my favorite zombie films. It also happens to be one of the best remakes. The characters are well developed. The zombie effects are extremely realistic. I applaud the fact that the zombies move fast. They are more formidable than the usual mindless staggering zombie. Be ready for blood and guts but also a good story and characters you’ll care about.

Order your copy today!

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