SUMMERTIME SCARES! (Gregg Harrington)

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For last year’s Drive-In Double Feature, Anthony Paparo submitted a piece that began with him professing his love for all modern horror remakes – including Zack Snyder’s take on the George Romero zombie classic, Dawn of the Dead. Though, to be fair, he didn’t need to convince me; I love the 2004 remake as much as *cough*ifnotmorethan*cough* the original.

This year, we have another Dawn defender in Gregg Harrington. And if anyone knows what they’re talking about on the subject of Romero’s zombies, it’s Gregg: he’s a Pennsylvania boy who grew up just a hop-skip-and-a-jump from Monroeville! So without further ado, here’s Gregg with his summertime scare, Dawn of the Dead!

Some people love the outdoors during the summertime – hanging out at the pool, going to the beach, spending the day at an amusement park. Then there are those of us that don’t fare too well in the sun and seek any reprieve from its harsh rays and the punishing humidity of the season. Stay at home? Not a chance. What better place to spend time avoiding the grueling cruelty of summer than the mall? It’s air conditioned, there’s plenty to eat and lots of great products to drain your bank account. If you’re lucky, your local mall can even feature some activities that are a little more outside the box than usual, like lazer tag, miniature golf or even go-kart tracks. Zack Snyder’s 2004 remake of the George Romero classic Dawn of the Dead may not be a direct homage to the summer sanctuary that is the mall, but the film sure does show how crucial that sanctuary can be.

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I grew up about 15 minutes east of the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania city limits. In fact, my little suburb was the next municipality over from Monroeville. That’s right,that Monroeville, home of the world-famous Monroeville Mall thanks to horror icon George Romero and his original Dawn of the Dead. Just a ten minute drive from my childhood home, I spent many summers in the climate controlled wonderland that, at a point long before I was born, was used as the setting for one of the best horror films of all time. Watching the film and seeing how much the layout of the mall had changed was always fun for me (also, Pittsburghers love telling you things that used to be there that are now long gone), especially with my dad telling me stories about the aspects of the mall I never saw, like the ice rink, which has been the food court for as long as I can remember.

Like many in the horror community, I was skeptical about the rumblings of a remake of the beloved zombie flick – even more so when I found out it wasn’t being filmed in Monroeville. Not many remakes or re-imaginings of films are home runs, as we all know. However, after first viewing the project, I had finally found a remake that I found to be up to par.

The differences between Romero and Snyder’s versions start right from the jump, with the remake following nurse Ana, played by Sarah Polley, as opposed to opening with a flustered and panicked newsroom. After a few nods to the impending apocalypse, the action really starts up just five minutes in, culminating in one hell of a credit sequence. The dichotomy of the Johnny Cash song “The Man Comes Around” with the short bursts of carnage and death sets what I think is an insanely good tone for the rest of the movie – and I’m not even a Johnny Cash fan. Once the plot starts to unfold, a multitude of popular actors enter the fray, including Ving Rhames (of Pulp Fiction and Con Air), Mekhi Phifer (of 8 Mile and E.R.), Ty Burrell (of some show called Modern Family, maybe you’ve heard of it) and Matt Frewer (of Watchmen and Honey, I Shrunk The Kids). From there, Dawn of the Dead becomes a nonstop roller coaster of decay, snark and the looming end of days. The movie offers up some pretty damn impressive effects – spearheaded by AFX Studio, formed by none other than scream queen Heather Langenkamp and her husband David Leroy Anderson – as well a good crew of actors and, of course, the summer-defining setting of the local mall. I wonder if they kept the air conditioning at a cool 60 degrees?

If you want to harangue, hassle, or simply “hit up” Gregg, you can find him over on Twitter!

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