Day of the Dead 2: Contagium (2005)

Day of the Dead 2: Contagium (2005)

Every day has a beginning

In 1968, a medical research facility is blown up by the military when it turns out that a virus has spread from a container causing the dead to rise. One of the guards tries to steal a vial of the virus but is killed in the grounds of the facility and the vial is lost in the undergrowth. Over thirty years later and the site is now a mental hospital where some of the inmates stumble upon the vial and open it, causing the virus to once again wreak havoc and create zombies.

 

My blood is beginning to boil over and my rage can’t be controlled. I’m just so freakin’ annoyed that some chumps decided to film an ‘unofficial’ sequel/prequel to George A. Romero’s nightmarish classic, Day of the Dead and actually have the balls to associate it with that hallowed of horror films. Any self-respecting fans of horror will realise that this has nothing to do with Romero but I’m more worried about new genre fans or the floating audience who don’t pay much attention to the genre but enjoy their horror films from time to time. To even consider that there are people out there who will think of this as a proper sequel, I’m just appalled. Romero’s been on the slide for a few years with his zombie films but even his lesser efforts wouldn’t entertain this travesty of a zombie flick!

Day of the Dead 2: Contagium opens rather confusingly with scores of zombies being shot by the army in the research facility. There’s little explanation for what is going on and it’s just an excuse for loads of scenes of zombies staggering around whilst the military stumble around aimlessly, waiting to get ripped apart. It’s not a bad opening ten minutes with plenty of mayhem but make the most of it – you won’t see any more zombies for at least another hour. Setting this opening sequence in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 1968 is a feeble effort to link in with the chronology of the Romero films – Night of the Living Dead was made and set in 1968 so I’m guessing the scenes here are an attempt to explain why the dead rose.

The film then shifts forward in time into some shameless One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest rip-off with the mental hospital being the focus and the inmates being the main characters. There’s absolutely nothing of merit here. Characters clash with each other. They clash with their doctors. The doctors argue with each other. And so on for at least an hour. There’s nothing remotely suspenseful or horrific during this time. The irony of this setting is that it completely disregards the events of the original Day of the Dead, thus rendering itself as a sequel completely invalid. According to the story here, the virus was contained and everything went back to normal. No post-apocalyptic end-of-the-world doomsday scenario then? I wonder whether the directing duo of Ana Clavell (who did the screenplay) and James Dudelson have ever watched any horror films, let alone the Romero film they’re supposed to be sequelising? You don’t get any hint that they have, what with the complete lack of anything horror-related!

Eventually we see our first signs of some cheap-looking make-up once the virus is released and some of the characters slowly turn into zombies….and I mean slowly turn. Still, there’s little sign of the impending doom to follow. I’ll give the film a bit of credit here because it actually shows us the zombie’s point of view for a bit, as the main characters struggle to cope with the fact they’re dead and will have to start eating flesh sooner rather than later to feed the cravings. But forget about this saving the film in any way because the script is too weak and doesn’t give anyone the chance to develop a proper character.

A couple of the characters are sympathetic but that’s only due to the ‘awww’ factor of seeing two mentally unstable inmates falling in love with each other – the acting in all cases is atrocious, with the bald Eastern European doctor being the highlight. He’s got some truly banal lines like “even the fastest deer will get killed from crossing the street too many times.” In the end it’s all just padding for the carnage-filled finale where loads of zombies break free and start their feasting. There’s some pretty good gore here with dismembered corpses, crushed heads and lashings of blood thrown around like confetti. It’s too little, too late to save this mess unfortunately and there’s no real oomph to the attacks, they just happen. Romero’s zombie attacks were well-staged for the highest shock value. Here they’re just there and you can see them coming a mile away. The zombies don’t even come off scary, threatening or dangerous. The actors/stunt men in the make-up can’t pretend to be zombies to save their lives.

 

Day of the Dead 2: Contagium clearly asks for all it gets. Had it just stuck with the Contagium tile it was originally penned as, then no one would have batted an eye lid and it would have just drifted into the lower end of the zombie market. The film’s not overly terrible as there’s enough zombie action at the beginning and the end, even if the rest of the movie stinks. However because it’s billed as a follow-up, you can’t help but compare it to Romero’s original. And because of that, the film blows big time.

 

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