“They’re coming to get you, Barbara…”
George A. Romero’s 1968 zombie thriller Night of The Living Dead is an undisputed masterpiece. It has set the benchmark SO high, it’s nigh on unreachable. Almost 45 years later, it’s still cited as a major inspiration for many, many film-makers.
“When there is no more room in Hell, the Dead, shall walk the Earth…”
Romero’s follow up didn’t come for another ten years but when it did, it was really something. Dawn of The Dead is Romero’s rant against consumerism and in my eyes, one of the greatest movies of all time, never mind just within the genre.
But these are so obvious.
“I’m running this monkey farm now Frankenstein and I wanna know… what the fuck you’re doing with my time?”
This article is about the third part in the Trilogy of The Dead and it’s a film I have a massive amount of affection for… It’s Day of The Dead.
Romero rounded off his trilogy in 1985 with the release of Day of the Dead, a far bleaker experience than the previous two films. Whereas in “Night” and “Dawn”, there was always a slim hope that humanity might prevail and survive the Undead Apocalypse, “Day” removes that hope by letting us know that our protagonists are outnumbered to an insurmountable degree. Hopes of survival for the living, have all but vanished.
Day Of The Dead is the story of a civilian medical team and their support staff who are holed up in an underground bunker, desperately seeking a way to reverse the zombie plague and eradicate the threat. Stationed alongside them is a small military squadron, tasked with the unenviable job of keeping the zombies from the door and aiding the research team.
Day of the Dead examines the stress these two, very separate, factions experience and their brittle relationship, and as surely as the world outside has gone to Hell, so life inside the bunker is heading the same way.
That’s a VERY abridged summary and although it’s not considered the best of the Trilogy, this is a film with PLENTY going for it.
Most of the cast are able enough. Lori Cardille makes a tough leading lady, while Terry Alexander and Jarlath Conroy support her well as the rough and ready pilot and engineer of her group. Richard Liberty tackles his role with a fabulous kind of controlled camp as Dr. Logan, the head of the medical team, whose “experimentations” on the Undead bring about the final collapse of civility in the subterranean bunker.
The soldiers are a mixed bag. Gary Howard Klar’s Private Steel is a hooting moron and frankly annoying. Oh… keep an eye open for SFX master Greg Nicotero of The Walking Dead fame, who turns in a small role as Private Johnson.
Joe Pilato is awesome. If you have seen this film you will absolutely agree. I am not sure that I have EVER seen a more wonderfully angry man in a film. As Captain Rhodes, Pilato yells his fucking head off for much of the film and when he is not shouting, he is staring menacingly or pointing a gun at someone. No-one is immune. His fury never lets up even when facing down a slathering horde of crusty zombies and his inevitable demise.
My favourite thing about Day of the Dead, though, has to be Howard Sherman’s turn as Logan’s loveable “pet” zombie, Bub. Bub is smashing. Although a re-animated corpse, he has been well trained and spared the fate of being just another of Logan’s guinea pigs. Bub has retained many of his human faculties, kinda. He remembers the telephone, how to shave and most importantly, as an ex-soldier, how to salute and fire a pistol. I defy a single person out there, watching this film, not to cheer and nod appreciatively as Bub becomes the de facto hero of the film.
Special Effects King, Tom Savini really upped his game with this one. Everything here is much more realistic. The make up is better. The animatronics are superb and it’s much, much gorier.
Romero’s zombie offerings have steadily declined in quality since Day Of The Dead but if you want to see the great man’s last great foray into the realms of the Undead, then give this a look. It’s a great film on it’s own and absolutely essential for any fans of the sub-genre.