Remakes - Analysis
“Dawn of the Dead” by George A. Romero (1978) and “Dawn of the Dead” by Zack Snyder (2004)
“Dawn of the Dead”, which is also known as “Dawn of the Living Dead” and “Zombie: Dawn of the Dead” or “Zombie”, was issued in 1978. The director George A. Romero added to the title the tagline “When there's no more room in hell, the dead will walk the earth”. It is hard to match this movie with only one genre because there are aspects of horror, drama, thriller and splatter in it (this applies also for the remake). The movie originally was part of Romero’s zombie-series including “Night of the Living Dead”, that appeared in 1968, “Dawn of the Dead” and “Day of the Dead” from 1985. A forth movie “The Land of the Dead” is in pre- production. Apart from “Dawn of the Dead” another movie from this series was remade in 1990, namely “Night of the Living Dead” by Tom Savini, who also took part in the more famous movie “Dawn of the Dead”, both in the original movie and the remake.1 The original movie is about some kind of plague that has come over the world. The dead people are not dying but instead become zombies, which chase the few remaining living people to eat their flesh and blood. A group of survivors, beneath them S.W.A.T. team members Peter and Roger, pregnant anchorwoman Francine, and chopper pilot Stephen, seek refuge in a big shopping mall and defend themselves at this place against the attacking zombies. They encounter not only the problem of fighting for their lives against the zombies but also the problem of co-existing with each other for a long period of time since they are cut off from the rest of the world and a group of bikers threatens their refuge. Analyzing the plot, the first differences between the original and Zack Snyder’s remake “Dawn of the Dead”, issued in 2004, occur. While in the original movie everybody who dies turns into a zombie, in the remake only the ones who are bitten by another zombie turn into a zombie. Those, who die of other causes, have the luck to stay dead. Apart from that, the plot stays basically the same, but including some character changes and of course a totally different realization of the story - due to the big time span that lies between the two original and the remakes.
A major difference can be seen taking a closer look at the zombies: In the original, the zombies are pale green and move very slowly with their arms outstretched in front of them. For the survivors it is very easy to walk through a mass of Romero’s zombies without being noticed - as long as they also walk as slow as the zombies do. Spectators nowadays need a different kind of zombie, a zombie that frightens them more than the 70ies zombie does. Many horror-movies appeared in the meantime and so the spectator got used to a lot of different kinds of monsters, zombies, vampires and other frightening figures. According to the changed viewing-habits, 24 years later, Snyder’s zombies are much more menacing and fit better to the modern-day horror-audiences. They don’t walk slow anymore but very fast, have some kind of radar for human flesh (it is absolutely not possible for a living person to approach them without being noticed), and they demonstrate a “pack mentality”, that Romero’s zombies didn’t have. But they still seem lifelike and adding to this, extremely nauseating with blood all over the body and pieces of flesh hanging down from them. Due to the enormous speed of the Snyder’s zombies, the films look is a lot faster as Romero’s. Snyder makes use of the video-clip look in different scenes. This is, of course again, due to the changed possibilities for the film-making process. For the spectator, Snyder’s zombies have this digital video look, Romero’s zombies could only dream of. Also the gore effects, Romero uses, have a touch of cheapness, observing them with modern-times eyes. Because of the developed film techniques, Snyder’s whole movie has a totally different impression on the viewer than the original does. It loses the oppressing feeling and the subtle humor, the original presented the spectator. Due to the fact, that in the seventies, the horror had to be presented in a different way because the techniques didn’t allow Romero to present his zombies like Snyder did, Romero chose to give the spectator the horror experience in a different way: Even though in both movies a lot of blood is involved, the look of the original is much more depressing and unsettled than the remake. Romero created the nightmarish feeling mainly by the use of music, editing and photographing. Snyder on the other side was able to use digital effects and a more sophisticated make-up.2
2 also see Appendix I