With a name like Dawning of the Dead, you should know to expect something derivative and uninspired. The title, switched from the more generic Apocalypse prior to release, presumably amounts to an acknowledgement that its only chance at making money is by piggy-backing on George A. Romero’s similarly titled masterpiece.
Writer/director Tony Jopia’s fourth feature feels like a student production. The instinct is to go easy on something clearly so low-budget, but it frequently hints at money that, perhaps, could have been put to better use elsewhere. One wonders if the elaborate stunt-driving scene could have been cut in favour of hiring a competent actor or two. Many of the performances in the film have the feel of a decent actor being badly directed, but some of them are straight-up Tommy Wiseau.
To be fair, it’s not as if the cast are given anything to work with. Dialogue is copied and pasted from better films (e.g. news reports about “removal of the head or destruction of the brain”) and occasional gags in the third act fall flat whilst upsetting the otherwise sombre tone.
The film seems to have been built around the idea of “zombie movie in a newsroom”, which is great on paper. Sadly, after the first 15 minutes, this promising concept is largely forgotten, giving way to a trite subplot following a pair of men in black.
Even the editing is noticeably choppy. At one point, the film features an outright cutting error where a shot is immediately followed by an out-of-sync alternate take. How this managed to go to print is unfathomable.
In its defence, the movie does a remarkably good job at conveying a sense of scale given its humble resources. It’s frequently peppered with images of zombie carnage from recognisable places around the globe – all shot, on location, by various 2nd unit departments. It also does well to avoid falling into the micro-budget zombie-movie trap of only having three or four zombie extras to work with. The streets are frequently lined with the undead, and that those streets range from England to San Fransisco to Tel Aviv is pretty cool.
The zombies are, generally, handled very well. A lot more care seems to have gone into the performances of the extras than any of the actors portraying human beings. The gore special-effects are also (relatively speaking and some CGI blood aside) not bad at all. Additionally, the film’s colour-grade is fantastic, taking what would otherwise be very cheap-looking footage and turning it into something far more appealing.
If, somehow, you’re desperate for new zombie content, then it is possible to do worse than Dawning of the Dead… just. Otherwise, avoid like the zombie plague.
DAWNING OF THE DEAD / CERT: TBC / DIRECTOR: TONY JOPIA, NIKA BRAUN / SCREENPLAY: STUART BEDFORD, TONY JOPIA, / STARRING: HONEY HOLMES, LEO GREGORY, PIXIE LE KNOT / RELEASE DATE: TBC