10

Dawn of the Dead 2004 (Blu-ray)

Dawn of the Dead 2004 Blu-ray (click here for larger image!)Reviewed by Uncle Creepy

Starring Sarah Polley, Ving Rhames, Jake Weber, Jayne Eastwood, Matt Frewer

Directed by Zack Snyder

Distributed by Universal Home Video


Remakes. Most times they end up eating a copious amount of ass. However, there are those rare occasions when a young filmmaker will come along and do some justice to the history of the film he is putting his stamp on. Such is the case with Zack Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead. When news broke about this flick getting the redux treatment, fans were on fire with anger — and rightly so. This was sacred ground, man. Still, droves of us went to see it, and the end result was way better than anyone could have expected.

Everyone knows the story by now: zombie outbreak, mall, violence, yadda yadda, so let’s not waste time going there. Instead let’s focus on why this version of Dawn, one that had every right to suck, ended up working.

The main reason for this minor miracle is that Snyder and company played it smart. Instead of trying to out-Romero Romero (and who could possibly do that?), they opted to bring their own take of what happened on the day of the outbreak. Essentially Snyder gave us more Dawn of the Dead with some skillfully placed homages along the way that offer a wonderful nod to the source material. Cameos are given to original Dawn alumni Ken Foree, Scott H. Reiniger, and Tom Savini; the WGON traffic copter makes an appearance; some of the trucks outside the mall are from the same company, B.P. Trucking, that loaned them to the production of Romero’s original film; and one of the stores in the mall was even named Gaylen Ross! The best part? None of these ins is ever slammed over your head or is even remotely distracting. They’re just there as part of the movie. That’s how you honor the past. Bravo.

Dawn of the Dead 2004 Blu-ray (click here for larger image!)Now then! On to the hi-def re-release info. We all know that the major selling point of Blu-ray technology is superior picture and sound quality. While the sound here is fantastic, the picture, while better than that which was found on the DVD, at times can be really, and I mean really, grainy and dusty. Pretty weird all things considered.

Another problem is that the only full special feature to make the cut from the original DVD release is the commentary track with producer Eric Newman and director Zack Snyder. There are, however, random bits from the original supplemental material that appear here as part of Universal’s U-Control Blu-ray option. U-Control features can be accessed pop-up video style at any time while the film is in progress. Once it’s activated, a small picture-in-picture graphic appears, and the viewer is treated to various enhancements or behind-the-scenes footage. That’s nice, but the deleted scenes and most of the featurettes are gone. The biggest travesty? Andy’s video diary has been omitted as well. Would it have been so hard to release these extras as they were? Unbelievable.

Whether or not to upgrade to the Blu-ray version with better sound and at times way better picture quality is a decision you’re going to have to make. All in all, despite the lack of hi-def anything, the original DVD is far superior to this, if only because of all the extra goodies we got. What we have here is one dropped ball that could easily have been caught. It’s a damned shame.

Special Features:

  • Audio commentary with producer Eric Newman and director Zack Snyder
  • Exclusive Blu-ray U-Control viewing option

    Film:

    4 out of 5

    Special Features:

    2 1/2 out of 5 each

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    • Hunter1006

      Platinum Dunes pictures are grainy!

      • Uncle Creepy

        But this wasn’t Platinum Dunes! LOL

    • Solrina

      “300” was too damn grainy as well. I know most sights argue how great grain is, as the picture represents the director’s vision. And when you DNR it, you lose much of the details, which is the reason for HD in the first place.

      I can handle some grain…but I HATE a “really, and I mean really, grainy and dusty” movie. Add in the loss of great features I can’t see parting with $20 bucks for this one.

      • David

        Every film is going to have a different amount of grain. Film is a medium made up of thousands of tiny particles of silver halide grain. The grain is actually making up the image, and the amount of it will depend on the film stock, lenses and artistic intent. Zack Snyder LOVES the grainy look. To take it out or reduce it digitally will lose the fine details that we pay a premium to see. This had to be done on low bitrate MPEG-2 encoded DVDs because it would look like a mess otherwise. Now we have high bitrate MPEG-4 and VC-1 encoded discs that can show us exactly what it looked like in the theater. I remember how everyone dumped on the An American Werewolf in London HD DVD because it looked too grainy. It actually looked exactly the way an 80’s film shot on less expensive stock should look like.

        As for 300, you can see the raw footage on the picture-in-picture extra. Without the grainy look that Snyder added later in post it just looks like a bunch of guys standing around on a set. I’ll take the film grain and artistic intent of the director every time.

        • Uncle Creepy

          I totally agree, but the problem here is more than just the grain. There’s like dust specks etc littering some scenes. It’s like they used just any copy they had laying around for the transfer.

          • G.D.

            I think that’s something of a tradeoff with a movie that looks like this though. If you’re going for a grainy look, then the more you clean it up, the less it looks like the director intended it to look.

            I also think, and have thought so since HD was first being talked about, that there are movies that are going to benefit from being HD and there are movies that aren’t. For a quick and obvious example, what happens when Grindhouse is released in its theatrical form? Are they going to release a BD version? Should they? The grain and scratches etc. are part of the movie, so you’re not going to want that cleaned up, are you? (This is a hypothetical, I’m not looking to get into a “Why would you buy it at all, the movie sucks” argument).

            I haven’t seen DotD in BR and probably won’t any time soon, but it seems to me that a movie like this is only being released on BR for people who plan on replacing all their DVDs with BR discs anyways.

            • David

              Every movie that was shot on film or in HD will benefit from the HD disc if it’s done correctly. Film has a higher resolution than even the 1080p that Blu-ray is capable of, but the smaller screen size in the home theater will make it about equal. Blu-ray should be all about the added resolution, color space and black levels that the medium allows so that the film can look as close as possible to the projected theatrical release. It should not be like looking through a window unless that was the filmmaker’s intent.

              Grindhouse is a good example of that. The DVD is only 480i. The film I saw at the theater had a lot higher resolution, better black levels and colors. Plus, the low bitrate MPEG2 encode that’s used for DVD has a hard time with that look they were trying to achieve with the scratches and the grain. Another benefit is that the new lossless audio codecs available on Blu-ray are able to give you the exact same soundtrack that was heard in the theater without any compression. I would buy that film again on Blu-ray if it was released as Grindhouse, but the bastards are releasing them separately sans trailers again later this year.

    • Hunter1006

      I haven’t seen the film, but I can’t say I’m a big fan of that new, giant “FROM THE DIRECTOR OF 300” red box on the DVD cover

      • Uncle Creepy

        Me either. Check the movie out! Its good!

        • Impure159

          This.