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Day of the Dead (1985)
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by Mel Valentin

"Nothing to see here, folks. Move along. Ok, there is the gore."
2 stars

The commercial success of George A. Romeroís gore-splattered, unrated "Dawn of the Dead" in 1978 (itself a sequel to "Night of the Living Dead," released ten years earlier) guaranteed that Romeroís producers would ask for and Romero would deliver another film in what appeared to be a trilogy (the recent release of "Land of the Dead" means the first three films are now just part of a series). Romero delivered the asked-for sequel, "Day of the Dead" in 1985, but not before accepted half of the projected seven million dollar budget to direct a scaled down, but nonetheless gory (and still unrated) film featuring the ravenous undead he made famous in the first two films in the series. Romeroís decision to rewrite his script to fit the smaller scale, a triumph of artistic integrity over commercialism, proved to be his undoing. The smaller budget guaranteed less-talented actors, negligible rehearsal time, and a minimal number of takes. Sadly, the end result is a seriously flawed, compromised film, notable primarily for its effective, realistic makeup effects (by frequent Romero collaborator, Tom Savini).

As Day of the Dead opens, an airborne reconnaissance party scours an abandoned metropolis for survivors from the zombie plague. The plague, it seems, has left humans at a serious disadvantage (to the ratio of 400,000 to 1). The apocalypse has come and gone and the undead have won. Isolated human communities may and, in at least one instance, do exist, but all communication has been lost. One makeshift community, comprised of scientists, a military attachment, and two civilians, were tasked by the U.S. government to conduct research on the cause of the plague, with the goal of either limiting or ending the plague, or (somehow) controlling the undead. Months, however, have passed since the last official communication. For all the survivors in this community know, they may be the last survivors on earth. These survivors, however, are well protected from the zombies, living in a secure underground bunker (in actuality, a former limestone mine turned underground storage facility located near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania).

Among the survivors are Sarah (Lori Cardille), a scientist researching the cause of the plague, Dr. Logan (Richard Liberty), a scientist with a different approach to the problem: domesticating the undead by using highly unorthodox methods. The underground bunker is guarded by a military attachment, led by the volatile, neurotic Captain Rhodes (Joseph Pilato). As expected, the soldiers are faceless stereotypes, with the exception of the cigar-chewing Private Steel (Gary Howard Klar) and the round-bodied Private Rickles (Ralph Marrero). Sarah has an ongoing, if rapidly deteriorating relationship, with the drug-addicted, world-weary Miguel (Anthony Dileo Jr.), another low-ranking soldier. Two civilians, John (Terry Alexander), a helicopter pilot, and William McDermott (Jarlath Conroy), a communications engineer, round out the principal characters.

Secure in their underground bunker, conflict doesnít come from the undead attempting to break into the facility for one last meal, except as subjects for Dr. Loganís experiments. Some zombies are kept in a pen like livestock, culled from the herd of undead when necessary. One in particular, Bub (Sherman Howard) has begin to show signs of self-awareness and the ability to take direction from Dr. Logan. Logan, never one for personal hygiene (he walks around absent-mindedly in a blood-soaked smock that raises more than one eyebrow among the other survivors), strongly argues that the only alternative left to the survivors is to live with and domesticate the undead. Sarah disagrees. Captain Rhodes wants to simply give up and disband their dysfunctional community.

As in the first two films in the series, the ambulatory, hungry undead are a lesser, if no less potent, threat than the threat posed inside the claustrophobic community by internal conflict between the military, the scientists, and the civilians. Without communication to the outside world, the social order begins to collapse until the inevitable confrontation between the survivors and the undead (with the number of survivors dwindling down to less than handful). The undead, significantly stronger here than in the first two films, overwhelm, then tear apart their prey, literally limb from limb (an opportunity makeup effects artist Tom Savini handles with tremendous, if nauseating, skill).

Day of the Dead falters in several key ways. First, the storyline effectively makes the undead an almost invisible threat until the third act. The undead donít (and canít) break into the secure underground facility, lingering quietly outside a chained fence that surrounds the aboveground entrance to the facility. Instead, their return to center stage depends on an unhinged characterís irrational behavior (suicide may be understandable, but dooming all the survivors, including those who have treated him sympathetically, to a violent death isnít). Both Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead benefited from both a single set surrounded by the undead and a continuing, palatable sense of danger from the undead, even as in-fighting proved a greater threat to survival.

