Editor’s Notes: The following review is part of our coverage for the 3rd Annual ThatJaime Horrorfest put on by Next Projection’s own Jaime Burchardt, which runs from October 1st to October 31st. For more information this online horror film series visit thatjaime.com/horrorfest and follow ThatJaime Horrorfest on Twitter at @ThatJaimeHF.
“They can be tricked, you see. Tricked into being good little girls and boys, the same way we were tricked on the promise of some reward to come.”
– Dr. Logan, Day of the Dead
Lets concede one thing: If Night of the Living Dead is about racism and Dawn of the Dead is about consumerism, then Day of the Dead has its contemplative sights set on existential crisis. At first glance, this movie, which deserves many more glances than just one, could seem to be about gender roles, social breakdown, feminism, or perhaps even a healthy dose of anti-militarism. However, at the end of the day, once all has been said and dead, the appropriately eternal question of, “what is the point?” is the most prominent and profound query to drip from the film’s bloody lips.
Lets concede one thing: If Night of the Living Dead is about racism and Dawn of the Dead is about consumerism, then Day of the Dead has its contemplative sights set on existential crisis.
In a faintly cohesive manner, Day seems to take place chronologically after Dawn and Night (taken out of context, this sentence seems like a no brainer, though these zombies don’t eat brains, that’s another franchise altogether). The terror of Night’s freshly unearthed nightmare has ended and the excitement of Dawn’s reign of anarchy has run its course. What we’re left with is a group of soldiers and scientists trapped in a bunker together at the end of the world driven insane by the poisonous pondering of existence. Eventually, the group’s differing ideologies tear them apart, right before zombies literally tear them apart.
There are basically three groups presented in the film. The first are the hyper aggressive military men whose sole interest lies in self-preservation and extending their own lives, whatever that may mean. The second are the scientists who selflessly and tirelessly try to understand life, or rather, the ravenous after-life that has spread through the world like a plague. Lastly, there are the civilians who believe the search for answers is futile and that life, in all its majesty and misery, cannot be documented or understood. Life just is, come what may. The characters struggle with each other and ultimately Romero’s nihilism, which we first got a taste of in Night, rears its bleak head again and we are the cause of our own downfall.
All hope is not lost, however, as evolution always brings forth other possibilities (though it seems our own obliteration is a given). On that note, ladies and gentlemen, may I introduce to you the world’s most intelligent and endearing zombie, Bub! In the film, one of the scientists named Dr. Logan takes it upon himself to try to teach zombies how to be human. His star pupil, who he affectionately names Bub after his father, is taught not only how to read a book, talk on the phone and use a gun, but also learns compassion, caring, and perhaps even how to love.
The characters struggle with each other and ultimately Romero’s nihilism, which we first got a taste of in Night, rears its bleak head again and we are the cause of our own downfall.
The character was brilliantly brought to life (wink) by an actor named Howard Sherman, whose performance, in terms of creating a sympathetic monster, is right up there with Karloff. After all, one of the most provocative scenes in any of Romero’s Dead films, or indeed of any horror film, was Sherman’s idea. The scene is one where Bub, a cannibalistic dead thing, listens to Beethoven’s Ode to Joy and is awash in the ecstasy of life. Although the moment seems simple enough, its implications are remarkable. The only character in the film that could really understand what it was to be alive, was one that was already dead - a fairly blunt and poignant critique on the living.
Day also boasts an intensely strong female lead, just slightly before Lieutenant Ripley took control in Aliens. Romero has said on several occasions that the capable character of Sarah was in fact an apology for the catatonic Barbara who was perhaps too easily traumatized in Night. In Day, however, Sarah faces a cramped world of testosterone fueled by fear and sexual frustration. How did she survive it? By threatening to cut people in half with a machine gun, that’s how.
I would be remiss if I didn’t find time to mention the glorious gore of this evisceration-laden film. It truly is Tom Savini’s masterpiece. Although the violence is mostly concentrated to the beginning and end of the film, no punches are pulled. Watching one of Savini’s impressively orchestrated gore gags is like watching Gene Kelley dance his masterful feet around the puddles in Singin’ in the Rain… only these puddles are pools of blood, obviously.
Instead of asking you to drudge through the ramblings of this review, I suppose I could have summed up the film in one quick sentence: Day of the Dead truly is the darkest day of horror the world has ever known, and the best zombie film of all time. It’s ghastly, provocative, and has the guts, in fact an excess of guts, to seriously make the audience stop and wonder…
“You can just sit there in the dark and think about what you’ve done. Think about it… Think!”
– Dr. Logan, Day of the Dead
[notification type=”star”]100/100 ~ MASTERFUL. Day of the Dead truly is the darkest day of horror the world has ever known, and the best zombie film of all time. It’s ghastly, provocative, and has the guts, in fact an excess of guts, to seriously make the audience stop and wonder.[/notification]