DAWN OF THE DEAD Where’s Michael Jackson when you need him?

Dawn of the Dead

dir. Snyder

Opens Fri March 19

Various Theaters

It's official. With last year's extremely successful 28 Days Later in the can, and now this big budget remake of Dawn of the Dead opening this week, we can only conclude that Zombies have kicked their slow, drooling image to become THE monsters of the 21st century.

No longer content to lumber around like tranquilized robots, The zombies in Dawn, like in 28 Days Later, screech like hellish bobcats, and sprint at their prey with horrible speed. In short, filmmakers have finally figured out how zombies can still terrify this modern world hooked on high-speed wireless connections and instant messenger programs: They must be FAST.

A movie with cool gore effects, likable characters, and most importantly, fast-movin' zombies, is guaranteed to be at least a little bit fun and scary. This is proven by Dawn, an entertaining movie with all the aforementioned qualities, and little else. If you haven't seen the original George Romero classic, it won't be hard to catch you up. One morning, the world is overrun with zombies. There is no explanation for this bizarre event, just zombies everywhere, and a ragtag group of survivors who hole up in a shopping mall to protect themselves.

The ragtag group here is a typical ragtag horror group, but packed with cool actors, which helps things considerably. It's lovely to see the quirky Sarah Polley in the roll as heroine, the amiable Jake Weber as her stoic hero counterpart, and Mekhi Phifer as a lunatic father-to-be who figures prominently in the film's most cringe-inducing segment, a disgusting homage to Dead Alive.

But the real stars of this movie, as it should be, are 1) the multitudes of zombies, and 2), the gore. Director Zack Snyder's zombies drip fountains of blood and bile, and die in an assortment of wonderful ways: a broken croquet mallet through the noggin, bullets to the face, and my personal favorite, large semi-trucks. And Snyder knows just where to put little spurts and cracks to really get the stomach juices churning. There's also some seriously tight editing at work here. Sometimes the plot developments suffer 'neath the sharp editing blade, with a few key character choices poorly motivated (or not at all). But then, the trade-off is perfectly paced action sequences, which is all you really wanted anyway.

I embrace the fast zombie movement. When done right, it really is quite scary, though I worry about future generations' zombies. If those living corpses sprint this quickly to scare the youth of today, how fast will they have to move 20 years from now? They'll have to use jetpacks to get a rise out of people.