Second, Day of the Dead probably features the worst acting of the three films, with special mention to the over-the-top hysterics of the actors who portray Rhodes, Steel, and Rickles. As Dr. Logan (nicknamed Dr. Frankenstein for his gruesome experiments), Richard Liberty isnít above histrionics, but his performance matches his role more closely. Surprisingly, Sherman Howard as Bub proves to be the single most sympathetic character in the entire film. Understandably, Romero had limited acting talent on hand and minimal rehearsal time, but he still could (and should have) obtained more controlled, less hammy performances from his underprepared cast.

Third, due to the low budget and a revamped script, Romero was forced to depend on static, dialogue-heavy scenes to advance the storyline from the moment the recon team returns to the underground bunker to the final confrontation with the undead. Most scenes turn on characters entering a static space (Romeroís camerawork leaves a great deal to be desired), arguing over what they should do, with one or more characters exiting the scene angrily. Repeat scene, ad nauseum. With a larger budget and his original script, Romero could have opened up the action to the outside world, increasing the personal risk to the characters as they, for example, continued to search for survivors to bring back to the underground facility. The ending too, while positive, repeats the scene of characters fleeing by helicopter found in "Dawn of the Dead." There, it was far more ambiguous, leaving the characters directionless and low on fuel, suspended in mid-air. In "Day of the Dead," Romero strips away the ambiguity, leaving the remaining characters with a possibly brighter future ahead. Sadly, Romero didnít use the far more powerful, moving ending contained in his original script, where hope lies with the first character to die and remain dead.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=2096&reviewer=402
originally posted: 08/14/05 04:57:43
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User Comments

