Dawn of the Dead (1978-2004 comparative)

A comparative discussion of Dawns of the Dead.

Okay, day two of my big Zombie-fest, today I’m going to take a look at Dawn of the Dead movies, both of them.
Unlike with the Night of the Living Dead movies, the plot for both DotD movies are so wholly different that it would actually be quicker to mention what makes the films the same as opposed to what sets them apart.
So the similarities for the 1978 and 2004 are easy, firstly both movies feature these wonderful underrated creatures called Zombies who crave human flesh, secondly the movies both take place in a shopping mall and third, they both feature a “strong” black man as a key figure in the movie.

So what sets these films apart, well I’ll give you a basic run down of the plots and you should be able to see for yourself.

Dawn of the Dead (1978):-
Two members of SWAT escape the city with the help of a Cameraman, a Reporter and a news helicopter, landing atop a mall they stop for supplies only to realise that the mall effective has everything they need to live, so they stop off, clean all the undead out from the mall and create a secret room in which they can retreat in the event of an emergency, during this one of the SWAT members dies.
While living the high life (who wouldn’t) a band of roving ruffians find the secluded mall and proceed to break in planning to steal all the goodies for themselves (as ruffians do), our heroes fight back (but this merely alerts the ruffians to their presence) and so we end up losing another of our team (the Cameraman), but the last SWAT member and the Reporter manage to make it away.
(This is where the movie ends, incase you didn’t notice.)

Dawn of the Dead (2004):-
Nurse Ana, finds her neighbours child in her house one morning, the child proceeds to kill (infect) her fiance, Ana barely manages to escape crashing her car, she manages to run into a ragtag group of survivors, they manage to break into a nearby mall only to be imprisoned by the mall security.
Ana and crew manage to sneak out and wrest control of the mall from the guards and then a truck arrives with more survivors, two of whom are in various stages of infection, one quickly turns and the other takes more time, having one last moment with his daughter before he turns.
As this goes on, a lone survivor in a nearby gun store has been communicating with one of our survivors by means of large written signs and binoculars.
But Andy, our gun store owner, has run out of food and while attempting to send some over there, out heroes send a food parcel on the back of a dog, but as Andy accepts the package a zombie breaks in and attacks him.
So our heroes decide to adapt some of the on site equipment to create two battle vans, in an effort to rescue Andy and make a last ditch attempt at freedom.
However, while this has been going on, another of our intrepid characters has been hiding the fact is pregnant wife has been bitten and infected, going so far as to tie her up and keep her in perfect secrecy but everyone gets suspicious, culminating in a dead zombie wife, a new born baby zombie and well…
Back to the plot, Andy is dead, our crew head towards the docks where one of their number have a boat, planning to head towards the remote islands on the river, but things do not go so smoothly…
(Also the end)

It can be said without a doubt that as of 1978, the vast majority of the worlds Zombie-Plan has consisted of “Get to the mall” and for better or worse, it would be a good plan if only less people were counting on it, both movies have different messages though both are completely valid, the original DotD shows us how through teamwork and careful planning, after an outbreak we can survive, almost indefinitely if only we can avoid roving motorcycle gangs.
The 2004 remake shows us how by changing our plans, how moving on emotion and compassion will end up with our few trusted friends in a bodybag at the expense of some selfish goit who has been surviving on your kindness.

Regardless of the message a zombie obsessive will take from the film, both have to be looked at differently, in the original our zombies are slow, easily outgunned even when in relatively high concentrations, the effects are weak by todays standards but give the infected a special appearance.
The remake has fast moving, almost necrotic looking undead who hunt in packs and can easily over power a human, requiring teamwork and cooperation in order to survive.

Now, my favourite and least favourite parts.
Dawn of the Dead (1978):-
Best part: The creation of a secret hideout, it truly looked and felt as if the plan was well thought out.
Worst part: How unprepared the survivors seemed to be for marauders, but I guess it was still a few years for Home Alone to be released, now every boy thinks about improvised home defences.

Dawn of the Dead (2004):-
Best of the rest: The “Down with the Sickness” montage (Richard Cheese!), showing how regular life can carry on in spite of the outbreak.
Worst day since yesterday: Lack of common sense, many times through out the movie the survivors risk their lives because they rush in, which ultimately leads to their doom.

In the end, Dawn (2004) is no successor to Dawn (1978), it is a good movie in it’s own rights, but in no way does it fit nicely into the world Romero built, although during the opening sequence we see a scene described in Night of the Living Dead (a truck crashing into a diner) which was a nice salute to the classics but by no means does it place the remake into the original universe.
But by comparison Dawn (1978) is dated by modern standards and will not impress the kids, but for fans of the classic days of the Zombie genre, the original will raise many thoughts and entertain.

So all in all both films are strong in their own rights, worth watching whether the viewer is a zombie geek or not.
Dawn of the Dead 1978 scores a straight eight secret hidehouts out of ten.
Dawn of the Dead 2004 scores seven and a half ruined escape plans out of ten.

Originally written on a previous incarnation of Geekenbrau.
Content remains identical however article titles have been changed.


I am Silent, part time programmer and full time narcissist, gamer, geek and man on a mission.

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