Monday, August 19, 2013

My Favorite Era: Day of the Dead (1985)

While George Romero's 1978 classic Dawn of the Dead is my favorite horror film, Day of the Dead features some of my favorite horror f/x, courtesy of Tom Savini.  Set in an underground Florida military base,  the third Romero zombie fest is a tense, gory bit of business as we see a conflict between soldiers and scientists play out while the dead are literally banging on the doors.  There is lots of gore, swearing and mayhem and if the end result is somewhat less than satisfying, that's not to say there isn't good stuff to be found.  Let's take a closer look.
  • The first few minutes are quite good with the opening nightmare that introduces us to Dr. Sarah Bowman (Lori Cardille) as well as a few other main characters.  Romero has always been pretty good at generating tension and we get more of the same from him as he holds off on showing us the first zombie until the last minute.  It's a good one too, nice and gross thanks to Tom Savini.  I'll be kissing his a- Uh, I mean singing his praises throughout this review as he single-handedly takes this from a 5 out of 10 to a 7.
  • The music from John Harrison is also good with a nice driving beat that's surprisingly catchy.
  • The main problem the film has is the stuff that goes on between the zombie sequences.  Romero is a fairly good writer but he has all the subtlety of a sledgehammer ad tends to repeat himself.  While the zombie scenes are awesome, we also have to slog through tons of dialogue scenes that consist mainly of screaming, swearing and  very little in the way of actual content.  The actors bite into their roles robustly enough but it gets real old real fast.
  • Performance wise, most of the actors do their thing as best as they can given the script they have to work with.  Lori Cardille makes for a likable enough lead, Terry Alexander is decent as a helicopter pilot but for the most part it;s a lot of screaming and cursing.
  • There are three good performances though.  Joe Pilato is hammily nasty (though sort of dull after a while) as Rhodes, the guy in charge of the soldiers on the base and Richard Liberty is fun as the mad scientist who has been experimenting on the ghouls in order to find out what the hell is going on.
  • The best of all is Howard Sherman as Bub, a zombie Liberty has trained to a certain extent.  Sherman creates an oddly affecting character with some depth that is pretty neat.  Plus, if you think zombies are scary, imagine one who knows how to shoot a gun!

  • The production design is also quite good with the underground base looking especially cool.,
  • The real star of the film, however, is Tom Savini who turns in his best effort.  His zombies are quite simply amazing with a blend of puppets and prosthetics used to create a veritable army of the undead.  The gore is the real highlight here as we get throat ripping, dismemberment, headshots, eyeball mutilation, decapitations and best of all, a genuinely nasty  EC Comics-esque sendoff for Rhodes.
 George Romero's third zombie film is a problematic yet generally watchable flick with amazing f/x from one of the best making up for an annoying, anemic script.  George had something a little different in mind, more grand and epic but this was the film he could afford to make.  It's worth seeing for Tom Savini at his best, but have the remote handy.

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About Me

I've been a huge fan of action, horror and comedy for as long as I can remember.