Now that the trailer for Zack Snyder’s upcoming zombie heist, Army of the Dead, is out of the bag (which looks incredible), let’s rewind back to 2004 when Snyder made his directorial debut with Dawn of the Dead – a remake of George A. Romero’s 1978 feature of the same name. Many eyebrows were raised when this reboot was announced, especially with a screenplay by James Gunn and the then unknown Zack Snyder on board as director. However, after the opening ten minutes, all qualms were immediately erased and the adrenaline-fuelled pace was set for the rest of the film.
Taking on the challenge of rebooting an iconic movie is bound to be a daunting experience but Zack Snyder made it look like a walk in the park. Rather than creating a carbon copy of the 1978 version, Snyder put his own inventive spin on the tale. Switching out the sluggish movements of the undead for salivating sprinters, Snyder’s debut is far more action-packed (and surprisingly comical) than its predecessor and the casting is a cherry on top with tremendous performances all round.
A large ensemble in horror is usually a major red flag, and when the film clocks in at 100 minutes, there is little room for development. This is really where Snyder shines because most of the cast receive their own mini story arcs that complement the nature of the film; they are more than enough to draw a connection between viewers and the characters. Even the gunstore owner across the street makes a poignant mark with his friendship with Ving Rhames’ Kenneth as they communicate solely through whiteboards.
Snyder’s creativity is really something to behold. Perhaps the most memorable scene from the film is the montage to Richard Cheese’s rendition of Down With the Sickness. Snyder manages to convey and propel several story arcs in a mere 1 minute and 45 seconds; the perfect example of how less is more. It is portrayed in a way that is satirical and lighthearted but also amplifies the horror that awaits beyond the mall. Even though each character is only given a couple seconds of screen time here, their personalities are summed up fairly well and it is impressive to see how Snyder succeeds in depicting the passing of time. There is no need for unnecessary exposition because he manages to make immense progress on the story by focusing more on the action.
Every single moment is filled with tension. It is quite literally non-stop, which is situated in the beginning of the movie. It is thoroughly unpredictable with a number of unforgettably horrifying scenes. Snyder absolutely ups the ante for the zombie trope. Not only is Dawn of the Dead (2004) one of the best zombie movies ever made; it is arguably Snyder’s strongest piece of work and makes for a remarkable debut. It seems more than appropriate to assume Army of the Dead will be just as impressive.