Day of the Dead (2008)

Day of the Dead (2008)

D-Day is coming

A small group of scientists and soldiers band together in an underground missile silo as the world above them is overrun by the zombies. The scientists are trying study the zombies in order to find a way to either kill them or control them. But the soldiers just want them dead. This leads to tension and conflict between the two groups with the threat of the zombies ever-present.

 

I was sceptical when the remake for Dawn of the Dead was announced a few years ago. Well I’d be lying if I said sceptical, more like raging mad. How could you remake such a classic film and be able to top it? Well to my absolute delight, the remake was superb. It still wasn’t anywhere near as good as the original however it was one of the best mainstream horror films I’ve seen for a very long time. It was terrifying, it was gory, it was funny and above all it had heart with characters we could sympathise with and a story that tried to establish itself as real as possible. So when a remake (or re-imagining as it calls itself) of Day of the Dead was announced, I was more upbeat and expecting more of the same. Out of the two original films, Day of the Dead was always the one that needed the remake more so I was preparing myself for a treat. Ving Rhames joined the cast (not playing the same role as he did before though!) and Steve Miner, a man who has helmed a few horror films in his time such as a couple of the early Friday the 13th films, Halloween H20 and Lake Placid, was announced as the director. So far, so good? So where did it all go horribly wrong?

Day of the Dead is a dreadful rehash, more at home with the last couple of Return of the Living Dead sequels and House of the Dead 2: Dead Aim than it is with either the original Day of the Dead or the remake of Dawn of the Dead. It would have worked better as a sequel as opposed to a standalone remake. But even then, the ‘remake’ term can be applied very loosely. The writer, Jeffrey Reddick, has picked out the bits of the original he wanted to throw in (i.e. not a whole lot), peppered it with bits and bobs from other zombie films and tried to hold it all together under the banner of a remake. The problem isn’t that film is low budget – far from it. It was supposed to get a cinematic release but didn’t because obviously someone higher up in the studio saw the final cut and recognised a turd when they saw one.

I can understand that the zombie genre has been so over-used and watered down over recent years and that you can only do so much with the living dead….however some films have managed to do something new with them (see Zombie Strippers as ridiculous proof). The set up is from the book of zombie writing – military tries to contain a virus but it manages to spread to the civilian population. The film kicks off about twenty minutes in when the hospital turns into a zombie breeding ground. But after a relatively entertaining couple of minutes, the film just drifts into cliché territory with the characters going from one situation to the next and encountering problems along the way (you know the sort – trying to get to a parked car, finally getting there after battling zombies to find there are no keys, etc). Quite what Ving Rhames is doing in this is beyond me. Maybe he thought he was signing on for a proper sequel to Dawn of the Dead. Mena Suvari does what little she can with her thankless role as the soldier with feelings and emotions but it’s pointless because the characters are second fiddle to the zombies.

Zombies are a touchy subject with most horror fans. I prefer the slow lumbering zombies of the early Romero days, not these hyped up sprinters from 28 Days Later and Dawn of the Dead. The slow menace of hundreds of zombies dragging their feet towards you is scarier than the thought of some rabid-looking guy beating the 100m world record to get to your flesh! But the zombies are taken to the next level here. It’s like they’ve all watched The Matrix. They can jump 20ft into the air. They can crawl across walls and ceilings like aliens. And whenever they attack, the camera goes into a music video-like frenzy of flashes and editing, supposedly to enhance the impact of people being ripped apart. Most of the gore effects are CGI and it begs the question on how much fake blood and prosthetics have gone up in price for filmmakers to be suddenly avoiding them. Bring back Tom Savini and his box of tricks. Computer game gore and dozens of ripped limbs and torn throats are not replacements for a decent story, dependable characters and an odd scare or two.

 

Day of the Dead is a terrible zombie film. It offers nothing remotely original and simply rehashes tired zombie clichés whilst cashing its name against the undisputed titans of the zombie sub-genre. It’s such a disappointment given the names involved and the budget. What should have been a win-win scenario has turned into a suck-suck scenario. Day of the Dead is a disasterpiece of epic proportions.

 

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