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Thursday, October 11, 2012

Day 285: Day Of The Dead

Day Of The Dead
I can't wait for Afternoon Snack Time Of The Dead

It's no secret that I love zombie movies, particularly ones by George Romero. There is just something special about them with their mixture of violence, gore, believable characters, and social commentary that speaks to me. Say what you will about his recent efforts, but you will find yourself hard pressed to find anyone that hates Night Of The Living Dead and Dawn Of The Dead. It's the third movie in the “Dead” series that doesn't always receive universal praise. Is there something so wrong with the movie for it not to be as beloved as the first two?

Day Of The Dead is a 1985 zombie movie written and directed by George Romero (Monkey Shines, Bruiser) and serves as the third movie in the “...Of The Dead” series. The movie stars Lori Cardille (Tales From The Darkside, Ryan's Hope) as Dr. Sarah Bowman and Joseph Pilato (Pulp Fiction, Wishmaster) as Captain Rhodes. A short time after the events in Dawn Of The Dead, the world has been overrun with zombies. A small group of soldiers and scientists have holed-up in an underground military base in Florida. Sarah, along with helicopter pilot John (Terry Alexander, Conspiracy Theory, Deadline) mechanic McDermott (Jarlath Conroy, True Grit, Law & Order) and emotionally-fragile solider Miguel explore a city in hopes of finding any survivors but are only met by zombies. The lead scientist, Dr. Logan (Richard Liberty, The Crazies, Flight Of The Navigator), believes that the zombies can be trained to become docile and has been experimenting on undead specimens. Tensions grow between the scientists and soldiers as Logan's results fail to impress Captain Rhodes. During a mission to capture more zombies, two soldiers are killed and Miguel is bitten in the arm. Sarah amputates his arm, but is unsure if she stopped the infection in time. Rhodes calls for the experiments to be stopped, but Dr. Logan has been working with his prized experiment, whom he named Bub. Bub has show more progress than any other zombie, showing his ability to remember things from his life and learn new things. To reward bub, Dr. Logan has been feeding him body parts from deceased soldiers. When Captain Rhodes learns what has been happening, he takes his revenge out on the doctor, Sarah, John, and McDermott. Between the psychotic Rhodes and the swarms of killer zombies, how will they survive?

Aaahhh! Cold hands! Cold hands!

The third movie in a trilogy is always the most difficult one to pull off. People have fallen in love with the first two movies and expectations are sky-high for the final movie. Originally, George Romero wanted Day Of The Dead to be the “Gone With The Wind” of zombie films, but due to the budget being halved, the story had to be scaled back significantly. What we get instead is a zombie movie with a lot of talking, but still plenty of violence. When I say a lot of talking, I mean a lot of talking. The points made and the character development are all necessary, but they drag on a little too long in certain parts. The movie is only 100 minutes long but it feels much longer. The movie has plenty of Romero-style commentary on subjects ranging from sexism and racism to the military and the selfishness of man. Every good zombie movie requires social commentary and Day Of The Dead provides plenty. One difference I noticed between Day and the two previous films as that it was set in an unfamiliar place. Night Of The Living Dead took place in a house and Dawn Of The Dead took place mainly in a mall. Day, though was in a drab underground bunker. The first two movies had a familiarity in it's settings and allowed the audience to relate to the characters' situation. Here, we have scientists and soldiers safe underground. The struggle for survival is reduced because the characters are not the “everyman” like in the previous films.

Possibly the biggest success in the movie is the extreme violence and gore thanks to makeup and effects guru Tom Savini. Savini is at the top of his game with realistic blood and organs being strewn about like party decorations. The final half hour is full of incredible death scenes and show why CGI and computer effects can never replace traditional horror makeup. The zombies all look great and Romero manages to include some funny ones like a bride and a member of a marching band. Romero's direction is very good, capturing every emotion, every nuance, and every bit of disturbing violence. The acting is pretty good throughout, though I can see where some may dislike some of the soldiers. They can be seen as too over-the-top and goofy, but one could attribute their actions to their hopeless situation. If anything, they don't look like soldiers at all and you can even surmise that they are, in fact, not soldiers at all, though that is never actually implied. 

Zombie with a gun: The ultimate killing machine

Despite not being quite as good at Night and Dawn, Day Of The Dead is still a really, really good horror movie. There is a reason why the movie has a sequel and a remake as well as multiple references in music and pop culture. George Romero does a great job directing and the acting is good as well. The social commentary is solid and the story is enjoyable enough, though not as relatable as the first two movies. Tom Savini does a fantastic job with his makeup and effects. The zombies look great and the gore is still impressive to this day. The movie does tend to be a bit wordy and can feel much longer than it is, but overall, it's an extremely entertaining zombie movie.


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