Thursday, May 29, 2014

Movie Review: Day of the Dead (1985)

WARNING!  I am about to rip on what is considered a classic horror film.  Please try to restrain your horror-nerd rage.

 Day of the Dead is George Romero's third "Dead" film (preceded by Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead).  Like the previous two films, the aim of this story is to re-enforce that we humans are the real monsters, that extreme pressures on us result in either the best or the worst of us coming to the forefront, and that the end is inevitable.  Night of the Living Dead set the standard for this kind of story and is without a doubt a horror film classic.  Dawn of the Dead applied a bigger budget to the same concept with spectacular results.  Day of the Dead... well, kind of falls flat in my opinion.  

I had this professor in college.
 The situation which first arose in Night of the Living Dead is now almost certainly beyond hope.  The dead are coming back to life to cannibalize the living.  In an underground military facility, scientists with the protection of a small military unit are struggling to find a means to reverse the zombie-epidemic, but hope is dwindling.  Only a handful of the original team survives to continue the effort, and the number of dead outside the fence-line is on the rise.  Tensions run high as everyone is at their breaking-point... Blah, blah, blah.

 You've been here before.  You know the heroine is going to find a way to stand against the corrupt soldiers and with her misfit friends somehow make the best of a bad situation.  All the assholes in this film, and the characters are almost all one variation or another on the asshole-theme, will get killed and eaten.  There just isn't a lot of depth to these characters.

Dead on the inside.
 First, I want to focus on the military unit.  The only explanation for these guys; out of shape, beards, long hair, mismatched and poorly worn uniforms, is that they are the worst of the local National Guard or Reserve units that were available.  The CO who made the decision to post these guys in the bunker must have thought it was a scrub-detail, so he sent his worst soldiers.  With the world falling apart around them, a real military unit tightens-up on discipline and takes their job more seriously.  

My first time hearing Slayer, I had the same reaction.
 One of those jobs, for example, is collecting specimens from a pen deep in the underground bunker.  It is a dangerous job requiring at least three people, but if you have more people on hand to do it, what would be the harm in having as many hands on deck?  In fact, would it not make it safer to have a couple of extra bodies with guns ready to drop the zombie if things don't go as they should?  You are beneath a massive concrete slab with no access from above other than a cargo lift that you control, so no one is on guard duty or engaged in other tasks.  

 I know, I know... I am over-thinking it.  The heroine is a bit of a bitch and not really that likeable.  Her strung-out boyfriend is overly pathetic.  The cowboy Captain comes off as a street-tough with his two toadies for good measure.  The Jamaican helicopter pilot is the epitome of cool, the lead scientist is as "mad" as any other... You get the idea.  Everyone here is a caricature of a caricature.
 
Even he saw this coming.
 The special effects are believable and not overly done.  The zombies are hardly a factor until the films finale, and then it just seems to be a showcase of the special effects artist's skills in making zombies and edible body parts.  

 I know that this is akin to sacrilege to some, but of all the Dead movies to date, this is one by George Romero that you could afford to skip.  Bub is cool and all, but doesn't make-up for what the film lacks.   


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