March 24, 2004  
Volume 97, Issue 91  

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ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT

Polley gets gratefully Dead


Dawn of the Dead
Starring: Sarah Polley, Ving Rhames, Jake Weber, Mekhi Pfifer
Directed by: Zack Snyder

By Brent Carpenter
Gazette Staff

Michael Gibson/Universal Pictures
MAYBE WE SHOULDN’T HAVE APPEARED ON EXTREME MAKEOVER... Zombies, unhappy with their new faces, rampage in the streets.

Dawn of the Dead is further proof that violent remakes are the emerging trend within the horror genre. And it’s about bloody time.

Dead is based on the 1978 horror classic of the same name, in which the zombies and mall setting provided an underlying, not-so-subtle criticism of consumer culture. This criticism is mostly absent here, or at least it appears to be.

Without this crutch, the entire success of the film rests on its ability to provide pure action and entertainment. Fortunately, it ends up succeeding on those levels.

Polley, a Toronto-born actress and staple in the world of Canadian cinema, stars as Ana, a young nurse with a cozy house in a friendly neighbourhood. She awakes one morning to see her husband’s neck being used as a chew-toy, courtesy of the sweet little girl who lives next door.

Initially, as confused as she is terrified, Ana quickly begins to realize — right around the time her dead husband leaps up screaming and tries to eat her — that the Wisconsin suburbs just got a whole lot more interesting.

Banding together with a take-no-shit cop named Kenneth (Rhames, stealing the show) and a small group of survivors who do their best to cover all sides of the social spectrum, Ana and the group descend upon a vacated mall. The plan? Hole up until help arrives.

Gratuitous carnage ensues.

The filmmakers, knowing full-well their target demographic is 80 per cent spectacle junkies with zero attention spans, decided it was best the zombies dart around like a bunch of sugared-up A.D.D. kids.

Michael Gibson/Universal Pictures
WHY DID I STAR IN ALL THOSE LOW-BUDGET CANADIAN FILMS?! Sarah Polley contemplates Hollywood stardom in Dawn of the Dead.

This is opposed to the bothersome lumbering that — though typical of the classic Hollywood zombie — is simply way too fucking slow for this generation of horror fans.

Fortunately, this leads to some startling moments — just don’t waste your time questioning the logistics. It is, after all, a zombie movie.

Though Dawn of the Dead would have benefitted from the addition of a little more depth to its story and characters, it still provides a nice shift from the crap Hollywood has passed off as horror over the last five to 10 years.

Dead, along with The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and the upcoming Amityville remake, marks a return to straight horror — the type of movie that will turn a happy little seven-year-old into a trembling, nightmare-riddled wreck. This movie ain’t for kids.

Though many of the characters exist only to be blown up, the actors who play them still do commendable jobs in bringing them to life, if only until they are annihilated.

Polley has the natural talent to become a star whenever she pleases, and perhaps this is her first step towards a successful Hollywood career. It’s nice to see a talented local girl finally selling out to the machine.

As an action/horror flick, Dawn of the Dead works. And, if it’s enormous opening weekend is any indicator, Polley is now, officially, more than “almost” famous.

Hopefully, she runs with it.

 

 

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