I actually didn’t even realize I had never seen Day of the Dead until the Scream Factory bluray came out a few weeks ago. I picked it up, because I pick up every single title Scream Factory releases (I may have to write an article about those guys at some point because man do they ever deserve it), put it to the side, and then it slowly dawned on me that I wasn’t sure if I had ever actually watched the movie. I’ve definitely seen Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead, I was even positive I had watched the Day of the Dead remake from 2008 and had absolutely hated it.
So I fired this movie up to verify if I had seen it and sure enough, I have not! So it’s today’s movie! See how that worked?! Ahhhh!
Day of the Dead takes place when the world is fucked and we are outnumbered by zombies about 400,000 to 1. The opening sequence sets the stage perfectly, showing rundown and abandoned streets where money is just blowing around because it’s useless now. Also there’s an alligator running around. I don’t think it was a zombie alligator, though I can’t be certain. How has zombie alligators not been a movie plot yet? Or zombie animals at all? Or has it? Should I start writing the script right now? Either way, clearly humans are having a bad go of it, with the last of the government and military being forced to operate in underground bunkers.
This movie takes place almost entirely in one of those bunkers and features only a handful of characters, though apparently the scale of the movie was originally meant to be much larger. Down here, a scientist who everyone refers to as Frankenstein because apparently they aren’t the creative types, is experimenting on zombies with the idea that they can be domesticated. They have a group of zombies corralled in a mine for the purpose of these experiments. The military group, headed by Col. Rhodes, is none too psyched about these experiments and feels that the zombies should just be shot in the face and be done with. Hence, conflict!
Ok let’s get the negative out of the way first – the movie can definitely be a little slow at times. With almost the entire thing taking place in one location with only a few characters, there’s a lot of time spent with them sitting around and taking about how much it sucks that this is their situation. I’m not opposed to the idea of a zombie movie featuring a lot of dialogue, and it can often be interesting to hear characters reminisce about how things used to be, but here it does tend to make the proceedings drag occasionally.
On the flip side, for the most part the characters are interesting, with the highlight definitely being Col. Rhodes. This guy may just be one of the biggest assholes ever put on film. In one of the first scenes he has, he is threatening to have the female scientist shot because she tries to leave a meeting early and then won’t sit back down in her chair. The guy is almost cartoonish in his villainy but it makes him fun to watch and even though you hate him, you almost don’t want to see him go.
The other most interesting character is the zombie Bub. Bub is one of Frankenstein’s experiments and the closest he has come to proving his theory that zombies can in fact be tamed. Bub does not freak out and try and get all up in people’s brains, and has even been trained to use a gun, read a book (Salem’s Lot, good pick Bub) and listen to a Walkman. Bub is awesome and may be the best zombie acting performance in zombie movie history.
The gore is done by Tom Savini who did the effects for Dawn of the Dead as well. I’ve always heard about how fantastic the gore in this movie is, and had already seen what is easily the most famous death scene (not just in this movie but of all-time), but wow I had no idea the extent of how good they are. You got guts falling out of both humans and zombies, heads being cut in half horizontally, and all sorts of other bloody disgusting. How could anyone see this and ever think CGI is better than practical? I know this is like the tenth review now where I’ve brought that up but this is the shiniest example yet! Bah!
Despite some slow patches and a disappointingly smaller scale following Dawn of the Dead, Day of the Dead is a good one thanks to memorable characters and fantastic gore effects. Plus the idea of domesticating zombies is a unique one. I don’t think I’m going to blow anyone’s mind when I say this one is definitely worth checking out.