9 Jun 2016

ZOMBIE FILM RULES - Dawn of the Dead (2004)

Every genre has cliches, but how well do zombie film remakes follow the Zombie film rules?

Dawn of the Dead (2004) is a loose remake of the 1978 film of the same name.

The following analysis may contain spoilers for



There will be no warning...

"Am I missing something?  Why did Dr Cho order a head X-ray when the man was bitten on the hand?" ~ Dr Rosen.
"The patient was in a barfight.  He was communicative when he was admitted at six o'clock.  That's six o'clock am.  That's when I started my shift." ~ Ana. 

1a.  Eerie - Starts with a x-ray of a skull.  Uses disconcerting camera angles, especially of moving vehicles.
1b.  News - Ana switches channels on her car radio as it says "Unconfirmed rep..." and "Confirmed it's not an isolated..."  Ana and her husband miss a special news bulletin while having sex in the shower.
1c.  Sudden - The film begins with Ana talking to a doctor about an infected patient (but not realising he's infected) and passes a woman with a neck wound as she leaves the hospital.  The outbreak at dawn only seems sudden because they slept through it.


There may be sex and nudity.

"I know which job I was the worst at. Being a husband." ~ Michael.
"That's not a job." ~ Monica.
"It sure is." ~ Tucker.
"You guys just haven't met the right girl." ~ Monica.

2a.  Nudity - Ana and her husband, Louis, are naked in the shower (but blurred).  A naked female walks past Ana's car early in the film (blood covers the window in some versions).  Steve is apparently having sex from behind with Monica during a montage, although she's still wearing underpants but breasts are exposed.  Steve's camera contains footage of him with a topless woman.
2b.  Sex - Ana and Louis have sex in the shower.  Monica and Steve have sex.


Unknown cause.

"Hell is overflowing. And Satan is sending his dead to us. Why? Because you have sex out of wedlock. You kill unborn children. You have man-on-man relations. Same-sex marriage. How do you think your god will judge you? Well, friends, now we know. When there is no more room in hell, the dead will walk the earth." ~ Televangelist.

3a.  Unknown origin - The origin is not known.
3b.  Vague hints -   There is some speculation about what it isn't on the television (not a chemical or biological attack and not terrorism) but nothing is confirmed.
3c.  The originators - Not shown.


The Living Dead.

"What are they?" ~ Micheal.
"I don't know. Why are they coming here?" ~ Ana.
"Memory, maybe. Instinct.  Maybe they're coming for us." ~ Kenneth.

4a.  Dead - Yes.
4b.  Rising from the grave - Did not occur.
4c.  Instant decay - Did not occur, but usually obvious bloody injuries early on.  As time past the decay got worse.
4d.  Origin - Unknown.  The writer claims it is a supernatural thing.
4e.  Spread - By bite usually, with the television stating everybody they kill gets up.
4f.  Rudimentary IQ - The television states they have no ability to reason.
4g.  Rudimentary speech - Kenneth tests Ana by asking her to say something.
4h.  Lost memory - Speculated that they may have memory or instinct.
4i.  Slow/Shambling - The dead in this film are super fast, strong and athletic, probably beyond the abilities of living humans.
4j.  Swarms - Very quickly formed large swarms.
4k.  Stealth zombies - Yes, especially the one that bites Bart.
4l.  Feeding - The television states that they need to feed on warm flesh.
4m.  Destroy the brains - The television states that destroying they need to be disposed of by destroying the brain and burning the body.
4n.  Exploding heads - A portion of a zombie's head explodes when Kenneth shoots it, in a generic shot-in-the-head way.
4o.  The Z Word - Not used, even though the original did once or twice.  "Twitcher" is used a couple of times for a specific type of dead.


The Living.

"You know how to use that?" ~ Kenneth.
"This is the dangerous end, right?" ~ Michael.
"Now it is." ~ Kenneth.

