CATEGORIES Video
Before '300' and 'Watchmen,' Zack Snyder began his filmmaking career by remaking everyone's favorite zombie movie, 'Dawn of the Dead.'

George Romero's classic 1978 version blended social commentary, gruesome special effects and, yes, even character development to make a frightening statement about society's rampant consumerism. Even 25 years later, the film's premise -- a band of survivors hole up in a shopping mall during a zombie apocalypse -- still seems relevant today. (Especially so this time of year as droves of shoppers swarm stores for holiday bargains.)

Snyder's 2004 take skillfully incorporated most of the themes of the original, while adding a few new ones for good measure. His film follows small-town nurse Ana (Sarah Polley) as she wakes up to find the nice little girl from next door taking a massive chunk out of her husband's neck. Ana's ensuing scramble to save her own neck leads her to a suburban mall, where she and a small crew of survivors wait for rescue. Before '300' and 'Watchmen,' Zack Snyder began his filmmaking career by remaking everyone's favorite zombie movie, 'Dawn of the Dead.'

George Romero's classic 1978 version blended social commentary, gruesome special effects and, yes, even character development to make a frightening statement about society's rampant consumerism. Even 25 years later, the film's premise -- a band of survivors hole up in a shopping mall during a zombie apocalypse -- still seems relevant today. (Especially so this time of year as droves of shoppers swarm stores for holiday bargains.)

Snyder's 2004 take skillfully incorporated most of the themes of the original, while adding a few new ones for good measure. His film follows small-town nurse Ana (Sarah Polley) as she wakes up to find the nice little girl from next door taking a massive chunk out of her husband's neck. Ana's ensuing scramble to save her own neck leads her to a suburban mall, where she and a small crew of survivors wait for rescue.

Even though society around them seems to have collapsed and the streets are teeming with decomposing zombies, they indulge on the mall's merchandise, comforting themselves with material possessions. The time eventually comes when they have to ask themselves: Can they be happy merely surviving with mall stuff or do they risk their lives to escape?

What unfolds is undeniably faster-paced than the original (even the zombies sprint rather than amble), but the emphasis on action allows Snyder to have a lot fun amid all the horror. There's no shortage of explosives, impaling, intestine-gobbling and the like. But what's even more impressive is that in between the action we come to really root for the survivors -- as they die one by one (they inevitably do in these movies), we know the characters well enough to actually care. Consummate badass Ving Rhames and everyman Jake Weber co-star, with special effects legend Tom Savini, who worked on the original, even making a brief cameo that acts as an insiders' Easter egg and a little wink-nudge endorsement.

Even though the original 'Dawn of the Dead' was pretty damn near perfect, Snyder's holds up as a well-rendered exploration of survival and commercialism in contemporary America -- with lots and lots of extremely cool zombie killings to boot.