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This week:
Dawn of the Dead

Filthy says:
"Sexy zombies.

2004 is the year of the "Back From The Dead" movies. First Jesus does it, and now the zombies want a piece of the action. Well, give them credit for knowing WWJD. Well, sort of. Jesus probably wouldn't have eaten the living, at least not so many. He was more of a Red Lobster, all-you-can-eat fish and loaves guy.

I wonder if this is gonna be a trend, like a few years back when all those shitty teen stars made father-son mind-switch movies. Remember how those got increasingly shitty as the trend petered out. Wasn't there one of them with George Burns in it where he had to hump a slab of baloney? Isn't that what killed him? So I wonder if Hollywood beat this dead dick dog into the ground too? Who'll rise from the dead next? We'll know the trend is at an end when Corey Haim and Corey Feldman rise from the dead and apply for their driver licenses.

Now's not the time to worry about how shitty zombie moves will become, though, because Dawn of the Dead is really fucking good. And I've seen a lot of zombie movies, usually when I was younger and because I was hoping they'd catch an undead chick in the shower and she'd be moving too slowly to cover her tits. It's sort of the same reason my old roommate watched every soap commercial. He swore that some day the cameraman, director, editor, networks and sponsor would all screw up and show some nipple.

The idea of zombies and vampires is really cool. So cool that lazy Hollywood grassfuckers use them whether they have a story or not. Seriously, when was the last time you saw a decent vampire or zombie movie? And don't say Interview with the Vampire because that was the biggest hump of artsy-fartsy pantloading, pansy crap I've seen. That was horror movies for pussies and little girls who wet their beds and little boys afraid of dolphins. It was too fucking pretentious to bother being scary. Maybe Vampire's Kiss is the last good one I saw. And the last good zombie movie was Return of the Living Dead or Re-animator. Anyway, the point is that Hollywood doesn't usually put the most talented people in charge of making zombie movies. And they usually figure the idea alone is good enough, so why bother putting any effort in?

Dawn of the Dead is a remake of the 1978 movie of the same title. That one was a follow up to Night of the Living Dead. People call the original Dawn a classic, mostly because it's old and made by George Romero, the father of zombies. All I remember about it is that it was really fucking boring. Hell, so was Night of the Living Dead. The remake ain't nearly as boring.

One morning, a young mother (Sarah Polley) wakes to discover her husband and daughter have become cannibalistic zombies. When she escapes her home, she discovers Milwaukee has been completely decimated by hungry armies of the undead. Actually, I thought it already was, judging from the Brewers' games on ESPN. Anyway, the streets are full of moaning, howling zombies chasing anybody who dares to step outside. Polley makes it to a mall where a small band of living people are hiding out. Inside, it's a little like "Lord of the Flies," with a microculture developing and everyone learning how to deal within the group. As the rest of Milwaukee's living are devoured, more zombies gather outside the mall, waiting to taste the last of the living flesh.

As is typical of horror movies, a harebrained scheme is hatched that's "so crazy it just might work." The group decides to armor a van and plow through the zombies to reach a dock and sail to an island in the middle of Lake Michigan where the zombies can't follow. I won't tell you exactly how it ends except that the van plows through an awesome number of corpses and the assholes get their comeuppance.

Dawn of the Dead is just fucking good. It's got as much gore as you'd want from a zombie movie, with folks getting sawed in half, hacked up, shot at and bitten. In one of its funniest scenes, the mall group and a man on a rooftop across the way, all killing time wile waiting to be eaten, take shots at celebrity look-alike zombies in the crowds below. They take out a corpse who looks like Jay Leno; the real guy is pretty much an undead knob anyway, with his shitty jokes and starfucking interviews.

What really works is how little the movie bothers to explain. Dawn of the Dead doesn't make up some bullshit scientific explanation for the undead. And why should it? What kind of jackass goes to a zombie movie looking for a bogus science lesson. "Oh, so that's how you become undead. I'll have to remember that." Neither is it explained why zombies eat people. Dead people don't need a clear motivation. It's the living who do, and most of us are too fucking lazy to come up with one.

Also, these zombies can run and move fast, and we all know what that means: they're great in the sack. They can run like fuck. Which is the way I'd be if I were undead. It's not like I'd get tired, or hurt. As it is, I can't run more than 15 feet without throwing up, so being dead would be sort of fun. Other zombie movies make them slow and stupid, and that's not scary. In Dawn of the Dead the monsters are fast and stupid, which is as dangerous as any 16-year old with a license.

The movie is tedious in the middle. Too much time building relationships and backstories for the characters, who just aren't that interesting. Mostly I just wanted to see them get eaten or shoot shit. The characters are mostly flat, although there are some funny moments. When the living first arrive, the mall is being run by a security guard who clearly enjoys getting to be in charge for the first time in his life. He's stupid as dirt, but he's got a gun and he wants to be the big shot. I imagine almost every security guard feels that way.

In the original Dawn of the Dead, the mall setting was used as a commentary on consumer culture. In the remake, it never goes beyond pointing out how bad muzak is. I'd have loved for the movie to show how a mall pretty much has everything, but it has really shitty, gimmicky versions of everything. And as funny as the dirty novelty section at Spencer's Gifts is, it gets tired the second time you wind up the little plastic dick with feet. Also, how sick would you become if all you ate were Hot Dogs on a Stick, Caramel Corn and Wetzel's Pretzels?

When Dawn of the Dead is knocking out bodies, though, it's as good a scary movie as they make. The dialog has sparks of cleverness, and mostly avoids the lame, poignant speech (there are two bad ones). The deaths are mostly original and gruesome. The soundtrack, including Johnny Cash and Jim Carroll, is probably the best ever in a horror movie. And, good God, I just fucking giggled every time a van plowed into an army of zombies. Maybe it shouldn't be funny, but it is. It's just good entertainment. Four Fingers for Dawn of the Dead, the first feel-good hit of the season.

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Mark S. Allen of UPN-TV

Scooby Doo2 is "Zoinks. This movie is awesome!"

Filthy's Reading
Nicholson Baker- The Fermata

Listening to
Jphnny Cash - The Essential Johnny Cash