Sunday, October 21, 2012

Day of the Dead (1985) Review

Day of the Dead poster
Director: George A. Romero
Stars: Lori Cardille, Terry Alexander, Joseph Pilato, Jarlath Conroy
Genre: Horror

The final film of Romero's original Trilogy of the Dead, which is, in my opinion, the greatest horror trilogy ever.

The film follows a group of survivors living in an underground Army base. We have a lot of different survivors here; the rugged military guys, the scientists, the mad scientist, the wise black man, and some alcoholic guy. This is perhaps what makes the film so good, the character variety.

As with all the original Romero zombie films, they're films not about the zombies, but rather about the people surrounded by them. In Day of the Dead we get to see how the situation would be handled by various people. We see how it would be handled militarily, scientifically, and even religiously. The military with their guns and aggressive nature with a seeming lack of logic. The scientists with their rationality and experiments but their sometimes questionable means. Or the two religious guys, who seemed to be somewhere in the middle.

We get to see the scientific angle most prominently, which is good because it is definitely the most interesting.   The experiments and tests they do on the zombies is actually quite fascinating. They even try, and somewhat succeed, in training and domesticating a zombie. We learn a lot more about zombies here than in the first two.

The zombies are much more humanized and easier to sympathize with here also. We see them being abused and I admittedly did feel a bit of sorrow for them. We also learn that they do in fact maintain their memories from their past live, which, obviously, makes them more human. It was a nice addition.

The zombies here look better than ever and are definitely the most graphic of the trilogy. The zombies don't just have painted faces like the last two, they have torn flesh and drooping faces. It's awesome. The makeup effects and gore are excellent, even better than the first two. Much compliments to Tom Savini, returning from Dawn of the Dead. There really are some pretty gruesome parts and chilling imagery. Awesome death scenes too. 

A zombie from Day of the Dead

In my opinion this one is more similar to Night of the Living Dead than Dawn was. Just like Night we have different parties constantly fighting each other in a power struggle and ultimately killing each other. Some of the scenes even reminded me of Night, like some of the shots when the zombies were hunched over eating flesh was very reminiscent of the basement scene in Night.

There are a few cheap jump scares in here, but nothing too much, and they actually kind of work well. There are some parts where it was only a brief dream, but this is okay because it's not just there to have some cheap scare and weird scene, it's actually used as a plot device and progresses the story along.

The characters are excellent and so is the character development and psychology. Almost every character is memorable; the scum bag leader, the guy who looks like Walter from the Big Lebowski, the madly zany scientist, even the zombies are more memorable and distinguished. The woman character here is much stronger and intelligent than the women in the previous entries. Which is definitely a welcomed addition.

Dr. Logan, the mad scientist from Day of the Dead

This film is not without it's political statements, though maybe not as prominent as in the last two. Ultimately the film shows that lack of cooperation with one another will kill us faster than any apocalyptic scenario will.

The cast here is filled with unknowns (just the way I like my horror casts) and they do a pretty damned good acting job, which really do their characters justice. 

The soundtrack here is almost as awesome as it was in Dawn, if not as awesome. It compliments the film and helps build a superb atmosphere.

Some complain that the film is a bit slower paced, which I suppose is true, but it's not without good reason. The slower pace allows for great tension, character development, atmosphere building, and more, all while still managed to gave tons of killing and gore. Pretty impressive of you ask me.

Zombie arms tear through the wall in Day of the Dead

Day of the Dead is often viewed as a good film, but the weakest of the trilogy. I'd have to disagree with that and say that Day of the Dead is as good as its predecessors, if not better. Very much worth watching. 

4.5/5 stars


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