5a.  Individuals - The film follows Ana who meets Kenneth, and they both soon meet Michael, Andre & Luda.
5b.  Group of survivors - When they arrive at the mall the join(ish) with three security guards and later a group of 8 survivors who arrive later.
5c.  Characters - The main group will include:
  • The heroine - Ana.
  • The hero - Michael, because of his romantic connection to Ana.  Kenneth, counts being capable and taking the lead when other won't. They each drive one of the buses if that means anything.
  • The bossy guy - Andre, to a small degree.
  • Bossy guy's female companion - Luda is Andre's wife.
  • The secondary hero - Terry is a very minor hero (especially considering there are two main heroes. 
  • The weepy girl - Nicole, because of the death of her father and her doting on Chips the dog.
  • Child - Nicole, borderline.  Do undead babies count?
  • The crazy guy - Andy, doesn't seem too crazy in the film but seems more so in the extras which focus on him.
  • Unbeliever - Steve, not an unbeliever but a sarcastic SOB.  Might be considered the bossy guy if he ever had any ideas to share.
  • The gang leader - CJ is a weak example.
5d.  Man is the real monster - Ana's neighbour is hit by an ambulance, Glen accidentally kills Monica and is killed in a bus crash.   Andre and Norma shoot each other.  Louis, Bart, Andy, and Steve are killed by the dead.   The nameless lady, Frank and Luda are killed by bites they get before we meet them.  Tucker, CJ and Micheal are killed or kill themselves while being attacked or because they've been bitten.  Baring accidents and counting those killed by themselves/others to stop attacks/turning as kills by the undead:  2 killed by people, 10 by the undead.
5e.  Steep learning curve - They certainly learn, Ana's gun skill is remarked upon near the end. 
5f.  Final Girl and Final Guy - Two girls and two guys.



"Whoa, whoa. Wait, wait, wait. I'm sorry. Why does he stay here while I go on the suicide mission to rescue Terry's already-dead girlfriend?" ~ Steve.

6a.  Standing around talking for no reason when endangered - Not really.
6b.  Grieving - No so it really endangers anyone.
6c.  Making accidental noises - Perhaps when Bart is bitten by a zombie and it attracts others.
6d.  Being unable to smell decaying flesh - Seems so in the basement.
6e.  Engaging hand-to-hand combat with zombies - Happens at times.
6f.  Hiding secret bite - Andre kept quiet about Luda's bite.
6g.  Unwilling to kill the bitten - Micheal was going to kill the bitten Frank, but was talked out of it.  Andre may have been planning to shoot Luda, but didn't.
6h.  Unwilling to kill the undead - Andre keeps Luda away from anyone so they don't know she's turned.   Ana killed the undead baby.
6i.  In-fighting - CJ's & the security guards and the rest of the group mainly.
6j.  Fighting at all - Andre and Norma kill each other.
6k.  Having sex - Ana and her husband miss a special news bulletin while having sex in the shower.  Steve & Monica's sex didn't put them at risk.
6l.  Being cowardly - Steve abandoning his post by the door let the zombies in.  He later abandons others in an overturned bus leading to his death.
6m.  Betraying the group - No one really does so except Steve's constant abandonment.
6n.  Going anywhere they shouldn't go in a slasher film
  • Down to the Basement - Bart is literally killed when they go down in the cellar.
  • Upstairs - The upstairs of the mall is safer than downstairs.
  • For a Shower - As noted Ana and her husband were in the shower when they missed an important news bulletin.
  • Into old sheds or out buildings - Unless you count Andy's, no.
  • Running off to the “safety” of the forest - The island is a similar idea, and they don't even make it far off the boat.
  • Anywhere alone - Nicola goes to Andy's.
  • Anywhere Remote, Isolated or Confined - The island as noted above.
  • Any Old, Abandoned or Presumably Haunted Buildings - N/A.
6o.  Relying on anything they shouldn't in rely on a slasher film
  • Communications devices - Ana gets an "All circuits are busy" message when she tries to call for an ambulance.
  • Lighting - The lights go out.
  • Vehicular Transport - Ana has some success with in her car, but eventually runs into difficulty with blocked roads.
  • Their Own Legs - Ana falls into the bathtub when she escapes her husband.
  • The Authorities - The authorities don't know what is going on and the safe areas they tell people to go to turn out to not be safe.
  • Weapons – Limited weapons.
  • Escape Routes - A few but good.
6p.  Being over-confident - CJ and his guys when they think they have our heroes under their control.
6q.  Making a plan that is too complex - They do, it falls apart.
6r.  Making a plan - Their plan to send Andy food gets Andy killed and leads to Nicole putting her life in danger.
6s.  Assume they're safe - Doesn't really come up.
6t.  Be happy - Mostly OK when happy.
6u.  Just one last thing - Ana getting the boat keys of Steve's corpse would count if they weren't so necessary to their plan.
6v.  Never assume anyone or anything is dead - They actually do assume that those not bitten are dead-dead and this holds out.


Standard Plot.

