(dir. George Romero)
|United Film Distribution Company|
*First time viewing
In the midst of the zombie apocalypse, communication breaks down between scientists and soldiers in military base.
There seems to be a general consensus that out of Romero’s famed Dead trilogy (Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead, Day of the Dead) that this film is the weakest of the three. I’m going to the counter that notion and suggest that not only is Day of the Dead just as strong as its predecessors, it’s also the most interesting. With so much of our zombie media focused on either revisiting the themes, aesthetics, and design of Romero’s films, or aping them, so few actually take the chance to push the ideas forward. Day of the Dead was that forward motion 31 years ago, and while it’s less action-oriented than Dawn and less shocking than Night, Day of the Dead is the most intelligent.
The focus on the human element has always been a key factor of what made Romero’s zombie films work. Night took a look regional rural prejudices, Dawn examined mass consumerism in the U.S. ln Day, the conflict is global, focusing on the moral and spiritual battle of warfare, science, and ambivalence, with each of the characters falling on a different side of this conflict as their inability to communicate with each other leads to tragedy. Of all Romero’s zombie films, Day of the Dead clearly had the most influence on The Walking Dead, both the comic and show. Alongside the moral conundrums that our characters at the end of the world face, there is also the added factor that zombies can be taught, they can learn, and retain memories of their previous selves. The film makes no effort to hide its Frankenstein angle, with the lead scientist being nicknamed Frankenstein, but regardless of the overt allusion the result is no less effective. Bub, the smart zombie, is a fascinating furthering of the zombie lore. The scenes of him holding and firing a gun are evocative and powerful, not only in the sense that zombies are capable of this but that the true root of humanity, stripped away of life as we know it, is violent. The film may end on slight uptick of positivity, but humanity’s capabilities for warfare wins out in the end, and everyone loses because of it. That may be the most horrifying angle Romero has ever explored.
Scare Factor: 2/5 More cerebral than Romero’s previous Dead films, and less timeless in terms of acting and music, Day of the Dead remains a powerful conclusion to a great thematic trilogy. And Savini, with an assist from Nicotero, delivers the best make-up and gore of the trilogy with this film. Don’t mistake this for lesser Romero, it’s a classic.
**Available to watch on Hulu