8/15/11 Chris F A bit slow but not bad overall 4 stars
6/20/11 art watch european zombie flick's like the drive-in's used to show,instead! 1 stars
11/05/10 Josie Cotton is a goddess Acting could have been better, but Romero's overall vision won me over. Also, great gore! 4 stars
1/01/10 art WHITE ZOMBIE from 1932,is the only true zombie flick,I DIG BUB THE ZOMBIE! 1 stars
12/25/09 Chad Dillon Cooper A good movie with great fx. 5 stars
10/20/09 Jason Best movie ever made. Shakespearian quallity dialogs 5 stars
10/04/09 art BUB THE ZOMBIE WAS A REAL "CHARMER" 1 stars
4/23/09 FrankNFurter What's scarier-human nature or the zombies? A profound vision on the dark side of humanity. 4 stars
1/31/09 lo& I think this movie is very underrated,great characters,good dialogue. 4 stars
12/18/08 Craig D. No, action movie fan, Resident Evil is "a boring, routine zombie movie." Day is great. 4 stars
6/07/08 action movie fan great gore from tom savaini but little else-a boring routine zombie movie 2 stars
5/30/08 Peter Romero at his best, pre-modern sucky self. 5 stars
9/27/07 Paul kersey brilliant 5 stars
9/27/07 Paul kersey Awesome movie 5 stars
9/27/07 Paul kersey Awesome movie 5 stars
10/24/06 Drew G Needed a lot more zombie action... 2 stars
9/21/06 Lisa Craven Doesn't even come close to Night of the Living Dead, average gorefest 3 stars
9/20/06 Pritchett Not bad, not great, had a lot to live up to after "Dawn" - original script is better. 3 stars
8/24/06 havthat I liked this one the least of Romero's, but Bub's "humanity" was an interesting twist. 4 stars
8/09/06 Dragon The Artist A gorey, medieocre splat of entrails, thats a notch higher than popcorn flick status!!!! 4 stars
7/16/06 mark the best of the Dead movies-takes a little patience on the viewer, however 5 stars
10/26/05 chris a brilliant film although not as good as dawn 4 stars
9/28/05 Evan This is the Alien≥ of the series. 3 stars
8/19/05 Gaston Nowhere near as good as NIGHT or DAWN, obviously, but has a few merits...and that FINALE!!! 3 stars
8/05/05 Pierre Zombie masterpiece! 5 stars
7/26/05 Kankasaur 1 part film-gore + 4 parts Al Gore. Skip the speechifying if you're no Romero zombie 2 stars
7/16/05 Brandy Harrington great gore cant not make up for the retarded story and awful acting. 1 stars
7/07/05 Burt Ward as bad as Jaws: The Revenge 1 stars
6/25/05 DennyRoss Very clostrophobic - guess that was the point. Still I liked this one but I didn't love it 4 stars
4/24/05 Indrid Cold An odd, boring story. But the death scenes at the end are worth the price of admission. 4 stars
4/16/05 Kainsdisciples better than dawn gotta love bob 4 stars
2/08/05 New England Patriots = Dynasty holy hell, what a piece of shit this was. AWFUL acting...AWFUL. 1 stars
1/28/05 ralph a true movie expert 32 yrs old not as good as dawn but still a must see if you are into gore 3 stars
1/10/05 Lucas Stenz WOW! Best horror film of the 1980s 5 stars
8/18/04 Random Fuck C'mon Romero, you could've done better than that!!! 2 stars
7/04/04 Samuel damn fine film. great ending to a great trilogy! 5 stars
6/12/04 Craig Good if you have a zombie fetish like me. 3 stars
6/07/04 Ryan Clark The least of Romero 4 stars
5/01/04 dead next door i like this one better than dawn. 5 stars
4/21/04 y2mckay Bad acting, meandering script, not enough gore, Romero Lite 2 stars
4/21/04 Jack Sommersby Great gore at the end can't compensate for abrasive characters and awful acting. 2 stars
4/18/04 Zach Cussing is ok, but not 50 million times that you just start shaking your head 3 stars
4/02/04 Lord Durvok 2 Good head-pulled-off fun! 4 stars
3/27/04 Gray to slow+depressing+not a obvious moral in it 3 stars
3/19/04 truth good fx but movie sucks, even worse than Dawn, boring and pointless,NOTLD still the best 1 1 stars
12/11/03 Heather great film!! 4 stars
11/27/03 John only for die hard Romero fans - an unworthy conclusion to a great trilogy 2 stars
11/01/03 American Slasher Goddess Too talky, but it's halfway decent. 3 stars
10/03/03 g-man it has it's problems, but for me it was the most gripping entry, and my personal fave. 4 stars
9/21/03 Samuel Justus A great ending to a great trilogy! 5 stars
8/13/03 Carrier In my opinion its the best of the three. Worth a look. 5 stars
4/30/03 The Talking Elbow Bub the zombie kicked ASS 5 stars
4/18/03 Jon "Thumb the Toad" Lyrik All and all, it's an underwhelming film, but it's good things keep it on it's toes enough. 3 stars
3/01/03 y2mckay A pale follow-up to the previous classics, but still worth dusting off once in a while. 3 stars
12/28/02 Jack Sommersby Pointless, worthless crap. Bub the Zombie is a keeper, though. 2 stars
11/20/02 murat I don't care what what you say,this movie sucks .I wish romero couldn't have done it. 1 stars
5/21/02 Charles Tatum You cannot look away 4 stars
4/28/02 Eric Great zombie film has an intelligent story, excellent gore, and a superbly gripping finale. 5 stars
4/28/02 Phoenix A total bore. 1 stars
3/19/02 Aborted Gently Romero tries, but comes up short. 4 stars
1/15/02 Peter Herman this one has the darkest atmosphere of all three 5 stars
10/12/01 British Bulldog I really enjoyed this film, great special effects and characters. 5 stars
9/12/01 Elgyn I think this is every bit as good as "Dawn". 5 stars
8/06/01 E-Funk Ooh...I have a hard time making it through the first 5 HOURS of this film! Awesome Effects 4 stars
7/18/01 Ted Villavicencio a good zombie flick but far from Romero's greatest 3 stars
6/26/01 ric Definitely underrated. The last 20 minutes feature the BEST zombie action ever. 5 stars
5/02/01 Gracy Lionheart Perhaps if it was filmed the way Romero originally wanted it might have been better 3 stars
3/10/01 ryhan adams I found myself rooting for the bad guys ho should have been the good guys. Go Mr. Rhodes 4 stars
8/16/00 Rich Corle A Great film that is extremely underrated 5 stars
7/10/00 Bob Wombat Compared to Dawn of the Dead, this one was shite. 3 stars
5/26/00 Aaron Best zombie film ever!!! 5 stars
12/18/99 SID I commend Romero for the story he tried to tell, but I just didn't care about thecharacters 3 stars
9/08/99 little jerry Serious,powerful & extremely impressive.Budget cuts forced Romero to make this masterpiece. 5 stars
7/17/99 Eric Despite extreme gore, Day is one of the best horror films ever made.Surprisingly touching. 5 stars
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  02-Jul-1985 (NC-17)

  02-Feb-1986 (18)

  02-Feb-1986 (R)

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