The rest of you... should probably apply elsewhere. Actually, now that I think about it, even if the above ridiculous concepts turn you on like a switch-flipper, you'll probably still be disappointed. Why? Well, unfortunately, Day of the Dead pretty much sucks hot death through a dried cactus husk.
Yeah, I know, I know, I've been hard on all of the remakes of George A. Romero's Zombie Flicks, but I had been steeling myself for this movie since it was first announced. Realizing that this was a RINO (Remake In Name Only), as was Universal's 2004 Dawn of the Dead to its source, and knowing a good bit of the history here, I thought I might go in with low expectations and be pleasantly surprised.
Here's the thing, 1990's Night of the Living Dead was a small budgeted remake of the ultra-indie 1968 Original, released through a smaller studio at a time in which Zombie Movies weren't big grossers. 2004's Dawn of the Dead was a comparatively big-budgeted remake of the 1978 ('79 in the USA) classic distributed by a big studio at a time in which Zombie Movies were kind of a big deal. It should be noted that 1968's Night of the Living Dead was independently funded while 1978's Dawn of the Dead was funded, in large part, by Italian Interests. 1985's Day of the Dead was distributed by United Film Distribution Company. This means that the original Zombie Trilogy has always been fractured and owned by different entities. Night is in the public domain, Dawn is property of a holding company and Day is owned by Taurus Entertainment Company (which recently released an "official" sequel Day of the Dead 2: Contagium). The Dawn remake was not a sequel to the Night remake, nor is the Day remake related at all to the Dawn remake (in spite of the fact that Ving Rhames appears in both films).
All signs pointed to "Day of the Remake" being a pretty bad movie and the fact that it went straight to DVD didn't help. But they did manage to get Steve Miner to direct the film. Miner was the director of both Friday the 13th Part 2 and Friday the 13th Part III as well as Halloween: H20, Warlock, Lake Placid and House (along with a slew of other movies and TV shows). Throw in the fact that he produced Friday the 13th Part III and associate produced Friday the 13th Part 2, Friday the 13th and The Last House on the Left and the man should know from Horror. Add the fact that the screenplay was by Jeffrey Reddick, writer and creator of Final Destination and the pedigree was there.
In fact, the first few minutes of Day of the Dead gave me pause because they weren't merely interesting but actually seemed all right. As this is the remake of a sequel and not a sequel in and of itself, the plague's origin is retold. The Zombie Outbreak is just now out and has yet to break and people with a new virus are either flooding the local hospital or trying to get the hell out of their Colorado town (Stan, Kyle, Cartman and Kenny are not pictured).
Sadly for most of the would-be escapees the military has the exit roads blocked a la Raccoon City. This is courtesy of Captain Rhodes (Ving Rhames) and his squad of Weekend Warriors, soon to include Private Salazar (Nick Cannon) and Private Crain (Stark Sands). Naturally those two guys don't mind the assignment too much, as they discover they'll be reporting to Corporal Sarah Bowman, played by Mena Suvari (trading in her bed of rose petals for a set of cammies).
It will come as no surprise to anyone who has seen Steve Miner's other horror flicks that the setting quickly shifts to a cabin in the woods where teenagers are making out. Even less surprising is that one of them is immediately stalked in those same woods by an unseen killer. As luck would have it the couple that remains intact are AnnaLynne McCord's Nina and Michael Welch's Trevor (Sarah's brother). Soon Nina, Trevor, Crain and Sarah are racing to get poor Mama Bowman (Linda Marlowe) some medical help from the illness she (along with half the town) has contracted. One very interesting part comes when all of the infected freeze at once and stare straight ahead. At that point we get a unique look (courtesy of CGI) at the Zombie Virus working its malevolent magic on human cells and changing the human into a Zombie.
As if orchestrated as some metafictional allegory, the film changes at that very moment from something flawed but interesting into just another dumb, derivative Zombie movie. In fact, this film takes some of the worst trends of the more recent Zombie flicks and amplifies them to the Nth degree.
It's at this point that the Zombies start acting like Track Meet Medalists. I've seen plenty of Zombie Flicks in which the Zombification has left the "victim" with a good deal of functionality (Zombies that can run...), but this is probably the first film I've seen in which becoming a Zombie is actually remarkably beneficial to the Health of the subject. Some of these douche-bags actually seem to be getting Super-Powers. And this is immediate. One second the person doesn't feel well, the next second they're super-powered and decayed at the same time. No transitional makeup, nothing. One Zombie is in a Massive Car Accident, rolls several feet AND THEN gets up and sprints. Look, folks, I realize that The Walking Dead are subjects of Fiction and thus open to debate and interpretation, but for fuck's sake, that would screw up a living person with no rigor and plenty of flowing blood. A decaying corpse? Come ON Pilgrim!
