Day of the Dead review by The Grim Ringler

Widely (and falsely) regarded by many as the final film in director George Romero’s living dead trilogy, Day is also considered the weakest entry to this seminal horror series and, well, it’s hard to argue with that. I mean, you have the first film, Night of the Living Dead, which brought social commentary to a genre that was usually just about wacky monsters and people who loved them. Next came Dawn of the Dead, which also had social commentary but added over the top gore and an almost comic book atmosphere to the living dead/horror genre and managed to change the way horror films were viewed. So yeah, I can see why Day would be the ugly stepchild of the bunch. This isn’t to say though that Day is in any way a bad film or is indeed a weak film in this ‘trilogy’, and it may in fact be the grimmest and thought provoking of all the entries into the series.

Day of the Dead finds mankind on the verge of losing an undeclared war against the living dead, Man's own inability to work together and stop this crisis before it became and epidemic becoming the very thing that seems as if it will undo humankind. The film focuses on a small band of scientists and military personnel holed up in an underground military base in the hopes of finding survivors as well as some answers concerning the living dead that have taken over the earth. The war against the dead though is taking its toll and as the hope of a scientific solution begins to fade the military begin exerting more and more power in a push for total control of the facility. There is hope though, albeit not the hope those at the facility are seeking, in the work being done by a scientist those at the facility call Frankenstein. Unlike the other scientists in the base Frankenstein has focused his research on teaching the zombies to behave, and while his progress is terribly slow, one has indeed started learning how to ‘behave’ and, as several of the people see, the zombie, named Bub, is slowly starting to act human again, a think none of them are keen to see. Time runs out for those in the base though when, through a series of mishaps involving the deaths of several soldiers due to sloppy work procedures with the zombies, it’s discovered that Dr. Frankenstein has been feeding Bub the remains of several soldiers and has even gone so far as to use the dead soldiers as research material. In a fit of rage the commander of the facility kills Frankenstein and decides it’s time to commandeer the helicopter and its pilot and get he and his men out of this facility that has suddenly become a tomb and to hell with anyone he leaves behind. His plan isn’t as easy as he hopes though as one of his own men, bitten by a zombie, escapes to the surface of the base to open the gates and let the dead in, as below, the pilot fights back himself as his two friends, a.k.a. the people that would have been left behind, fight for their lives in a cave filled with the living dead.

At its heart, Day really is the 'best' of the three films. It has more to say, has more craft behind it, and has a lot more to say about the erosion of society. Sadly, this is also the most ‘boring’ entry into the series, which gives it its bad name. You can tell, too, that the change in direction the film was forced to take also weighed heavily on the resulting film. Once upon a time Day of the Dead was to be much, much grander and was meant to be set on an island where the army was using zombies as soldiers, alas, the money fell through (not many people want to put up seven mill for a movie destined to be unrated and thus unpublicized), so Romero changed the script, focused it more on a small band of survivors (as he had before) and made a smaller film. The acting here, like the other films in the trilogy is never earth-shattering but is never outright bad either, though some of it does teeter on the edge of going over the top. And as always, the special effects are simply amazing, FX artist Tom Savini truly outdoing himself on this film and bringing an eerie reality to the zombies that hadn’t really been in the films before.

The film itself looks very good and has a very clear picture so you can see each and every intestine slurped up with glee. The same goes for the sound, which still sounds very cheesy but does work for the film. The extras on the two-disc set feature two commentaries – one by the director, Savini, the female lead, and another production member, and is a very interesting love fest about the making of the movie. The second commentary features director Roger Avery waxing romantic about his love for the film. Beyond that are several photo galleries, the film’s trailers, several featurettes on the making of the film, a copy of the script available as DVD-Rom material, and just about everything you could hope to see about Day.

This really is a lovingly put together edition of a very misunderstood film. It seems like an obvious candidate for the Special Edition treatment but cheers to Anchor Bay for giving the goods and treating Day of the Dead with the respect it deserves. Now all we have to do is wait patiently for the real final film of the series to be made and can occupy ourselves with questions like – is Anchor Bay really going out of the DVD business and why the hell aren’t people buying the domestic rights for Battle Royale and some of the more obscure horror gems from America and abroad?

Ahh, so much to ponder these days for us horror nerds.


8 out of 10 Jackasses
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