Day of the Dead (1985) Film Review 4/5

Long thought to be the last and final entry in George Romero’s Dead series, this flawed classic film cries out for something. Could it be story resolution? Perhaps there are many tales of the Dead yet to be told. George certainly hopes so, as he’s finally making plans for the long lusted-after fourth chapter in the “Night of the Living Dead” zombie saga. Perhaps there is something else that prevents this movie from being a five skull classic, holding it down to the level of awesome four skull flick.

An in-depth examination of the film’s history reveals to us that, indeed, the plans were originally much grander (and much closer to the plans for Dead 4, if we can trust the internet and George himself). Unfortunately, there were funding problems, and George was only able to round up half of what he had originally hoped and scripted for. Had someone given the ICON another ten million dollars and perhaps “Day” would be the spectacular film that is lurking somewhere in Romero’s terse, moody script.

As it is, we work with what we have, and I’ll tell you my thoughts (or should I say our thoughts, since we Corpsies are in agreement about just what keeps the picture from being perfect) after we talk a little about the picture.

The world is overrun with the living dead. Humanity is pretty much fucked up the rear with an Ebola-flavored cock at this point, with only a few pockets of isolated survivors living in underground military bunkers, searching desperately for a cure to the curse that is slowly overrunning mankind. Welcome to South Florida, except replace the hordes of Cuban illegals with hordes of the living dead.

Somewhere in a swamp, in the underground comfort of a concrete bunker, lives humanity’s last hope. True to human nature, and true to the bitter end, the humans are fighting amongst themselves while the greater threat waits outside their walls. The soldiers, lead by base commander Captain Rhodes (Joe Pilato), find themselves consistently at odds with the scientists, lead by the cutely-named Dr. Frankenstein (Richard Liberty, I salute you!), his ‘experiment subject’ and best friend Bub (Sherman Howard) and the one remaining piece of ass on the planet Sarah (Lori Cardille) and her boyfriend . Caught in the middle are a pair of civilian helicopter pilots, John (Terry Alexander, the prerequisite black hero) and William (Jarlath Conroy), kept around in the vain hope that more survivors might be out there looking for military help. Yeeah, right.

The dialogue in this movie is great, and once it gets going, this slow burner really catches fire in a spectacular array of blood and gore effects that are really the best things ever caught on film in the history of the universe. Savini is really on his fucking mark here, and the disemboweling of a certain character still makes me hungry for sausage links and ketchup. There’s only one thing holding this piece down, other than the lack of money.

It’s hopeless. In “Night,” there are posses rounding up the dead and killing them off but good. In “Dawn,” there’s a mob of bikers and the police still fighting to keep things normal-ish. In “Day?” There’s no need to worry about the fate of the human race, because it’s pretty fucking hopeless, and it’s hard to root for a bunch of bitchy, useless scientists and the least-svelte army in the world. The only two characters who the viewer really can throw their stock behind are the criminally insane (and AMAZING) Cpt. Rhodes (who steals the movie, did I say that yet? He’s fucking great.) and Bub the Zombie. It’s hard to really fall for a movie in which the only characters you can appreciate (and even see a future for) are a megalomaniacal asshole and a rotting hunk of ex-patriot.

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