Tuesday, December 30, 2014

MR Day of the Dead

First there was "Night of the Living Dead" then "Dawn of the Dead" and now the darkest day of horror the world has ever known.

The Dead have waited. The day has come. 

When there's no more room in HELL, these reviews will walk the BLOG:

Movie: George A. Romero's Day of the Dead also known as simply Day of the Dead or just simply Day 
Directed by George A. Romero
Release date 1985
Genre Post-Apocalyptic Horror/Zombie film
Country USA

Following the huge success of Night of the Living Dead in the late 1960s, the idea of what would become a second installment in the "Dead series" became the source of a disagreements between the two creators George A. Romero and John A. Russo, what would cause a radical split in the series, each filmmaker going on to follow their own directions and series on their own.

Since the original film ended in the public domain when the crew was unable to retain the rights of the original film due to a misunderstanding with their distributor, it allowed them both to continue making more of these films on each side. Each following its own continuity.

While Romero would go on to produce five more "Of The Dead" films, Russo would do his own "Living Dead" series.

This movie here is a sequel on Romero's side, what would be known as the "Trilogy of the Dead" (that is, until the fourth modern iteration came out). Romero would try to feature some kind of social commentary, usually a critic on consumerism and racism in our society.

This "Of The Dead series" would not be composed of direct follow-ups to one another, in the traditional Hollywood sense of "sequels", but rather spiritual successors in tone and themes. While the story is not followed in each episode, each film being independent from one another, we do get to have a sense of continuity in the worsening of the situation and the state of the world. Each of these films are set in their own era, showing an evolution of the current technologies available at the time (which would not be possible if the zombie apocalypse first happened in the 1970s.). What is interesting with that is that it attempts to portray this zombie apocalypse as real as possible, how actual people would react to this situation and try to live in a world with an increasingly number of living dead roaming around.

The third and final entry in George A. Romero's zombie trilogy, Day of the Dead marked a conclusion to this Dead series (for that time being) and marked the dark bleak end of mankind at the hands of the living dead.

This entry explores this time the lack of communication that is the cause of chaos, seen here being the reasons a small society people tried to keep up collapsing in this post-apocalyptic setting.

Romero's original inspiration behind the film was to make a sort of "Gone with the Wind with zombies".

The film looks great and his directing only improved since Dawn. The film feels calmer and quieted (until the climax), the cinematography is clean and stylish at times. He certainly had his style narrowed down by the mid-1980s.

He wanted to be free to produce an Unrated cut as much as possible, so obviously there were some disputes over the production to get a proper more ambitious budget for this film. Since he wasn't able to secure it, Romero had to scale down the story (which considering the claustrophobic tone of the film, kinda ended up working in the film's favor anyhow).

Since not a lot was filmed at above-ground level, it was easier to shoot the film in only couple of key locations (mostly in Florida), and once again using nearby townsfolk for the zombie extras. 

Day of the Dead stars Joseph Pilato as our film's main antagonist (already seen as a different character in Dawn), along Lori Cardille, Terry Alexander and Richard Liberty.

The film takes place following an unseen zombie outbreak (probably similar to the way it was shown happening in Night and Dawn). The undead have now overrun the entire world.

Our story follows this small fragment of the US military that is now hiding in some underground facility, an army base in the Everglades. Originally the idea was to protect some scientist trying to find a cure zombie plague.

There's only a handful of survivors. Some soldiers are sent on runs trying to locate more survivors. The scientists have to make do with outdated and decaying equipment.

Our lead scientist is Dr. Logan, aka "Frankenstein". Logan believes the zombies can be thought to be civilized again. He's been trying to train them for a while, trying to condition them back some human gestures. His main test subject being this zombie nicknamed "Bub".

The commander of the base is this Captain Henry Rhodes. Rhodes is tired of these pointless experiments leading nowhere.

Tension runs high between the soldiers and civilian scientist. There's only a few civilians, like Sarah (Lori Cardille), the only female on the premise. The supplies are quickly diminishing and the slow progress of research is getting frustrating. The scientists consider the "zombification" to be a disease, the soldiers fight this thing every day, they know there's no coming back from that.

Rhodes wants to take over the entire operation. He forces his way in, the scientists will now work under his command and soldiers only. Anyone who objects will be killed.

Logan tries to calm him down by showing some progress with Bub. Bub's been listening to music, he has learned to aim a gun, and was even taught to salute Captain Rhodes. Rhodes is still very much unimpressed and disgusted by all of it.

