Day of the Dead
Updated: Jul 19, 2021
The 269th review overall!
I’ve always been a big fan of the zombie genre. As far as horror monsters go, I’ve probably seen more zombie movies than any other ones. Slow zombies, fast zombies, smart zombies even movies where zombies are pets, I’ve even wrote a zombie horror novel. What I’m saying, the monster has a lot of mileage. We can thank George Romero and a tiny independent film for that. With that in mind, I felt it necessary to review his least well known of the Dead trilogy, so I decided to watch...
Day of the Dead (1985). Family Video.
People say zombies aren’t scary, I disagree. If you’re grappling with a monster, hell even if it’s Michael Myers, it will try to protect itself. If Michael is on top of you strangling you and you manage to stab him in the leg, it’s going to buy you some time. While struggling it will take time to stop you from fighting back giving you a second to think of a way to escape. A zombie will not. If it’s on top of you, it’s not thinking at all about self-preservation it is only trying to bite you. Outside of destroying its brain, you can’t hurt it. It will keep coming, and coming without any regard for its well being. They may be slow and clumsy, but if one gets ahold of you, it’s one of the most dangerous monsters out there, if you falter for a spilt second, you’re toast.
Anyway, let’s get to the movie. It’s the final in the trilogy, preceded by Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead. The war between humans and zombies did not go well, in fact, humanity lost. The dead own the land, one scientist ballparks it that there are 400,000 zombies to every one human. Someone did the math, that would mean that there are only about 600 Americans still alive.
There’s no telling how much time has passed since the first movie and it doesn’t ever say how humanity fell. Just know that at some point, a team of scientists and a small military squad to protect them are holding up in an underground bunker. Like I mentioned earlier, there’s no telling exactly how long they’ve been down there, but it’s been awhile. Food and resources are dwindling, people are dying and the experiments aren’t seeing much progress. Everyone underground is sick and tired of everything but they know there’s no where to go. It’s a very nihilistic movie, they’re trapped, stuck with each other, the only humans alive for hundreds of miles, running low on bullets and food seemingly just waiting to die.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t talk about “Bub.” While the protagonist is searching for a cure of the outbreak, the scientist they call “Frankenstein” (for obvious reasons), has it in his mind that he can domesticate them either by surgery or conditioning. It’s by far the most interesting thing the movie has going for it. You watch Dr. Logan and “Bub” go through their experiments and it’s a cool twist seeing Bub remembering his past life. Also, this movie seems to do the impossible, I actually felt bad for the monster. Later in the movie, when all Hell breaks loose, Bub gets out. When he finds the body of Dr. Logan, it’s... sad. I legitimately felt sad, not for the doctor, who suffered an extremely overkill death, but for the reanimated corpse that feasts on human flesh. It was... weird.
The setting is perfect for what they’re going for and just adds to the sense of dread. At the beginning the group is trying to round up survivors anywhere, but all you see is an abandoned city. Then the next moment it’s nothing but slow-moving zombies lining up for dinner. Then the “safety” they retreat to isn’t much better. You have Captain Rhodes, who is just a really big asshole to everyone. You get the feeling he used to be an OK guy, but the stress of the situation, plus seeing his friends killed for people that aren’t producing pisses him off. I also can’t really blame him for what finally breaks him. He does get a bad ass death though. He gets ambushed by a group of zombies who start to literally tear him apart. When they get to his intestines he starts yelling, “Choke on them!” Which was an adlib by the actor.
Another mark in this movie’s favor, it has exceptional blood and gore effects. On a shoestring budget, Tom Savini puts on a master class. For awhile there’s not much zombie action, it’s more of a character movie, but when everything goes bad the gore gets dialed up to 10. It’s hard to put into words exactly how to describe it, but the effects are wonderfully done. Even Dr. Logan’s lab, where you see his surgeries, you realize, in gruesome detail, why the call him “Frankenstein”. I’m not the biggest fan of gore for gore’s sake, but this is a zombie movie where the baddies are trying to eat you, it really does need it.
I liked this movie a lot. After Dawn of the Dead’s mall setting, it was an interesting choice to use such a claustrophobic setting. You’re plopped into the movie well passed the point of when the characters pretended to tolerate each other, so every time one faction is dealing with the other it’s incredibly tense and you’re worried these people are going to kill each other before we get any zombie action, thankfully when the action does come, damn does it deliver.
It’s about as bleak a film I can remember watching, but still, it’s really good and definitely worth a watch!