A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this 2004 Dawn of the Dead is an extremely violent remake of George A. Romero's 1978 horror film of the same name. Perhaps the violence should come as no surprise, since this is, after all, a zombie film. Expect lots of blood, bites to the throat, vast armies of zombies shot in the head by shotguns, as well as moments of gore like eye stabbings and a head impaled with a spike. There's also considerable profanity, and some of the characters fill the empty hours of hiding out in the shopping mall from the zombies waiting outside by drinking and having sex. While this film delivers what horror fans want and expect from the genre -- including zombies moving at a much faster, more aggressive pace than typically seen in zombie movies -- for younger viewers and people who aren't horror fans, he violence and gore will be too much.
What's the story?
A remake of George A. Romero's 1978 zombie film, DAWN OF THE DEAD (2004), begins much the same as the original. For unknown reasons, people across the country are turning into bloodthirsty, animated corpses with rotting visages only an undertaker could love. The morning after the outbreak of a mysterious "virus," an unlikely group of humans still capable of thought and speech converge on an empty shopping mall outside Milwaukee to escape the marauding zombies, who were until then the friends, families, neighbors of the survivors. As they fortify their defenses against the peril outside the mall walls, they must also face the threats they pose to one another. Unspecified days pass in a haze of mall enjoyment and zombie sniping until the remaining survivors opt to make a break for the nearby marina in order to escape by boat to a hopefully deserted island in Lake Michigan.
Is it any good?
This remake of George A. Romero's 1978 sequel to Night of the Living Dead soups up the zombies, cranks up the gross factor to 11, and has a lot of cheeky in-jokes about its predecessor. In comparison with the original, out are the shrieking blondes and rampaging looters, in are smart, controlled Ana (Sarah Polley as a believable nurse not afraid to wield a fire poker) and Kenneth (Ving Rhames), who is exactly the kind of cop you want walking beside you if you are facing scores of the undead.
The zombies are a bit spryer in this film, and the pregnancy of one of the main characters is not the life-giving promise it was in the first movie. But the ending is what differs most from the original. If you're a fan of the horror genre, then this flick is a welcome, if derivative, fright-fest in the school of Romero's classics.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the different approaches taken by the survivors and the range of choices that they make. Are there times when the moral answer is at odds with the instinct to survive?
If you've seen the original 1978 Dawn of the Dead, how do you think this version compares?
Why do you think movies and books about the undead are so popular?
- In theaters: March 12, 2004
- On DVD or streaming: October 25, 2004
- Cast: Mekhi Phifer, Sarah Polley, Ving Rhames
- Director: Zack Snyder
- Studio: Universal Pictures
- Genre: Horror
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Monsters, Ghosts, and Vampires
- Run time: 110 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: pervasive strong horror violence and gore, language and sexuality
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.