Who’s The Better Franchise? #31: Dawn Of The Dead (1978) vs. Dawn Of The Dead (2004)


First things first, I know that I’ve missed out on the last few months but that’s because of a combination of me being on vacation in September and me just forgetting to put the one that was supposed to be up last month together, so yeah, I am aware I missed out on last month’s post.

But with all that said, on with this month’s battle. It’s Halloween in a couple of days and one of the quintessential horror classics to watch this time of the year is George A. Romero’s 1978 classic, Dawn Of The Dead:

Made by local Pittsburgh native Romero, Dawn Of The Dead is the sequel to his cult classic Night Of The Living Dead. It was written by Romero in collaboration with the Italian filmmaker Dario Argento, and produced by Claudio Argento, Richard P. Rubinstein and Alfredo Cuomo. It was the second film made in Romero’s Living Dead series, but contains no characters or settings from Night of the Living Dead, and shows in a larger scale the apocalyptic effects on society. In the film, a phenomenon of unidentified origin has caused the reanimation of the dead, who prey on human flesh, which subsequently causes mass hysteria. The cast features David Emge, Ken Foree, Scott Reiniger, and Gaylen Ross as survivors of the outbreak who barricade themselves inside a suburban shopping mall.

Dawn of the Dead was filmed over approximately four months, from late 1977 to early 1978, in the Pennsylvania cities of Pittsburgh and Monroeville. Its primary filming location was the Monroeville Mall. The film was made on a budget estimated at $1.5 million and was a significant box office success for its time, grossing approximately $55 million worldwide. Since opening in theaters in 1978, and despite heavy gore content, reviews for the film have been positive.

In addition to four official sequels, the film has spawned numerous parodies and pop culture references. In 2008, Dawn of the Dead was chosen by Empire magazine as one of The 500 Greatest Movies of All Time, along with Night of the Living Dead.

Since I live in Murrysville, which is about 30 minutes away from Monroeville Mall, I’m able to visit the place every week. In fact, for this next Movie Stop coming up on Saturday, I’ll go through some of the places you may recognize from the original movie.

Dawn Of The Dead is widely considered one of the greatest horror movies ever made and it most definitely is, so when there was news that a remake was coming in 2004, of course people were going to be pissed:

Dawn of the Dead is a 2004 American horror film directed by Zack Snyder in his feature film directorial debut. A remake of George A. Romero’s 1978 film of the same name, it is written by James Gunn and stars Sarah Polley, Ving Rhames, and Jake Weber.

The film depicts a handful of human survivors living in a shopping mall located in the fictional town of Everett, Wisconsin surrounded by swarms of zombies. The movie was produced by Strike Entertainment in association with New Amsterdam Entertainment, released by Universal Pictures and includes cameos by original cast members Ken Foree, Scott Reiniger, and Tom Savini.

Not only was the movie not an insult to the original film but it surprisingly surpassed a lot of peoples’ expectations with many now claiming that this is actually better than the original film.

So, are they right? Well, this Halloween, we’re gonna find out for ourselves, this month’s battle is between the original 1978 George A. Romero classic vs. the 2004 Zack Synder remake of Dawn Of The Dead:


Image result for dawn of the dead 1978 vs 2004

So, let’s start with the people we all watch these movies for…the human characters….well, okay we don’t watch these films for the human characters but fuck it, it’s the first one we’re looking at. These are the best human characters:


In the original movie, you have David Emge as Stephen “Flyboy” Andrews, Ken Foree as Peter Washington, Scott Reiniger as Roger “Trooper” DeMarco, Gaylen Ross as Francine Parker, Dave Crawford as Dr. James Foster, David Early as Mr. Sidney Berman, Richard France as Dr. Millard Rausch, Scientist, Howard Smith as TV Commentator, Daniel Dietrich as Mr. Dan Givens, Fred Baker as Police Commander, Jim Baffico as Wooley, Maniacal SWAT Cop, Rod Stoufer as Rod Tucker, Young SWAT Cop on Roof, and Jese del Gre as Old Priest.

In the remake, you have Sarah Polley as Ana Clark, Ving Rhames as Kenneth Hall, Jake Weber as Michael, Mekhi Phifer as Andre, Ty Burrell as Steve Marcus, Michael Kelly as C.J., Kevin Zegers as Terry, Michael Barry as Bart, Lindy Booth as Nicole, Jayne Eastwood as Norma, Boyd Banks as Tucker, Inna Korobkina as Luda, R. D. Reid as Glen, Kim Poirier as Monica, Matt Frewer as Frank, Bruce Bohne as Andy, Louis Ferreira as Luis, Hannah Lochner as Vivian, Ermes Blarasin as Bloated Woman, Ken Foree as TV Evangelist, Tom Savini as Sheriff Cahill, and Scott Reiniger as The General.

This is a hard one because both movies had interesting characters to them that helped to make the movies memorable. Too close of a call on this one, I could easily say the newer film because I know more about the cast in that movie and those characters were better written and more handled better but there’s just something about the original characters from the Romero film that just hold up better than the original film.

So, on that logic, I’m gonna go with the original Dawn Of The Dead on this one.


Okay, no more horsing around, let’s get to the real reason we come to these films, the zombies, these are the best zombies:


Both versions have a different look of how the zombies are presented.

