Day of the Dead (1985) **
D: George A. Romero
C: Lori Cardille, Terry Alexander, Joseph Pilato, Jarlath Conroy, Anthony Dileo Jr., Richard Liberty, Sherman Howard
Plot Synopsis: The living dead regroup above while humans (Lori Cardille, Terry Alexander, Joseph Pilato) sweat it out below in a Florida missile silo.
Review: In 1968, George A. Romero directed Night of the Living Dead, a film that set the standard for zombie films that followed. In 1979, Romero followed Night of the Living Dead with Dawn of the Dead, a film that used zombies as a catalyst to show how consumerism is turning good, hard working people into brain dead zombies. Dawn also toyed with our emotions by making zombies frightening, silly, heroic and even forgotten. And now, in 1985, Romero has decided to unleash more zombies upon the movie going public with Day of the Dead.
The film starts out stylishly enough with an opening sequence that descends upon a post apocalyptic world. Trash is thrown all over the place. The streets are empty. Buildings have been ravaged. There's no sign of life anywhere. It's an eerie scene. From there, a group of characters lock themselves in an underground bunker. Some of the characters include military officers, a scientist and even a zombie that's being experimented on. That's when things begin to fall apart.
The tension & claustrophobia that was evoked in the farm house setting of Night of the Living Dead is long gone. Romero fails to bring life to this underground bunker setting in the way that he brought life to a shopping mall in Dawn of the Dead. There's a few shoot outs. There's a few zombie attacks, but all the good stuff is saved for the finale. Instead, most of the running time is spent on characters arguing with one another about their overall predicament. This grows tedious rather quick as the good guys want to do one thing and the bad guys wanting to do the exact opposite. Once each side establishes their point of view, they argue with each other some more. Then after they argue about their point of view some more, they argue yet again and again ....and again. Well, you get the point.
You know you're in trouble when the most compelling character is a zombie! This zombie, that's being experimented on, has far more depth and emotional complexity then any other character on screen. We watch as this zombie moves past the point of just wanting to eat people. As a zombie, he has to re-learn everything that he was taught as a human. The zombie pokes and prods. He learns and develops a sense of curiosity out of his learning experiences. The zombie begins to develop feelings such as joy, sadness, frustration and anger. He even experiences the feeling of wanting revenge and he executes that revenge in an eye opening moment. The zombie has more substance then all the other characters combined. It's a shame that the zombie wasn't the main focus. I'm sure they could've created an intriguing, even philosophical film around this zombie, but, alas, they don't.
After the characters argue some more, Romero arrives at an arbitrary finale in which the zombies are able to penetrate the underground bunker. Even though the finale is, more or less, a given, Romero and special effects master Tom Savini pull out all the stops. People are devoured. They're ribbed limb for limb. All of this is brought to life in graphically gory detail. The finale is tantalizingly violent and serves as a showcase two fold. First, it shows Romero's ability to stage effective set pieces. Second, it shows Savini's impressive makeup skills as all of this carnage unfolds in one squirm inducing moment after another. It's all the more effective, because the special effects look realistic.
There are glimpses of greatness in Day of the Dead. The finale proves that, as do the special effects, the zombie character and the opening sequence. However, just as quickly as those glimpses of greatness appear, they just as quickly disappear. In between, the film meanders from one boring or repetitious scenario much like the zombies that occupy this production. [Not Rated] 100 minutes.
Review: Dawn of the Dead (1979)
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