Depending on where your opinion of “Man of Steel” lies, you may have spent the past week singing the praises of Zack Snyder for being the director to finally get Superman right. His take on the last son of Krypton is certainly worth discussing, but another one of his movies, his first, deserves a second look this week for an entirely unrelated reason.
In light of Brad Pitt’s “World War Z” hitting screens this week, it’s worth remembering that Snyder’s 2004 remake of “Dawn of the Dead” is the best modern zombie movie.
It was nearly ten years ago that Snyder and his screenwriter, future “Guardians of the Galaxy” director James Gunn, took the set-up from George Romero’s classic and adapted it lovingly into a modern setting without losing the spirit that made the original film so unique for its time. What the dozens of zombie movies that came in the wake of Snyder’s “Dawn of the Dead” and the movie that started the modern era of the undead, “28 Days Later,” forgot was the most important part of any zombie movie is the humanity. It’s built into the premise that the infection forcefully takes away what separates us from the hordes. That is a heartbreaking idea, and yet it’s so easily forgotten to fit in more kills.
To work with that concept, a filmmaker needs to put human beings on screen, and that’s why the Snyder’s choice of leading lady makes all the difference with “Dawn of the Dead.” Sarah Polley was about as far from an obvious choice to lead a zombie apocalypse movie as possible, but it’s her work as Ana that brings all of this together. She plays it straight, and the result speaks for itself.
The greatness of “Dawn of the Dead” stems directly from that humanity, and it’s use of humor to show how life continues even in the bleakest of circumstances is one of the best ways of honoring the Romero legacy. The script from Gunn is whip smart, terrifying and hilarious simultaneously, while examining how real-life people would handle the situation with all of their strengths, weaknesses, and hypocrisies.
Whether you have never seen Snyder’s “Dawn of the Dead” before or are just in the mood to take another bite thanks to Brad Pitt and “World War Z,” you won’t regret checking it out, especially considering that it’s only $2.99 to rent on Amazon.
Bonus: Richard Cheese’s “Down With the Sickness”