And that's not all! CGI goes from well-used to way over-used in vastly unconvincing ways. So we don't just see Zombies with unnatural movements, we see Zombies moving with skipped frames, making them look less like real actors than a character in the N64 Version of Resident Evil II! These Zombies bounce around like Toad from the X-Men movie and (when convenient) manage feats that people without rotting limbs couldn't do. Right about the time I was thinking "What the hell are these, Spider-Man Zombies?" one of them ran up the wall and crawled across the ceiling at lightening speed to catch its prey. What the hell, were these goofs bitten by a Radioactive Zombie Spider? Maybe... a Zombie bit a Radioactive Spider who bit that guy? Politer people than me would laugh heartily at that, kids.
Of course that's not significantly more bizarre than the inclusion of Ian McNeice as the local radio DJ named Paul, whose main purpose seems to be to bitch about how frustrated he is with everything. I guess Miner and Reddick didn't realize that the audience would be taking that role on for him. I might ask what the story is behind an overweight, English Hippie type dude ending up as the cynical DJ in a quiet mountain town, but I'm afraid someone might tell me and I honestly am beyond giving two shits.
Then again, McNeice's isn't the only character arbitrarily filling a cliché character slot. Nick Cannon, from Nickelodeon, seems cast to throw the F-Bombs, discover that "You've got to shoot them in the HEAD!" and accuse white guys of being racist when possible, seemingly in the hope that people start to forget that he's Nick Cannon from Nickelodeon. You've got your victim characters, your semi-aware Zombies, your eye-candy, your detective-type there to figure things out, your sympathetic character who dies on us to pull the heart strings and even your tough, yet hot chick. It's not markedly different from, say, Aliens Vs. Predator 2. Even Ving's scenes (though he's top billed) ultimately amount to a cameo. At one point I got the impression that the producers met with Miner and Reddick and said "Oh, these people's careers are now in enough trouble for them to have agreed to be in this movie! Write a part for each of them please!"
All that shoved into a plot that only in the vaguest terms resembles Day of the Dead. It's a Zombie Movie that centers around the Military. That's about it. Metaphor is largely absent, as is most of the scientific experimentation, as is almost all of the human vs. human conflict that made the original interesting. It's just another standard of the zombie survival movies that have become a dime-bag a dozen of late. Admittedly it's not significantly worse than most of the lame theatrical Zombie flicks and it's actually a bit better than most of the lame straight to DVD Zombie flicks. That's not to say it's very good. While it's not horribly acted (by these once [and future?] promising actors), it's also not terribly well directed or written and a great, great many of the tragically poor elements seem to have been insisted upon by greedy producers.
But to be fair, by all rights, Day of the Dead should have been much worse than it is, considering all. It's almost as if the failed promise of the first act makes the film's devolution that much more noteworthy and attempts at pure references to the original (the fact that Crain's first name is "Bud" should give true fans a hint) are almost swallowed up in the confusion of the last half. Then again, at times it's not hard to get swept up in the big, dumb action of the film and get a primal form of adrenalin pumping here and there. Your brain, however, isn't going to get nearly the work out that these Zombirrific Athletes do.
And another thing: The Marshall Tucker Band is NOT "Classic Rock"! They're Country! How it is that Classic Rock and AOR stations keep playing "Heard it in a Love Song" is quite simply beyond me. Look, I'm with you, for Country, it's a pretty good song and I've found myself toe-tappin' a time or two myself and yeah the guitar solo has a pretty rockin' feel to it (or would, out of context), but dudes and chicks, that song is 'ludes for hicks! It's not even Rock-A-Billy or "Southern Rock" like Lynyrd Skynyrd or the Allman Brothers Band, folks, it's Country, Country, Country! It's both kinds of music... Country AND Western!!! I mean, seriously, next time you're in the car jammin' to a great Classic Rock station and just loving life, wondering why nobody has successfully kept the 1970s alive and you hear "Heard it in a Love Song" shoved haphazardly and inadvisably in between "Hello I Love You" and "The Ballad of John and Fucking Yoko" you'll see what I mean. "I was born a Wrangler and a Rambler and I guess I always will!"
I realize that had nothing to do with either version of Day of the Dead, but I really had to let that out. But back to Day of the Dead... it's not as bad as it had to be, but it's not that good either. And no nudity. It's not a complete waste of time (it's innofensive enough that I could stand to see it again, actually), but it's still just another of many, many unofficial entries into the Romeroverse that somehow still manages to carry his name in the credits (if just in the "based on" section). Somehow, though, because there are so very many of these, Day of the Dead being the third film actually remade, the "travesty" aspect here is lessened and diluted, making this Two Star movie slightly more palatable. Once again, a review that takes longer to read than the movie it critiques would take to watch. Sorry, folks, this is what I do, that is until my Zombie Flick about resurrected Classic Rock bands comes to fruition! Guess which band won't be featured in that film, or in the next reel!
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