In the remake, the zombies are more athletic and not only do they move slowly like they usually do but they also are able to move faster, the remake more than likely took inspiration from 28 Days Later in which the zombies in that movie were faster than zombies in most movies were.

The original’s zombies were your typical standard walk slowly zombies and honestly, the makeup work on the zombies look a little too…corny…kind of. Like I get that the zombies are suppose to look like they are dead hence why the white makeup but I don’t know, sometimes it can look a little silly.

The advantage the new film has is that the zombies can look like the living humans themselves but you’d have to look closely to know whether or not if they are actual zombies plus the remake took interesting ideas and used them like the zombie baby, that was a cool concept.

So, for that, I gotta give the slight advantage to the remake for going for more of those interesting ideas and using them. Point goes to the new.

BEST ZOMBIES WINNER: Dawn Of The Dead (2004)

But with zombie films, you can always expect to see a ton of gore in the process, which one did it best? Let’s take a look and see:


For the remake, the special effects were done by Heather Langenkamp and David LeRoy Anderson who co-own AFX Studio.

In the original, Tom Savini, who had been offered the chance to provide special effects and make-up for Romero’s first zombie film, Night of the Living Dead, before being drafted into the Vietnam War, made his debut as an effects artist on Dawn of the Dead. Savini had been known for his make-up in horror for some time, prior to Dawn of the Dead, and in his book explaining special effects techniques, Bizarro, explains how his time in Vietnam influenced his craft. He had a crew of eight to assist in applying gray makeup to two to three hundred extras each weekend during the shoot. One of his assistants during production was Joseph Pilato, who played a police captain in the film and would go on to play the lead villain in the film’s sequel, Day of the Dead.

The makeup for the multitudes of extras in the film was a basic blue or gray tinge to the face of each extra. Some featured zombies, who would be seen close-up or on-screen longer than others, had more time spent on their look. Many of the featured zombies became part of the fanfare, with nicknames based upon their look or activity—such as Machete Zombie, Sweater Zombie, and Nurse Zombie. “Sweater zombie” Clayton Hill, was described by a crew member as “one of the most convincing zombies of the bunch” citing his skill at maintaining his stiff pose and rolling his eyes back into his head, including heading down the wrong way in an escalator while in character.

A cast of Ross’ head that was to be used in the original ending of the film (involving a suicide rather than the escape scene finally used) ended up as an exploding head during the tenement building scene. The head, filled with food scraps, was shot with an actual shotgun to get the head to explode. One of the unintentional standout effects was the bright, fluorescent color of the fake blood that was used in the film. Savini was an early opponent of the blood, produced by 3M, but Romero thought it added to the film, claiming it emphasized the comic book feel of the movie.

Both movies use the aspects of gore very well, the remake does a really good job of blending practical and CG effects for the gore.

However, as somebody who does like old fashioned movie making magic, you gotta go with the one that uses practical effects more and that’s the original film. I know, I know but I’m sorry, the older effects still look really nice to them and they still hold up even by today’s standard.

Point goes again to the original.

BEST GORE WINNER: Dawn Of The Dead (1978)

Now, let’s talk about the actual horror aspect of Dawn Of The Dead, which one delivered the best use of horror tricks to it? Let’s take a look:


Both movies do a good job of expanding the horror aspect and coming up with some pretty effective scary moments in the movies themselves.

The original does a good job of blending both the horror aspect and even throwing in some sillier and comedic aspects to the film itself.

The newer movie goes strictly more for a straight forward horror movie and is very light on the comedic or over the top moments and honestly, that actually works much better for that film.

Yeah, it’s fine to be a little silly or throw in some comedy to ease the tension but in terms of a film that does the horror aspect better and have more tense and scary moments, the remake definitely does that aspect much better.

Point goes to the remake.

BEST HORROR WINNNER: Dawn Of The Dead (2004)

It all comes down once again to which film was an overall better movie, the original or the remake, this is the best overall movie:


Now, both movies do an excellent job of telling this story through different visions.

The remake does a good job taking George A. Romero’s original movie and modernizing it for a new generation without coming off as a pointless remake. Zack Snyder’s directing ability that he brings to the movie showcased the amazing potential that he would later show as a filmmaker and Snyder made a movie that not only paid homage to Romero’s classic but updated it to make it work on its’ own merits, largely also thanks to an impressive script by James Gunn.

That being said, it’s hard to not consider the original movie a masterpiece of the horror genre, George A. Romero not only delivered on giving us a more in depth story compared to Night Of The Living Dead but also helps to essentially establish the zombie lore we’ve come to know and love today. There’s a reason why it’s considered by many as the quintessential horror film of its’ generation and it’s hard to not consider this as the best of the two films.

George A. Romero’s classic film, Dawn Of The Dead, is, without a doubt, the superior movie.


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Posted in Who's The Better Franchise?
One comment on “Who’s The Better Franchise? #31: Dawn Of The Dead (1978) vs. Dawn Of The Dead (2004)
  1. […] Mall is the filming location to one of the greatest horror movies ever made, as I talked about recently, George A. Romero’s Dawn Of The Dead, I’d show around some of the familiar locations […]

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