Dawn of the Dead
For those who thought director Zack Snyder's remake of George A. Romero's zombie classic packed an impressive punch in theaters, Universal Home Video's DVD release of the unrated director's cut provides even more bloody fun -- in addition to offering some impressive bonus materials that actually serve to enhance the viewing experience. Lovingly presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen, this release of Dawn of the Dead looks fantastic. Not only does the presentation feature colors that are as bold as they are vivid, but it also offers great skin tones, shows little to no signs of edge enhancement, and delivers pitch-black darkness in the nighttime scenes. Dawn of the Dead is a very high-contrast film, and Universal has done a terrific job in faithfully preserving its visual presentation on the small screen. The Dolby Digital 5.1 surround mix likewise does an effective job in keeping viewers ill at ease by means of punchy music cues and eerie directional effects. Additional footage that didn't appear in the theatrical release covers everything from more graphic zombie mayhem to some revealing and endearing character development. Even with such a hearty visual presentation, the reason most viewers will be purchasing this disc is for the generous bonus materials -- and they're not likely to be disappointed. Unlike the sometimes superfluous extras on most over-bloated special edition DVDs, Dawn of the Dead offers some bonus materials that truly draw the viewer in to the experience of the film. "The Lost Tape" of gun store owner Andy (Bruce Bohne) offers a videotaped document of the one of the more appealing but justifiably underdeveloped characters in the film, while "Special Report: Zombie Invasion" offers a faux newscast which covers the epidemic from the first reports to the moment when broadcast television gives way to the Emergency Broadcast System. If the 12-plus minutes of deleted scenes aren't necessarily the "pulse-pounding scenes too terrifying for the final theatrical release!" that the packaging promises, they do offer a few nice scares and some great character development in addition to showing, through the optional commentary, that Snyder has a keen eye for pacing. For those interested in special makeup effects, this release offers a trio of unrated exclusives that are both revealing and informative. "Raising the Dead" finds special makeup effects designer David Leroy Anderson and other filmmakers discussing the process of creating the frightful zombies, and while "Attack of the Living Dead" may give the impression that it's little more than a zombie-kill montage, it's actually a detailed study of the special effects behind six of the film's most impressive visuals. If viewers are at all curious how the filmmakers get those zombie noggins popping, they need look no further than "Splitting Headaches: Anatomy of Exploding Heads," in which Anderson, Snyder, and crew reveal how they make the head-shots so convincing. A commentary track by Snyder and producer Eric Newman is also involving and entertaining, showcasing not only the director's dedication to the project and sense of humor, but also his love for the original Dawn of the Dead. The two interact playfully throughout the lively track, and in addition to making light of the typical horror logic presented in some points of the film, they also point out scenes that were extended or added to the DVD release and expand on why they think the scenes add to the overall impact of the film. DVD-ROM materials are also accessible.