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DEAD MEN WALKING (article first published : 2004-08-15)

Hands up those seeking the blood of a startled Ving Rhames and Sarah Polley! Zombies move in for the kill in the remake of George A Romero's Dawn of the Dead. Dead Men Walking is an audacious move making a new film version of a classic, in this case George A Romero's 1978 horror treat about the walking dead and their thirst for human blood. But erstwhile music video director Zack Snyder, upping the gore and body count and injecting several other new ingredients, rises well to the challenge.

And while not as memorable as Romero's original, Snyder's re-imagining of the tale of zombies taking over the planet and seeking to sink their teeth into any humans remaining, remains gripping good fun for horror fans, especially those unfamiliar with the 70s movie.

Romero's story had a post-Vietnam setting, but here the tale opens in a quiet, modern, suburban street in America. We meet Anna (Sarah Polley, most recently seen in My Life Without Me), a young nurse who wakes to find her lover has left her bed and is being bitten by the little girl next door, a kid that's all gnashing teeth and pale, blue-veined face. Yep, she's become a zombie.

When her lover dies, then suddenly rises again to growl and become violent as he tries to chomp into her, Anna flees into the streets. There she is greeted by flaming houses and panic on pavements filled with frantic flesh-eaters and their victims.

All this happens before the credits - an inspired sequence in which red lettering shifts like blood blasted with a high-pressure hose. The story then goes on to revolve around the nurse and assorted other survivors - among them Ving Rhames as a tough cop and Mekhi Pfifer as a man tagging along his pregnant, Russian wife - seeking refuge in a shopping mall to escape the tottering living dead.

There the rag-tag group of survivors, including a racist redneck and a pessimistic snob, are forced to pull together to devise a plan of escaping from the mall in a bid to save themselves and the human race.

Wisely, the film is not a shot-for-shot remake and Snyder has gone on record to state it is actually "a re-imagining on steroids".

The result is a movie choc-a-bloc with gory moments, some sick humour and good cinematography centred on murky, grainy imagery and a lot of hand-held camera work. It all adds up to a compelling view and boasts a satisfying ending that splices the final moments of the film between the end credits. - Billy Suter




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