Studio: Uncork’d Entertainment
Director: Tony Jopia
Writer: Andy Davie, Stuart Bedford, Stuart Jopia
Producer: Kristofer Dayne, Fabien Muller, Tony Jopia, Stuart Jopia
Stars: Leo Gregory, Ian Saynor, Kristofer Dayne, Fabien Muller, Andrew McHale, Ruth Galliers, Samar Sarila, Rodrigo Penalosa, Kimberly Jaraj, Mark Asante
A newscaster with a traumatic past fights to reunite with her lover as a global epidemic unleashes zombies at her TV studio.
The conundrum faced when covering something like “Dawning of the Dead” is that I can see the men who made it clearly had a good time doing so. I want to applaud them for their effort, as they just as clearly ran their production on a full tank of ambition that many movies in its peer group don’t have.
But the film is so amateurishly executed in spite of sincere intentions that I also want to jump straight to the time-saving point of saying, “don’t bother.” Now I sit here scratching my head thinking of ways to carefully mince words, letting cast and crew down easy so to speak, while concurrently wanting to shout harsh truths to fellow fans without a filter.
Bringing that notion all the way home, I just realized I haven’t even finished watching the film yet. I needed a break with only ten minutes to go and, becoming disheartened at the thought of having to write this review, started typing to decompress. That might be the only clue necessary for figuring out how well “Dawning of the Dead” holds a viewer’s attention.
Imagine if the opening scene of “Dawn of the Dead” was 95 minutes long. Now imagine this feature-length version was shot for the same amount of money spent on craft services for that single day of filming back in 1978. That’s essentially all there is to “Dawning of the Dead,” formerly titled “Apocalypse,” but needing association adjacency to amplify marketability.
Basically, a TV news reporter recovering from a terrible trauma becomes separated from her coworker boyfriend when their TV station, and the entire world, finds itself overrun by zombies. Their struggle to reunite amidst the chaos includes an assortment of asides involving a brother who disapproves of the boyfriend’s relationship, a chauvinist network anchor, a gay program manager, and two government agents who are absurdly insistent on recovering an incriminating video regarding the outbreak, even after it has already been broadcast globally and 99% of the population is headed toward annihilation. It isn’t a story so much as a series of stitched together scenes featuring people fighting zombies, fleeing from zombies, or arguing over whether they should be fighting or fleeing.
Let’s cover the pros of “Dawning of the Dead,” since that subject can be knocked out quickly. Dismissive glibness aside, genuine respect is in order for the aforementioned effort on display. “Dawning of the Dead” is a microbudget movie populated by unfamiliar faces on both sides of the camera, yet courageously crams in a car chase, explosions, multiple locations, and a surprising amount of scope.
However, “Dawning of the Dead” aims to fire BB pellets out of a bazooka because available resources can’t support the ambition. Filmmakers evidently had access to a reinforced rally car they could roll on its roof for a stunt, yet scripted the vehicle to belong to an elderly liquor store clerk. Dozens of humans and zombies feature in nearly every scene, except only two of them at most have any acting ability to speak of. Although slipping in shots of panic in Iceland, Paris, San Francisco, and so on opens up the movie, CGI is so sketchy that digital devastation overlaid on imagery looks like an animated matte painting. It’s great that the film has flipping cars and flaming buildings, but poorly-digitized blood and smoke doesn’t make any of it read as remotely real.
Is there any point in elaborating on a script that assumes giving everyone a singular trait constitutes characterization? What about barely-there motivations for everyone to move about the building, setting up predictable points of self-sacrifice for the heroes and comeuppance for the villains? Forget it. Might as well skip to the bottom line.
If you came here to weigh whether or not to watch the movie, you likely arrived at the correct conclusion several paragraphs ago. If you have seen “Dawning of the Dead,” I can’t possibly tell you anything you don’t already know from having experienced it for yourself. So what are we still doing here? Not using our time wisely, that’s for sure.
Review Score: 30