Romero’s Dead trilogy was always marked with social commentary, itself commented on much by the media. Night Of The Living Dead glanced on race relations in the United States, Dawn Of The Dead was a send-up of American materialism, and the final act, Day Of The Dead, was a thinly-veiled comment on the military mindset, not unlike Romero’s previous film, The Crazies.
In the third part of the story, the dead have overwhelmed civilisation and outnumber human survivors by a factor of several hundred thousand to one. A group of scientists and soldiers have holed up in a bunker where they attempt to survive the apocalypse, experimenting on zombies with one notable success in a quasi-intelligent specimen named Bub.
The concept behind Day Of The Dead is its strongest aspect, as well as the infamous opening sequence where the female lead is grabbed by arms that burst through the wall behind her. The rest of the film, while decent enough, fails to retain the presence that these aspects deliver. The performances are woefully laughable, to the point of almost being satirical in themselves, while the production value isn’t exactly something to write home about. A clear exception, of course, is the makeup work of Tom Savini, which remains at an incredibly high standard throughout the film’s 97-minute runtime.
The film is harrowing at points, with the smart zombie Bub’s reaction to Ode To Joy being one of those moments, as well as the underground sequences. Romero’s zombies, arguably, are still the most effective by virtue of their unstoppable nature. However, the social commentary is patchy, and while the nature of the film as more of a character study is laudable, when taken in context with the other two films in the series, it’s slightly disjointed. It’s easy to see why it’s divided fans, but equally, it’s easy to see why it’s Romero’s favourite out of the three. For us, it’s a fun zombie film with a few iconic sequences, a small amount of post-Vietnam angst and some fantastic prosthetic work, but not much more.
Day Of The Dead is high-concept, but budget execution, to its tremendous detriment. Still, it’s a worthy entry in the series.
Director: George A Romero
Starring: Joe Pilato, Lori Cardille, Richard Alexander
Released: 29 March 2010