"Excuse me, not to shit on anyone's riff here, but let me see if I grasp this concept, okay? You're suggesting that we take some fucking parking shuttles and reinforce them with some aluminum siding, and then just head on over to the gun store where we watch our good friend Andy play some cowboy-movie, jump-on-the-covered-wagon bullshit? Then we're going to drive across the ruined city through a welcome committee of a few hundred thousand dead cannibals. All so we can sail off into the sunset on this fucking asshole's boat?  Head for some island that for all we know doesn't even exist?" ~ CJ.
"Yeah." ~ Kenneth.
"Pretty much, yeah." ~ Tucker.
"Yeah." ~ Michael.
"Okay. I'm in." ~ CJ.

7a.  Normal life - We see Ana's normal life for the first six minutes of the film.
7b.  Sudden outbreak - As noted not sudden, just seemed so.
7c.  Meetings - Ana meets Kenneth, they soon meet Michael, Andre & Luda, then meet the security guards and then 8 other find them.
7d.  Civilisation will collapse - Civilisation has collapsed by the time Ana leaves the house.
7e.  Looting becomes scavenging - Doesn't occur.  While in the mall they are living in a "comfortable apocalypse."
7f.  Gangs/bandits/cannibals - Doesn't occur.  The closest is CJ and his men claiming ownership of the Mall before the others arrived.
7g.  Finding a place to hole up - The Mall.
7h.  Avoiding contecting to people - In the beginning Ana drives away from a panicked female neighbour looking for a lift.  CJ and Steve in different ways, maybe.  Ana falls for Michael pretty fast after her husband dies, Nicole and Terry have a romance and Nicole connects with a dog.  Andy and Kenneth seem to have a connection.  It's unclear if Steve and Monica had a relationship before the outbreak or not, but there doesn't seem to be a real connection there, just sex.
7i.  Suicidal -  Once bitten or attacked there are a couple of people who ask to be killed or who kill themselves, but no real sign of anyone giving up because society has collapsed.
7j.  Undead loved-ones - The only real returnee is Steve pretty quick and Ana doesn't like him and gets to kill him like she promised.
7l.  Limited food/water/bullets - Food and water seem OK for everyone except Andy until during the end credits on the boat.  Bullets run low for the group, but not for Andy.
7m.  Escape from a place - They plan to escape to the boat, but are forced to early when the dead get into the mall.
7n.  Armoured vehicle - The group literately create aluminium armour for a couple of shuttle buses.
7o.  Don't let me turn/save a bullet - Tucker's last words are "shoot me."
7p.  Injury - Tucker is injured creating cover for CJ, CJ drags him along, but Tucker is eventually bitten.
7q.  Heroic sacrifice - Tucker is injured covering CJ's retreat.  CJ at the end.
7r.  Death of the last survivor - There are still four survivors but the credits role when Michael kills himself.


There will be social commentary.

"Hey, sweetheart. Let me tell you something. You, uh, you have my permission. I ever turn into one of those things? Do me a favor, blow my fucking head off." ~ Steve.
"Oh, yeah, you can count on that." ~ Ana.

8a.  We are already zombies - Vaguely with the instinct to come to the mall comment, but not pushed home.
8c.  Racism - Only in the mildest form.
8d.  Working together - A little.
8e.  Man is the real monster - Not really. 
8f.  Zombies are people, too - No.
8g.  Other - None come to mind.


There is no happily ending.

"I think I'll just stay here a while.  Enjoy the sunrise." ~ Michael.

9a.  Downer ending - A bitter sweet ending, followed by downer closing credits.
9b.  Sudden end - The credits start with the gun shot 
9c.  Disaster porn - More like sunrise porn at the end, but big chunks of disaster porn just before it and zombie scare porn during the credits.
9d.  No cure - No cure is shown to exist.

RULE #10


"It's nice to see that you've all bonded through this disaster." ~ Steve.

10a.  Sequels - A planned sequel (possibly just set in the same universe) called Army of the Dead was planned but shelved.
10b.  Remakes - The film is a remake of the 1978 film of the same name.
10c.  Adaptations - Not an adaptation.

Extra.  Versions - The DVD version runs 10 minutes longer, some international version don't have blood obscuring the naked woman early in the film.


"You guys had really rough childhoods, didn't you? Little bit rocky?" ~ Ana.

  • Rules that are followed in this film:  2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 10.
  • Rules that are partially followed, or not clear, in this film:  1, 
  • Rules not followed by the film:  8.

~ DUG.

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Check out the schedule for upcoming Film Rules films to be reviewed.

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