Like the different takes of slow and fast zombies that are now prevalent in the genre, some zombie movies start slow and some start fast. Then there are fast zombie movies that have such incredibly intense openings that they stay with you for years. Such is the case of Dawn of the Dead (2004), which has the best zombie movie opening ever.
The screenplay was brilliantly written adaptation of George A. Romero's original "Dawn of the Dead" script and was penned by James Gunn. It was so good in fact, that it was nominated for the 2005 Bram Stoker Award for Screenplays.
"Dawn of the Dead" starts out innocently enough, all the while cleverly leaving little hints that begin to add up and point to zombie apocalypse that I just love.
The movie's main character is Ana. Ana is a nurse about to finish her shift at the local hospital. A patient is brought in on a gurney by EMTs and we overhear that he been attacked by a crazy man that bit him.
Here we see a tired Ana that is desperately trying to convince her boss to let her go home.
Once she leaves the hospital, there's a fake-out scare created by the camera shot of paramedic's feet sticking out of an opened back of an ambulance. Ana walks over and wakes them up and then jokes with them about sleeping on the job.
Afterwards she gets into her car and drives home, during which she flips through the radio stations, searching for music. Each station seems to have newscasters speaking about something dangerous going on- but she doesn't pay any attention to what they are saying. (OK, this freaked me out because I do that in the car- well- when I'm forced to listen to the radio and can't plug in my iPod. And it always seems like the radio stations play their ads at the same time. Argh!) Except this time, Ana should've listened because they were saying something important. Seeing a character do something that I have a habit of doing makes her actions all the more real- and scarier, because I can actually see someone do something like that. Like me for example.
When Ana pulls up into her subdivision, she greets her neighbor's cute little girl: Vivian. (Her name, ironically means lively, or full of life. Heh.)
After a steamy, gratuitous "date night," Ana crawls into bed with her husband Luis.
The next morning, at dawn, Vivian appears in their home looking like this:
Then all hell breaks loose.
Ana's husband is bit by zombie Vivian, and then bleeds to death before Ana can even get through to
9-1-1. I loved that detail- the emergency phone service was so busy with panic calls from other people that are being attacked that all she gets is a recorded message.
Before you watch the clips of the opening action sequences, it's important to note that this was the first time that the chaos, violence, insanity and utter panic of the initial start of the wide-spread zombie outbreak in a metropolitan area has accurately been portrayed on film. People get into car accidents left and right, there's blood and gore everywhere. Buildings are on fire, gas stations are exploding. There is panic in the streets. The undead are loose running, chasing at top speed, and colliding with people, tackling them to the ground and devouring them alive.
There is nowhere to run, and nowhere to hide. (Well, except the mall. Crossroads mall. As in, the crossroads, where you meet with the Devil at midnight to make a deal with him. That kind of crossroads.)
Watch Ana and Luis get attacked by Vivian!
After Ana crashes her car, there is a montage of zombie news footage, accompanied by "The Man Comes Around" by Johnny Cash, which sets the tone for the rest of the film and is absolutely amazing to watch.
When I first saw this in the theater, and the camera panned out to expand the view of the city being attacked by zombies, I was hooked. The beginning of "Dawn of the Dead" (2004) is definitely the best zombie movie opening ever made.