Movie Reviews

bellview--i love movies

Home | Movie Reviews | Video Roundups | Essays | Game Reviews | Subscribe | Mailbag | About | Search

Movie Awards
2004 Roundup
2005 Roundup
2006 Roundup
2007 Roundup
2008 Roundup
2009 Roundup


"Dawn of the Dead"

Directed by Zack Snyder.
Written by James Gunn.  Based on the 1978 George Romero film of the same name.
Starring Sarah Polley, Ving Rhames, Michael Kelly and Mekhi Phifer.
Release Year:  2004 
Review Date:  4/12/04



As many of you know, I freakin' love horror movies.  I think I might have a soft spot for zombie movies, though, because their concept is just so plain:  undead, mindless, bloody mutants that like to eat flesh, and it's always up to the living to put them into the ground for good.

So, in this remake of the 1978 classic "Dawn of the Dead", the producers wisely stayed away from remaking a film that doesn't need to be remade...instead, they reimagined it, so this time the city of Milwaukee is overrun by very undead zombies from the first scene onward (no, it's never explained how this happened, and I was glad no time was wasted here) and instead of giving us any kind of critique of American society, we get a run-and-gun horror movie with some nice touches throughout its 100-minute running time.

Sarah Polley stars as Ana, who opens the film by watching her daughter kill her husband, and then gets attacked by her two zombified former family members.  After escaping and wrecking her car near Crossroads Mall, she meets up with a cop (Ving Rhames), a group of mall security guards led by CJ (Michael Kelly), even the boyfriend (Mekhi Phifer) of a pregnant woman (Inna Korobkina), all of whom are on the run from, well, a full city of zombies.  While at the mall, they meet up with even more survivors, and together, they try to regularly ward off the undead while escaping from town ASAP.

There are some solid scares throughout "Dawn of the Dead"; I found that, even for me, I was sitting around more tense than usual waiting for the next scare or kill to take place, and this is because director Zack Snyder does a good thing by making these zombies faster than zombies usually are in horror films.  This makes for some fun sequences, since they must (naturally) be killed by being shot in the head...and, when they're moving this fast, you can't always get that gun up in time!  The zombie blood effects were very cool as well; I'm sure the budget was low for something like this, but it doesn't show in a production that is quite crisp throughout.

I even loved a sequence mid-film where the group is just kind of resigned to the fact that they won't be able to leave the mall, so they have some fun at the mall playing cards, having sex, shooting some hoops, and on and on.  Hey, what else you gonna do--the whole city is undead, for chrissakes!

Bottom line:  The Washington Post even gave "Dawn of the Dead" a great review.  If you read the Post regularly, you know how rare that a flick--let alone a horror film--gets a good review, so if it's still out in your 'hood, give "Dawn of the Dead" some love.

Rating:  Opening Weekend


Comments?  Drop me a line at


Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

Home | Movie Reviews | Video Roundups | Essays | Game Reviews | Subscribe | Mailbag | About | Search

The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09