(As the internet's foremost Zack Snyder Apologist you can bet that I'm pretty excited about the upcoming release of Sucker Punch.
I had intended for this week to be a tribute to/defense of Snyder. But then, well, shit got in the way (which oughta be the sites motto at this point). Anyway danged if I'm not going to get in at least one of my articles in praise of Snyder before Sucker Punch. So here it is...)
Oddly enough for all the influence that Night Of The Living Dead has had on myriad of zombie movies, very few take place concurrently with the raising of the dead. Instead preferring to start in some nebulous amount of time afterwards.
Not Snyder’s remake of Dawn Of The Dead, which starts things off with a relentless immediacy not seen in a horror film since they came to get Barbara.
“No not tomorrow. The day after tomorrow” is the first line we hear. It’s a nice touch, despite being a bit on the nose. So many characters in horror movies seem to realize they are in horror movies. That their certain doom at the hands of forces too dark to be imagined lies right around the corner.
Snyder allows them to be as oblivious to impending doom as you or me. Not frowning over these strange foreshadowy things that he’s seeing on the X-Ray. But Bull shitting with friends. Not just assuming there will be a tomorrow, but a day after tomorrow as well. How’s that for counting your chickens?
Even Polly, not the type of actress who normally does this kind of role, even less so back then, who has seen patient zero with her own eyes is less concerned about the virus and more concerned about getting a chance to clock out.
Polly has always been an appealing actress and to her credit isn’t playing down to the material the way certain indie ingénues do to preserve their street cred when they get in spitting distance of a budget over ten million (I’m looking at you Chloe Sevigny).
“Security to Admitting please-“ this line over the PA is buried deep in the sound mix. You almost have to be listening for it. Synder isn’t a director usually praised for his subtility, but this is just a nicely layered scene.
Again in the distance a siren passing by. Mixed well under the conversation. It’s a hospital people don’t even bother looking up. It’s a hospital after all; nothing out of the ordinary about it...
Or that for that matter. Polley doesn’t even give it a second look.
It’s not something that usually gets talked about, obscured by all the testosterone in 300, but Snyder actually has always been pretty good at documenting intimacy between couples. He takes the time to make it seem as though his characters actually have met one another. Even in 300 it’s clear that he sees Lena Headly as an equal partner of Leonides.
In this instance you literally have grim reality shouldering trivial bullshit aside…
It’s a cruel object lesson. Those who show empathy and concern are the ones who will literally get eaten alive in the new world.
Five Minutes Forty Seconds into his career we get the first slo motion shot in Zack Snyder’s oeuvre.
Yes running zombies are stupid (ever try sprinting with rigor?) and screw up the whole metaphor. But eh what are you gonna do?
Once again the door is under assault. It having taken all of two seconds for the real world to reach in and destroy theirs.
Note the face not the trademark Zombie Snarl, but a look of fear, almost grief. That’s the look you expect to see on the victim in a zombie movie not the aggressor. Once again a choice more creative then Snyder is usually given credit for making.
Once again the overhead motif. I just wanted to note violence and ferocity of this shot and stunt. She flies through the door. And that landing looks like it hurts.
Normally in a film this would be a head slapping duh. But here because of the care taken with the set up it feels earned. After all we don’t want to believe the worst is happening.
But it is and it’s brought a damn fine jump scare along with it.
That look of exhaustion. Weariness. Sorrow. In other words Of Horror is something that some of the finest veterans of the genre have never brought to their films. Substituting only looks of fear.
I’m deciding to stop this study before Snyder’s brilliant credit sequence (another hallmark) which intercuts a staged apocalypse with contemporary news footage until the two become indistinguishable. It’s its own sequence and deserves to be treated on its own terms.
I will merely note that it carries the exact same feeling of apocalyptic dislocation.
Dawn Of The Dead’s greatest crime is the fact that it peaks in its first fifteen minutes. Though it has its moments it never regains that exquisite pervasive wrongness of its opening (Though it is a film that I like more each time I see it).
But that takes nothing away from the achievement of this sequence. Nor nothing away from a director able to create such a profound sense of dislocation, the thing at the heart of all horror. A director who can create such a pervasive sense of dread and ending out of a few bloodied extras and some CGI fire is one I am proud to be an apologist for.