Day of the Dead (1985)

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The dead have overrun the Earth, but in a series of underground caverns a group of scientists, military personal, and civilians have put together a lab and living areas to try and find a solution to an unsolvable problem. The third in George A. Romero’s zombie series.

Let’s talk about the military for a second. Actually, not really the military, but the Megatron like entity that forms from the combination of the military and science divisions. By itself, I’m actually grateful for the military. I bitch about a lot, like a lot, a lot, and I’m extremely grateful for my right to say anything I damn well fucking want to, and if it weren’t for those protecting that right I’d probably be shot because my mouth has an inability to shut itself. If it pops into my head I usually say it, so much as I might not care for a lot of the military’s actions around the world, I’m grateful to all who serve or have served for my right to disagree and complain about it in the first place. This zombie offers you his thanks. My problem isn’t with them, my problem is with those previously mentioned military/science team ups. You haven’t even begun to imagine the things those sons of bitches will do to a zombie. They’ve done such abominable things to my kind, rounding them up and experimenting on them as if they were some kind of fucking lab rats. Scratch that, lab rats get better treatment than us. Zombies picked up by these bastards are never heard from again. Wait, now that I think about it if they’re never heard from again then how in the hell do we know what goes on there? Maybe they get free alcohol and human flesh for the rest of their unlives. Maybe they’re all having a party. What the fuck? Now I want to know why I haven’t been rounded up. The last time suits showed up at my door all I got was a trip to a lab, some torturous experimentations, and a great big “thanks and goodbye.” My torturous lab experimentations aside, let’s get on with our third trip into Romero’s undead world.

The third film begins in a world completely overrun by the dead. In an underground military base a group of scientists, civilians, and military personal are trying to solve the problem of the living dead, but the small group is fragmenting. Our two civilians (electrical engineer Bill and helicopter pilot John) mainly stay to themselves, the military personal no longer trusts the scientists after losing their commanding officer, and the scientists all fear for their lives. This is except for lead scientist Dr. Logan who has come to believe he can retrain the undead through conditioning. Logan has the military constantly bringing him new test subjects while keeping his favorite zombie “Bub” chained to a wall. New commanding officer Captain Rhodes is growing tired of being bossed around by Logan, whose arrogance and lack of self-restraint is beginning to grate on everyone’s nerves. To make matters worse, those inhabiting the base are starting to give up hope that anyone else is left alive on the planet as they’ve been unable to get a hold of any other bases for months. As the tension grows, the already small group dwindles further, and the mental fatigue begins to become too much for some. The only thing certain is that a final showdown is inevitable, and the undead are far less dangerous to the living than the living are to themselves.

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{When this isn’t your biggest problem you really need to prioritize better}

I’ll just come out and say that this is my absolute favorite movie in George A. Romero’s zombie series. I’ll always love Night of the Living Dead, it was the first zombie movie I ever saw, and it launched a lifelong love of everything undead. Despite its flaws, despite its not having aged the greatest, Night of the Living Dead will still remain one of my favorite zombie flicks, but as far Romero zombie films go, it ranks third sadly enough. Then there’s the immensely enjoyable Dawn of the Dead, a film that I’ve come to love more and more as I’ve gotten older, despite its blue looking zombies. This one comes in second place (I do get tired of the constant zombie grappling matches that go on in Dawn of the Dead). The one that will always be my favorite though, my number one, is Day of the Dead. I’ll never forget watching this one as a kid and it just further cementing my zombie fandom. As much as I know this might sound off, I’m glad Romero had his budget slashed for this one too. From what I understand his original idea was for this one to have taken place on a technologically advanced island where a zombie army was being trained. It would have focused much more on the politics of how this new society was run, but Romero was told that if he wanted the budget necessary for that film he would have had to make it an R rated film. He wanted to make it unrated instead so he took a budget that was slashed in half and was forced to rewrite the movie. I’m grateful for the rewrite because it made the film much more personal to have it on a smaller scale and gave us much grittier film. Some things still made it into the rewrite such as the attempt to train zombies (though on a singular scale instead of a massive one), and the politics of attempting to keep three entirely different groups together, but it’s a much different movie than the director originally wanted. Though I do still wish they’d have gone with the original ending where the zombies in the base are all killed in a massive explosion and a human killed earlier is shown to still be intact enough to reanimate but remains dead regardless, showing that whatever was causing the dead to come back to life has ended. It would have ended the series then and there and we wouldn’t have gotten the increasingly horrible films that would come afterwards. Enough about what could have been though. I suppose it’s time to get on with reviewing the film that was.

