Friday, December 11, 2009

Friday Flashbacks: Day of the Dead

Day of the Dead 1985
Director: George Romero
Writer: George Romero
Starring Lori Cardille, Terry Alexander, Joe Pilato, Jarlath Conroy, Anthony Dileo Jr., Richard Liberty, Howard Sherman, G. Howard Klar, John Amplas and Gregory Nicotero.

When it comes to the zombie film, George Romero is the undisputed master of the genre. If not for the greatness that is Dawn of the Dead, Day of the Dead would be his best take on the series. Where Dawn deals with consumerism as zombieism, Day deals with paranoia and the single minded mentality of the military which has always been a problem with the military mind set. Romero really sets up his story and really goes with the claustrophobia feel of being stuck in a military installation. With a great cast of characters, with Captain Rhodes stealing the show and by far the best character in the film. His histrionics are so exaggerated that you cannot help but be mesmerized by his thoughts process and the insane actions he ends up taking. This film also, has the epitome of great make up effects thanks to the overtly realistic work of Tom Savini. I still have yet to see a film that had done a better job in gore effects in this film. The only thing I would say detrimental to the film is I wish that Romero's original script had been filmed, that was a really great piece of writing and would have been a phenomenal film.
The plot basics are this, after the events of Dawn of the Dead, zombies have overrun the United States. All that seems to be left of the government is a underground military installation. Sarah (Cardille) is a scientist that has been working to try and find a cure for the zombie affliction. She and other scientists work in tandem with the military in charge of the installation. After the General in charge dies, the facility is taken over by Captain Rhodes (Pilato) who has his own ideas on what should be done. There is also Logan (Liberty) who is working on his own crazy ideas by domesticating a zombie (Sherman). Rhodes sees what Logan is doing and loses it and then takes over the facility and decides to deal out his own brand of justice on Sarah and her friends. It doesn't quite work out though, since a mentally unbalanced soldier (Dileo Jr.) decides to let the zombies into the installation and after that it is a race for survival and it seems the military goons will get their just desserts.
This is a great film. Romero's direction is excellently done. The tension between the scientists and the soldiers is really palatable. He sets the stage for the conflict really well, and the tension between the two faction until they finally erupt is like a razors edge. He uses the claustrophobic locale to the best of his ability and it really plays to the advantages of his direction. The script is great too, the dialogue between Rhodes and Logan is mesmerizing to watch and really makes the film along with Logan's interactions with Bub. The characters are very well developed and Sarah is a great main protagonist that the viewer can really relate to. Her predicament and what she has to do to survive will make the viewer really get in her corner. The cast is excellent, Pilato as Rhodes steals every scene he is in and is the best character in the film. Liberty as the mad doctor Logan is also excellent. He is really interesting to watch him slowly unravel into madness. Sherman as the friendly zombie Bub is another piece of the puzzle that works fantastically in this film. Especially when after Logan is killed the emotion he feels is palatable. I never thought I would feel empathy for a zombie but Sherman makes it work. The effects by Savini are amazing, they are so realistic and nausea inducing. My personal favorite is the zombie on the gurney that tries to rise up and as it does you see it's guts plop onto the ground. The death of Rhodes is another favorite and it is really grody. The score by John Harrison is eerie and haunting, but it also has a tropical feel which really comes together at the end of the film. This is one of the best zombie films ever made, and a must see for any horror film fan.
This one gets 5 out of 5

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