Monday, October 13, 2014

Film Review: Day of the Dead (1985)

Day of the Dead (Review)
United States/1985
Format Viewed For Review: Netflix Instant
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: No
A 31 Days of Halloween Special Review!*

"...exciting and occasionally funny."

Survivors of a zombie apocalypse find themselves in an underground military base, where scientists work to stop or cure the disease and the military provide support.

Day of the Dead mainly follows Dr. Sarah (Lori Cardille), Captain Rhodes (Joseph Pilato), and Dr. "Frankenstein" during this process. The group of survivors bicker and argue amongst themselves and struggle to communicate. Dr. Sarah doesn't really know what she's looking for, Captain Rhodes is hardheaded and tyrannical, while Dr. "Frankenstein" spends his time conducting experiments on zombies in hopes of teaching them to behave. It's a fairly simple plot that leads to a great climax and good ending.

Day of the Dead is a little more of a blatant human drama than it is a zombie horror film. And, I don't mind. The characters are often infuriating, though. The scientists complain about communication but don't provide proof of their research, the soldiers are obnoxious and tyrannical, and the pilot and electronic specialist... well, they're really not that bad. I understand that the characters should be irritable, but these come off as annoying instead -- a pinch of charisma would've been appreciated.

Otherwise, I liked the plot. I liked the idea of the underground base and I liked the drama between the characters. I especially liked the insight into the zombies and their behaviors. Obviously this is a work of fiction, but I love when film worlds and mythologies expand, and this does just that. It's not particularly frightening or even suspenseful, but it is exciting and occasionally funny. The characters may be an issue, but I don't see many gaping flaws with the actual story.

The acting ranged from mediocre to good. Lori Cardille is good, as is Joseph Pilato. The supporting cast, particularly those that play soldiers, are way overacted; they act like cartoon characters when they laugh so hysterically and so often. The film looks nice, despite mostly being secluded to an underground base. The music was great; it feels refreshing visiting an 80s films. One of my favorite parts of the film, though, are the superb special effects; master Tom Savini once again delivers with these fascinating practical gore effects. Director and writer George A. Romero crafts an entertaining zombie drama; some of its tones are inconsistent and the characters lack a shred of charisma, but it's more than competent.

Overall, Day of the Dead is an entertaining zombie drama/horror film. The special effects are superb and the story is great and refreshing, but the characters are mediocre. The message it sends is clear, but the film doesn't really give it chance to shine. Regardless, fans of zombie films, especially those with insightful elements, will find an engaging and entertaining film.

Score: 7/10
Parental Guide: Strong violence and gore.

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