08th Nov2017

‘Dawning of the Dead’ VOD Review

by Philip Rogers

Stars: Ruth Galliers, Leo Gregory, Andrew McHale, Fabien Buller, Kristofer Dayne, Ian Saynor, Tim Heath, Paul Lavers, Kimberly Jaraj, Linny Bushey, Honey Holmes | Written by Stuart Bedford, Andy Davie, Tony Jopia, Stu Jopia | Directed by Tony Jopia

DAWNING-OF-THE-DEAD-KEY-ART-FLAT

When a deadly virus which reanimates the recently deceased is deliberately exposed across the world causing an epidemic on a phenomenal scale, the scientist responsible for creating the virus entrusts the details of his experiments to the only person he feels he can trust; a troubled ex-war correspondent turned anchor woman Katya (Ruth Galliers). Powerless to act and trapped in a building, Katya and her crew can only watch the world collapse through video feeds from around the globe. Unbeknown to them an agent now ascends through the building with the intent of keeping the secrets help by the scientist and now Katya lost for good. As the zombies continue to flood into the building and their victims reanimating as part of the horde, Katya must somehow overcome the trauma of her past and lead the team in a fight for survival in a world where the walking dead now outnumbers the living.

With the popularity of zombie films in recent years following The Walking Dead TV series, my expectations were not very high for the Dawning of the Dead, which the title itself sounds like it could be an unofficial imitation of George Romero’s Dawn of the Dead (1978). However, following the dark and brutal opening scene and the creative visual style of the opening credits which followed, I could see straight away this was not going to be just another zombie movie. While writer and Director Tony Jopia doesn’t try to reinvent the genre, and the story follows familiar territory we have come to expect from the genre, the fast-paced action and unique visual style helps it really stand out.

Dawning of the Dead moves between three intertwining stories simultaneously and is one of the reasons why the film seems to move at such a pace. We have Katya and the news team locked in the building trying to fortify their surroundings; the agents and other surviving members in the building trying to make their way up away from the incoming zombie horde; and finally Katya’s boyfriend and his brother, who are trying to find a way to save her. The action is almost non-stop as waves of zombies continue to move and in a desperate attempt at self-preservation the remaining few soon find themselves fighting not just the zombies but also each other.

In addition to the main plot we also get excerpts throughout the film of live broadcast feeds from around the world, delivered through various media channels and varying degrees of quality. These clips are only short, but it throws you right into the action from various capital cities from around the world which adds to the increasing the severity of the epidemic as the film goes on.

One of the most creative aspects of the film was the colourisation. The vintage style of the opening credits really stood out for me with its distorted worn look which has been tinted yellow. This is a deliberate attempt by the team to make splashes of red and the green colour of the chemical visually striking and it reminded me of the girl in the red coat from Schindler’s List (1993). The look is in complete contrast to the dark dreary lighting in the opening scene and gives it gives the film an unsettling and eerie look as the virus is unleashed.

Dawning of the Dead also has some effective jump scares, and manages to build up some tense moments as the zombies start to close in but it will be remembered more for the excellent gory special effects using a mixture of prosthetics and some CGI. Unlike a lot of the modern zombie movies, this really encompasses the physical violence you would find in the classic zombie films, which you would find on the video nasties list of the 80’s, such as Zombie Flesh Eaters (1979) or The Living Dead of Manchester Morgue (1974). Using mainly prosthetics, the film really delivers for the gore hounds with the violence on screen and the camera doesn’t move away from the action as we see the savagery of the zombies ripping bodies apart and devour there remains.

Throughout Dawning of the Dea there are nods to various other films in the genre, but one of my favourites involves a floor polisher being modified. After being trapped in a storage cupboard Alex Petit (Kristofer Dayne) modifies the floor polisher with nails to recreate the lawnmower scene from Braindead/Dead Alive (1992). It may not be as tongue and cheek with the blood spraying everywhere, but it is entertaining and certainly effective at tearing the zombies apart.

Ruth Galliers really stood out for me with an emotional performance as the central character Katya Nevi. Despite her vulnerabilities which made you sympathise for her character, she still had a strong persona which made her believable as someone who could still take charge. A great example is a fight on the roof where she was forced to defend herself against three zombies. Unlike the action sequences of Milla Jovovich in Resident Evil (2002), it is grounded and rather scrappy fight where she uses her wit and anything around her to survive. It really builds up the tension in a brutal scene which really keeps you on edge.

Although he may not be a popular character with feminists, I thought that Paul Lavers was one of the comical highlights of the film, with an over the top performance as the out dated male chauvinist Peter McDonald. His untimely comments make you cringe as well as laugh, as he continues to be highly inappropriate even after the zombies have attacked. The interactions with fellow news anchor Linny Bushey, as Leah Price, worked brilliantly and I think the film would have benefitted from having more of the verbal crossfire between the two.

It is always a risk taking on a zombie film unless you can offer something different and thankfully Tony Jopia proves once again that he can deliver. More than just the walking dead, these zombies come out running and once the action starts the film never seems to lose momentum. Keeping the balance between the drama, dark humour and of course plenty of bloody violence, Dawning of the Dead looks to rejuvenate a tired genre, with one of the best zombie horror I have seen in years.

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