Splatter Time Fun Fest 2011: Day Of The Dead (1985)

Splatter Time Fun Fest 2011 kicks off with the third film in the most famous zombie franchise ever!

Written By: George A. Romero
Directed By: George A. Romero

I remember when I first watched Day Of The Dead many moons ago. I didn’t like it very much, but over time I chalked up my dislike to being young and not quite getting the genre or George A. Romero’s sensibilities. Now that I return to Day Of The Dead as an avid fan of Mr. Romero and someone who loves the horror genre (while also having a decent grasp on horror themes and concepts I think) I expected to love it. Turns out that young Bill understood Day Of The Dead perfectly fine because all these years later it’s still a movie I don’t like.

I know it’s not fair to compare a zombie movie to Dawn Of The Dead or Night Of The Living Dead. However, when Mr. Romero is the director of said zombie movie the comparison is inevitable. The first five or so minutes of Day Of The Dead are a near perfect continuation of Dawn Of The Dead. In a short time Mr. Romero is able to finish off all his consumerist thoughts from Dawn Of The Dead and start up his thoughts on what exactly it is that will be the death of humanity. Then we get into the compound, and it’s all downhill from there.

Day Of The Dead changes inside that compound, and it doesn’t change for the better. Some of the changes work in a Romero sort of way, if you get my meaning. The darkness of the setting and the claustrophobic feel help to enhance the sense of humanity damning themselves by their inability to let go of the past and move on. At the same time the actors we are introduced to are downright horrendous across the board (except for maybe Sherman Howard as Bub, but more on him in a bit) and nothing happens for long stretches of time. The message that Mr. Romero was going for is hit very early and the rest of the film is piling on to the message for no apparent purpose. Day Of The Dead is just under two hours long, but it’s pacing is so glacial and absolutely nothing of consequence happens for such long stretches of time that the film feels a good two hours longer at least.

The one area where Day Of The Dead is an absolute masterpiece is in its prosthetic and make-up work. There’s a reason Tom Savini is rightfully recognized as a master of his craft, the zombies in Day Of The Dead are just further proof of that. They look various shades of hideous, decomposing at different levels, and all possessing certain maladies to make them look even more grotesque. The required scenes of zombie gnashing and tearing apart human flesh are also suitably disgusting. If I were judging Day Of The Dead on Mr. Savini’s work alone I would give it the very highest of marks.

Every zombie looks good in Day Of The Dead, but one zombie is given more screen time than the rest. At first I had no problems with Bub, that was until they started to have him display human tendencies. I don’t know why Mr. Romero ever became fascinated with the idea of zombies evolving into something more than just zombies. It’s not an idea that has ever worked for me and Day Of The Dead is no exception. As soon as Bub started using a walkman, saluting and acting like a human I rolled my eyes and checked out of whatever Mr. Romero was going for. Maybe this thread of ideas works for some people, but I don’t buy it, and it is a huge mark against Day Of The Dead.

In a lot of ways Day Of The Dead was a very sad viewing experience. It was like watching a great concert pianist slowly lose his ability play the piano on stage. Mr. Romero would return to zombies again, but from Day Of The Dead forward his efforts were of a very lesser quality. He stopped creating characters that I cared about, he took the zombies themselves in a direction I do not care for, and his zombie movies stopped delivering a competently handled social message. I’d love more than anything to continue the Splatter Time Fun Fest tradition of telling you how awesome a Mr. Romero zombie flick was. Day Of The Dead won’t let me do that, it is a very mediocre film bordering on awful. The truth hurts sometimes, and it hurts for me to tell everyone that Day Of The Dead is a zombie film not worth a moment of your time.




4 responses to “Splatter Time Fun Fest 2011: Day Of The Dead (1985)

  1. Mark Middlemas

    Day of the Dead makes me angry. It’s a deep, unresolvable frustration that I think may ease with time, but it does not. I love the first two entries in Romero’s original zombie trilogy (I own two versions of Night and three versions of Dawn). Night and Dawn are remarkable, each unique and horrifying in their own way. Day was such a disappointment.

    The first 15 minutes are very intense and you think you’re in for a solid film…and then, like you said, they hit the compound. After that, it’s just two groups of survivors, soldiers and scientists, yelling about nothing for an hour until some zombie stuff finally happens. Seriously, they just yell at each other for what seems like forever. It’s numbing.

    The zombies do look amazing (the clown!!!!), and Bub is interesting if only to explore a different side of the phenomenon, but yeah, you got it right, it’s not worth your time. It’s hard to believe honestly how bland, boring and amateurish it really is, and sometimes I second guess myself, blaming a bad mood or some other external issue for the bad memory of the film. Then I rewatch it, or try too, and I am reminded that it was Romero, not me, that messed this up.

    FYI–I noticed that the white bearded friendly RV guy/protagonist (the one with the weird accent) is the undertaker from True Grit (“If you want to sleep in one of the coffins, it would be all right.)

  2. Great points all around Mark, sums up my general feelings on Day Of The Dead rather nicely.

    I had no idea the friendly white RV guy was the undertaker from True Grit, but now that you’ve brought it up I can totally place him in that role.

  3. Pingback: Splatter Time Fun Fest 2011: The 2nd Annual Bloody Machete Awards | Bill's Movie Emporium

  4. Pingback: Splatter Time Fun Fest 2012: Land Of The Dead (Director’s Cut, 2005) | Bill's Movie Emporium

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