One time, the soldiers fail to contain a zombie roundup mission, someone is bitten in the arm and forced to amputate the arm to stop spreading the infection, which prompts Rhodes to destroy all captive zombies. It only gets worse once Rhodes finds out Dr. Logan has been using the flesh of his dead soldiers to feed his zombie pets. Rhodes enraged kills Logan. The military now wants to flee off the base.

Bub escapes from his chains and finds the dead body of "his friend" Dr. Logan, and shows some surprising emotions. Bub finds the pistol and is set on a revenge spree (what a surprising turn of event!). The gates of the compound are opened and a horde of zombies spread into the headquarters. Bub is able to shot Rhodes in the confusion, who is quickly thorned to pieces by the undead.

Only Sarah and her companion are able to escape to the surface and fly off the helicopter to a nearby seemingly deserted island...

"All of the shopping malls are closed" as one of the protagonist says early on. By this point in time, the living dead have outnumbered the living by a ratio of about 400,000 to 1. They might as well be the last remains of the human race. They haven't had any more contact with the outside world for a while, all is lost...

While to most people "Day" is no "Night" or "Dawn", who both became such huge instant classics, but this third episode can still rank easily amongst the best the genre could offer. It's a worthy successor to both films. It certainly doesn't feel like a traditional zombie film, by then Romero was always trying to come up with something different and unique all the time. Between the soldiers and the civilians, it's a great dysfunctional "family" that is forced to make things work together. Kind of reminiscent of Christian Nyby's Thing from Another World. The division in this small remaining part of society might end up splitting up for the worse.

The film can count on some great performances from the entire cast. Thankfully, since this a more talkative "Of the Dead" film. Much of the screentime is given to these politics rather than the undead, their looming presence never that far off screen.

The zombies are more supporting characters in this episode. Most of these characters are deliberately unsympathetic, but not unlikeable.

One of the best things this movie has going for it is, of course, Bub. Played here by Sherman Howard in one of his earliest appearances. Basically the only likeable character in the entire movie.

Tom Savini was once more back for the make-up effects along artist Gregory Nicotero (also played private Johnson in this film). The last few minutes are drenched in blood and gore. We get a gruesome full view of the soldiers being turned apart. Savini took a much more realistic approach than, say, the way zombies and dismemberments were presented in Dawn. The effects here aged pretty damn well. Even though most of this splatter is saved for the final fifteen minutes. Great gory effects, as the cast is brutally ripped apart at the end.

The music was composed by John Harrison this time. He orchestrated some very powerful pieces, the music moves and follows the entire picture. There are some cute little cues amongst the sadder and darker themes. It feels really oppressing at times, and it really works with Day. Harrison's work on this film went on inspiring a generation of music composers, it even touched the likes of Japanese composer Tsutomu Ōhashi/Shoji Yamashiro (who composed the score for the 1988 cult anime film Akira).

Day of the Dead has a great grim tone. Normal, since this is supposedly the downfall of mankind. 

Day was not as well received as the previous installments originally. It would since then go on to become a huge cult classic as popular as the other Dead films. But back then the critics didn't take this bleak view of our society as well...

Overall, Day of the Dead is easily without a question Romero's darkest entry in his epic zombie trilogy. Maybe not as scary as Night or Dawn, but just as powerful and memorable.

Despite winning a smaller success at the box office and being usually the lowest rated of the original three Of the Dead films, I have always considered it to be the best installment in my eyes.

Day is so much darker. Almost depressing. It's also the bloodiest episode, thanks to fantastic practical effects. So many guts and severed limbs in that great finale! The film has a great interesting tone. Day of the Dead is a fantastic post-apocalyptic piece. It's Highly Recommended to any movie fan, horror fan or not.

The film ended leaving such a huge mark on horror history. You can see countless films, games and comics inspired by it directly or not to this day, from the several references and homages to George Romero's work on Day of the Dead in the Resident Evil series ("The Dead Walk" on those newspaper in the streets) to stylistic allusions to it in The Walking Dead series.

Like most of Romero's Dead films, Day would also spawn several (un)official continuations, in the form of the 2005 (awful) sequel Day of the Dead 2: Contagium to its loose remake in 2008 under the same title. 

Day almost ends the series on a positive note, as we witness our supposedly last people on Earth finding a little chance to survive in a newfound paradise.. Who would have thought we would again get a fourth installment 20 years later...

I give it:
3 / 3 Necronomicons!

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