About three weeks ago I did our first Remake vs. Remake segment in which I pitted Fright Night (2011) against Rob Zombie’s 2007 Halloween remake. In that piece I discovered that, while I’m pretty far from loving either of those movies, I didn’t hate the Fright Night update as much I remembered upon its release.
But if I’m going to keep doing these Remake vs. Remake brackets I can’t continuously mire in failures and mixed success. I’m going to have to be unfair in order to keep myself motivated. I need to remind myself that these kinds of enterprises can work on occasion. I need something that knocks it out of the park.
And Zack Snyder’s 2004 remake of Dawn of the Dead knocks the Fright Night remake out of the f*cking park. It might not have the same kind of social commentary as George Romero’s original 1978 classic and it will never match that film’s legacy, but the script by James Gunn is heads and tails better than what we’re normally served up when a studio decides to capitalize on its IP. It’s a complete story with real characters and a propulsive narrative that doesn’t shove them to the side.
Snyder does fantastic work here as well. While 300 has proved to be visionary in hindsight (it took me a few years to accept this) and The Watchmen for my money actually works, Dawn is most certainly the film of his that I revisit the most. It’s a complete experience (and the opening 10 minutes alone could get any director meetings for years). The cast is great as well. Sarah Polley, Ving Rhames, Ty Burrel and Michael Kelly (et al) might not pack the marquee names of Gillespie’s film, but they’re one of the more successful ensembles in modern horror history.
It may seem unfair to pit a rare example of the remake nailing it against the standard example of one flailing for thematic and narrative purchase, but sometimes life is cruel. Dawn of the Dead (2004) kills Fright Night (2011) and leaves it bleeding on the floor.
Any of you disagree?