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{Bub looks so peaceful behind Dr. Logan}

Much as in Dawn of the Dead the characters and actors playing them are one of the strongest things about the movie. Each character, love them or hate them, is a powerful addition to the film. Dr. Logan is an arrogant bastard, and you will come to understand why the military despises him so much, even agreeing with them at certain times and let me tell you, it’s hard to agree with the military at any time during the movie, so you’ll understand why Dr. Logan is such a bastard. They did a good job of making you really hate the military personal and showed what a complete and total bunch of dick bags they were. The worst offender was Captain Rhodes, he would gladly murder anyone he believed stood against his will as easily as he’d swat a fly. His uncontrollable rage and mental instability made him the biggest threat there in the base, the zombies are not nearly as dangerous as he is. Of course you have to have some characters to care for right? That’s why we have tough as nails Sarah who seems to be the most well-adjusted person there, constantly trying to make sure everyone doesn’t kill each other. While she’s our main heroine, we get a few other notables like helicopter pilot John who is perhaps the wisest person there and always seems to have a nugget of wisdom for Sarah whenever she’s having trouble, the usually drunk and always sarcastic Bill who couldn’t give a damn what anyone thinks of him, and of course one of the most famous characters to come out of this movie, Bub the zombie. Bub is Dr. Logan’s only real success in his quest to tame the undead. He eats only when he’s told it’s okay, learns to say a few words, and can even mimic human actions. You’ll find yourself really starting to care for the creature as the movie goes forward. There is even a scene at the end where Bub is saddened by something that has happened and it’s strangely touching and more than a little heart breaking. While all of the actors do amazing jobs, and I can’t say there was one I didn’t think performed excellently, there was one who stood above the rest, actor Anthony Dileo Jr. who played soldier Miguel. He is Sarah’s love interest and the one closest to the breaking point mentally. He’s already just about to step over the edge when the film starts, and his performance as he gets closer and closer was simply excellent. Though, as I’ve said, he is by far not the only wonderful actor. They were all very dedicated to making this film the best it could possibly be, hell, actress Lori Cardille (Sarah) even let Dileo Jr. slap her as hard as he could during one scene so they could make it look as realistic as possible.

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{You will come to despise Captain Rhodes}

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{I’m glad Romero gave up with the weak willed female characters after Night of the Living Dead}

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{John and Bill were easily my favorite characters}

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{No, Bub, we salute you}

Another thing done great was how extremely brutal and well done the effects were. There are some gory and extremely graphic deaths in this installment, not just from the living, but from the dead as well. Zombies are put down in extremely visceral ways, chopped to pieces, dissected on an operating table, and torn apart. The living don’t fare much better of course. What pulled it all together to make it as disgustingly gory as possible was in how real it all looked. This might be because of the materials they used, namely pig organs and gallons of real pig blood. It made it all look so incredibly real. This might be one of the goriest movies in the entire Romero undead series. Body parts and pieces of what look barely recognizable as human organs are scattered about, you will see various zombies strapped to tables lying in varying states of being operated upon (all but the brain removed from the head, organs falling out of a zombie’s midsection, and some completely mutilated), and watch as human after human is torn completely apart. I can’t brag about the effects works enough for this film.

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{These are just a few of the nastier zombies}

The effects and characters are two of the greatest things about his movie, but they aren’t the only things done right. There’s also the fact that the zombies finally seem more interested in devouring the living instead of just wrestling around with them. In the previous films the zombies did a lot of jostling with the living but didn’t seem overly interested in eating them. For Day of the Dead the zombies will go straight for the bite, wanting little more than to eat the living people around then and they waste little time in doing so. Then there’s the haunting opening where we are shown a desolate city, emptied of all but skeletal remains and the animals that have started to take back what humans once thought they owned. They don’t even show any of the undead at first, just the emptiness of a world nearly rid of mankind. It was so haunting it bordered on beautiful. I mentioned earlier about the politics that got cut out of Romero’s original idea for the film. I shouldn’t have said it was cut so much as it was transformed. The dynamics between this small group of military personal, scientists, and a few civilians is wonderfully played out. They all try to get along as best as they can, but are so different in attitude that they find little way to connect with one another, causing a further and further breakdown in their group dynamic. It made for an interesting watch as they all fell apart.

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{The end of the world still looks better than Detroit}

Day of the Dead is easily my favorite among Romero’s movies. Not just those involving the dead, but anything he has done. It borders on near perfection and may always remain as my favorite movie of all time.

 

The Undead Review

 

Directed By: George A. Romero (The Crazies, Night of the Living Dead

Starring: Lori Cardille (Parole, Milkman), Terry Alexander (The Horror Show, Conspiracy Theory), Joseph Pilato (Night of the Living Dead: Origins 3D, Shhhh), Anthony Dileo Jr. (Two Evil Eyes, Monkey Shines), Jarlath Conroy (Roadie, The Elephant Man), Richard Liberty (The Crazies, Flight of the Navigator), and Sherman Howard (Dark Angel, Ricochet) as Bub

Released By: United Film Distribution Company, Laurel Entertainment Inc., Dead Films Inc., and Laurel-Day Inc.

Release Type: Theatrical Release

Release Year: 1985

MPAA Rating: Unrated

About The Undead Review

When I was alive I was an asshole and after I died remained pretty much the same, if not a little worse. You’d think becoming a member of the walking dead would mellow a person out, no more worrying about awkward small talk with people, no more having to be politically correct, and the entire world is your upright, bipedal buffet. Don’t get me wrong, it’s fun as hell to be a zombie, just somewhat irritating at times, especially those times you have to watch a lame movie or read a lame book. Thankfully, when I am forced to watch these films or read those books, I’ve got places like The Undead Review to bitch and moan to my heart’s content. {When he’s not devouring the living or sinking his teeth into a good film The Undead Review (Andy Taylor) spends his time writing his own stories or hunting down the paranormal. Oh, and did we mention his blind dog once saved the world?)
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