Dawning of the Dead Review- Serviceable but Derivative Zombie Flick

Posted October 31, 2017 by Thomas James Juretus in Movies

Director: Tony Jopia

Written by: Stuart W. Bedford

Release date: December 5, 2017

Cast: Ruth Colliers, Leo Gregory, Tim Heath, Kimberly Jaraj, Linney Bushey, Ian Saynor, Kristofer Dayne, Fabien Muller, Andrew McHale

Zombie movies in recent years have become a dime a dozen, made popular by the success of both the comic book and the AMC television series The Walking Dead, along with the videogame and movie franchise Resident Evil and George A. Romero’s Dead series that began with 1968’s Night of the Living Dead. It’s no longer enough to just have hordes of the living dead chewing through a group of human survivors. While that can be entertaining, good characters and a different take on the genre are what’s needed to set a zombie movie apart from the same old, same old. Movies like Maggie or even The Girl With All the Gifts each present a slightly different take on the genre to make them a bit unique. High Octane Pictures and director Tony Jopia (Deadtime) throw their hat into the zombie movie ring with Dawning of the Dead (originally titled Apocalypse). It has its moments of entertaining zombie carnage, but fails to rise above the multitude of merely serviceable zombie movies.

The film follows three intertwining plot lines, none of which are very original. There’s Katya Nevin (Ruth Colliers), a journalist who had at one time been taken hostage by terrorists. She suffers a bit of PTSD, and is about to make her first big broadcast in years for WWW News. She’s encouraged by assistant and boyfriend Alex (Kristofer Dayne), and takes some pride in not being afraid to go after a story. Then there’s the brotherly tale of Alex and Christian (Fabien Muller), who squabble over many things, including Alex’s relationship with Katya. And lastly, there are two agents, Proteus (Leo Gregory) and Ashcroft (Andrew McHale), who are in pursuit of one fleeing Professor Greg Laborde (Ian Saynor). All get caught up in trying to survive when a group of terrorists unleash a deadly virus called Pandora viridae severicom (may not be the correct spelling, but close enough) that was unearthed in Siberia and is said to be 30,000 years old. Laborde, who worked on the project with the virus, has decided to come clean and tries to get a flash drive to Katya for her to broadcast. In the meantime, the zombie apocalypse has broken out, trapping Katya and the news team up in the studio at WWW News, while the agents try to make it up the stairwell in the building, and Alex and Christian are trying to get through the streets to get back to the studio.

While there are some nice gory make-up effects, we’ve seen this played out before in other, better movies. People do stupid things and engage in silly arguments while zombies are trying to reach them and chow down. The acting is hammy in some instances, particularly the arrogant anchor who doesn’t want to believe what’s happening, despite what he sees on the monitors. People utter lines like “Better have a plan.” “I do. Survive.” with gravity, even though a tongue on the cheek approach might have served better. While there are plenty of practical effects, there is also some noticeably cheap CGI sprinkled throughout. We get bounced around the world to locations like Rio de Janeiro, San Francisco, Paris, and even a glacier in Iceland, showing us that the whole world has been affected by the virus in between going back and forth between the three plot lines. The motivation for Proteus’s actions never make any real sense, in light of the outbreak. Since none of the characters are especially endearing, no real suspense is ever built up. Plus, you can see what will happen to the cast coming from a mile away, as events are all very predictable. Scenes giving us a computer like map image of the building, with red balls representing the infected and white representing the survivors is stolen straight from the first Resident Evil movie. The fast zombies move like those out of 28 Days Later. It’s all so derivative, with nary an original thought present. It’s somewhat entertaining at least, but it certainly doesn’t reinvent the wheel.

Dawning of the Dead stumbles right out of the gate with its title pretty well copied from the better 1979 movie from George A. Romero (even the Zack Snyder 2005 remake is a better film). It mixes and matches things from various other zombie films without ever creating anything new. The movie is predictable throughout its 103 minute run time, never offering up any surprises or twists, and only providing some mildly effective jump scares. The acting is serviceable, but no character really stands out and endears themselves to us. Since we don’t really care about what happens to the characters, there’s no real suspense in the movie. To be sure, there are worse entries in the genre, but there are also far better. It’s somewhat entertaining and has decent gore effects, but its flaws hold it back from being anything but an okay rental at best. The zombie apocalypse is a crowded place, and one needs to do better to stand out. Dawning of the Dead fails in that regard. Being watchable just isn’t good enough to compete with all of the other titles in the genre out there.

About the Author

Thomas James Juretus