Listen up, people. I’ll be the first to admit that when I heard they were “updating” “Dawn of the Dead”, one of the all time classic horror movies, I was pretty livid. Especially after the Texas Chainsaw remake which I wasn’t too keen on. So with low expectations and a chip on my shoulder I went and saw it and you know what? It’s pretty damn good!!!
So good, in fact, that I started salivating with Pavlovian glee when I heard they were releasing this Unrated Director’s Cut which not only re-instates the extremely well executed gore but adds some extra character moments that strengthen the film. Now before I get into the DVD, I would like to add that if the movie has one flaw, it would be the obviously tacked on video ending that appears during the closing credits. Now I don’t have a problem with dystopian endings (I’m as much a nihilist as the next guy) but, in this case, I found it to be quite unnecessary and unfair to the viewer who has invested time with these characters.
The DVD itself contains some rather descent docs as well as two rather curious mini-movies. “The Lost Tapes” which chronicles, through a series of self recorded videos, the last days of Andy has the feel of a one man theater show. As I watched it, I couldn’t decide if I thought it was completely cornball or just plain clever. “Special Report: Zombie Invasion” is a similar venture in which you witness the escalation of the Zombie threat through the eyes of a newscaster. This was a little more successful but it did have a certain visual cheapness that kept me from believing that I was watching actual news footage (ironically, something handled quite expertly in the film itself). With that said I do give them credit for trying something new that in theory does expand the landscape of the film and it was cool to see that Max Brooks, the author of the fantastic The Zombie Survival Guide listed as a consultant in the credits.
The Make-Up FX documentaries are quick but really insightful and certainly the kind of featurettes that you would hope would be included. The one on the exploding heads was utterly fascinating and a must watch.
Zach Snyder and Eric Newman’s commentary is serviceable. What I got from it was Snyder’s love and respect for the original which clearly shows in the film itself. I did find an amusing tidbit that the “Zombie Island” dock scene in the tacked on ending was in fact part of the Jaws attraction on the Universal Studio Tour.
My only real concern with the commentary was that they cop to the fact that it was recorded the day before the theatrical release. What I find troublesome about this is that you then lose a certain perspective on the film. It would be more interesting to have heard thoughts based on reactions to the movie as well. In the Studios’ rush to get these DVDs on the shelves they are shooting themselves in the foot with some of the quality of the extras. I find myself more interested in filmmakers looking back a year or more on a project than a couple of days out of the editing room.