Most remakes ultimately prove to be unnecessary, but every once in a while one comes along that lives up to the legacy of its source material. This year’s Dawn of the Dead had a lot to live up to. The 1978 George Romero flick on which it’s based is a bona fide horror classic and itself a sequel to another genre classic, Night of the Living Dead.

The new Dawn of the Dead keeps the basic premise of the 1978 film – in which a group of people band together in a mall while zombies take over the outside world – but becomes its own film thanks to sharp direction by newcomer Zack Snyder, solid writing and good performances from a cast that includes Sarah Polley, Jake Weber, Mekhi Phifer and Ving Rhames.

The original Dawn was praised for its satire of consumer life, and scenes of zombies riding up and down escalators were interpreted as commentary on the mall culture of the 1970s. The new Dawn works better as a straight-ahead action film, mixed with a surprisingly credible survival story. It may be too gory for some viewers but those with strong stomachs are likely to be pleasantly surprised by this rare Hollywood ride that doesn’t insult the intelligence of its viewers.

The DVD release is available in wide and full screen versions and in both the original R-rated theatrical cut and a brand new unrated director’s cut that includes nine minutes of new footage. Special features include a commentary with Snyder and producer Eric Newman, deleted scenes and bonus footage that expands upon bits of news footage and videotape partially used in the film. Also included on the unrated editions are some behind-the-scenes featurettes on the film’s gory makeup effects.

DVD Grade: A-

Dawn of the Dead is currently available.