Day of the Dead (1985) Review
Written by: Decisi8ns
When you talk to most fans of George A. Romero, and ask them how they would list the Dead Trilogy (not including Land of the Dead) from favorite to least favorite..chances are that Day of the Dead would be last. I personally find that “Day” is the best out of the trilogy. It shows how humanity is down to its last few survivors, and how those survivors are losing their minds. Don’t get me wrong, Dawn of the Dead, and Night of the Living Dead are classics…but “Day” has something special about it (to me) that makes it stand out on its own.
“Night” shows us the beginning of the outbreak. “Dawn” shows us how it is taking control of cities, and we begin to see how even regular humans can be just as bad as the Zombies are. “Day” is more self-contained, but still manages to show you what else is going on. Take the small team of soldiers and scientists who are trapped in an underground bunker. Place any group of people (doesn’t matter what they do for a living) and put them underground (you don’t even need a Zombie outbreak) for a few months and see them snap. This is why I feel that “Day” is the strongest of the three “Dead” movies. You have this small group of humans who are basically prisoners, and you have to wonder why they continue to even bother when everything seems bleak.
Your small cast of thirteen actors do a great job in their small surroundings. There are only three areas that you see the people in, and the outside scenes don’t last that long. Out of the thirteen actors, only one of them is female (not including the zombies) which to me is interesting since you really don’t see that often in movies.
Joe Pilato makes this movie for me. Captain Rhodes is your 100% Grade A asshole and he makes sure that everyone around him knows it. Whenever you see Rhodes talking to Dr. Logan, you’re guaranteed a funny bit of dialog from him. I also like how Rhodes doesn’t take shit from anyone. It’s his way, or death. Speaking of death…twenty-three years later and I still haven’t seen a better death of a character in a horror movie than that of Rhodes. Watching the Zombies tear him in half is one thing, but to see Rhodes get the final word is priceless. Even seconds before dying, Rhodes is badass!
In fact, each actor did a great job with his or her scenes. Of course most of them stuck out from the rest, making them very memorable. Lori Cardille (Sarah) as the only female in the group, who is also the strongest willed…but is breaking. Terry Alexander (John) who sides with the scientists when the soldiers get out of hand. He’s very levelheaded and knows that his skill at flying the helicopter makes him almost untouchable. Jarlath Conroy (McDermott) can fix electronics, so the soldiers need him…at the moment. He and John have their own place away from the soldiers and scientists since their agenda is different. Richard Liberty (Dr. Logan a.k.a Frankenstein) does great as the mad scientist who is making progress with the Zombies. You almost think that the guy is nuts, but he does make some headway with his tests…especially with Bub.
Now we’ll talk about a Zombie character, since he’s acting was superb. Sherman Howard as Bub was a powerful new direction for Zombies…much better than the lame new running versions that you’ll see in new Zombie movies. Bub was still a slow moving Zombie, but he could be taught. Also, he was able to remember things from his past, when he was a normal human. This is the only time where you see a Zombie and don’t want to watch his head explode from a bullet. You will actually like Bub, and cheer for him at the end.
If you watch a movie that was made in the last eight years (rated R), chances are that you’ll hear the word “Fuck” more often than you would in the 80’s. “Day” was released in 1985, and it used the word “Fuck” 50 times (yes, I counted). Back when I first watched it, I was amazed that something like that would be allowed…since that word is considered very bad to say in movies. Now, I guess it’s trendy to use it, so that’s why it is used more often.
Another thing about movies made today is the special effects. You will see WAY too much computer-generated crap, oh I mean effects, since it looks prettier on the screen. I guess to some people it does, but I prefer the real thing done by hand. The gore in “Day” is too awesome for words. It looks very realistic, even in 2008. Everything from a Zombie bite, to a Zombie being worked on (cut open), to witnessing a human having his head torn off…all of it looks fantastic! I would HATE to see what the scenes would look like today with computer effects. Another great movie made in the 80’s that has sweet special effects would be “The Thing”…I’ll be writing up a review on that movie after this one.
I guess I should talk about the movie itself huh? It is the last part of the “Dead” trilogy, so that means that humanity is near extinction. The Zombies have taken over, and even though it seems pointless, the small group of humans that we see in the opening scene are risking their lives to try and find any normal humans left.
You have two groups. The soldiers, led by the psychotic Captain Rhodes, who only comes into power once Major Cooper dies (off screen). Then there are the scientists, who don’t seem to have a real leader, but Dr. Logan seems to be the headman because of his knowledge in how the Zombies work. These two groups are always at each other’s throats since they don’t agree on what actions are being done with the Zombie problem.
Since it is dangerous to try and capture Zombies outside, the scientists have a small bunch of them stored away in a fenced off section of the underground storage facility that they call their base. Even trying to get a few Zombies from the ranch (if you will) is dangerous, and you’re not sure who will come out alive.
The scientists seem to be working on two solutions. One of them, being how the problem started. Dr. Logan is focused on this, and believes that he’s found the answer. Logan has also discovered that the Zombies can be trained. This doesn’t impress the other scientists or soldiers, but Logan feels that it is important. Sarah is trying to find a way to stop the disease, so that the few survivors that are left won’t get infected in the future.
By the end, you’ll see people lose control…and some even lose their mind. Most of them will not survive to see the end, but a few of them will. What happens to them, who knows? I like to think that they lived long lives and died of natural causes, while the rest of the world was covered with Zombies.
If, for some reason, you haven’t watched “Day of the Dead” yet, then by all means…WATCH IT! If you are new to the “Dead” trilogy, then I’d suggest watching them in order (Night, Dawn, Day). Don’t bother with “Land of the Dead” since it really doesn’t feel like it continues off of the original trilogy in anyway.
Also, AVOID these two movies that happen to have titles close to “Day of the Dead”. There is “Day of the Dead: Contagium”, which has NOTHING to do with “Day”, except that they used the name to trick fans of the movie into watching it. If you want to see what a HORRIBLE Zombie movie looks like, then by all means watch Contagium. I’m still trying to forget that movie, and so far the head injuries are not doing the job.
Then you have a so-called remake for “Day” that has the same title. It even uses the same names for the characters, but the story itself is pure crap. My guess is that this movie is focused for the younger audience who likes the running zombies and will recognize the actors…none of them I knew except for Ving Rhames (which I still don’t understand why he agreed to be in this garbage).