DAY OF THE DEAD
In the 00s, we have seen a sudden explosion of zombie films, all of which source George Romeros films. First there was the substantial success of 28 Days Later (2002) and then the huge success of the remake of Dawn of the Dead (2004). This has seen an industry of films that substantially borrow from the Romero basics, including the likes of Resident Evil (2002) and sequels, House of the Dead (2003), Dead Meat (2004), Zombie Honeymoon (2004), Zombie Nation (2004), All Souls Day (2005), Boy Eats Girl (2005), Dead Life (2005), Dead Men Walking (2005), Hood of the Living Dead (2005), Raiders of the Damned (2005), Zombiez (2005), Automaton Transfusion (2006), Deadlands: The Rising (2006), Dorm of the Dead (2006), Night of the Dead Leben Tod (2006), The Quick and the Undead (2006), Wicked Little Things (2006), Zombie Wars (2006), Awaken the Dead (2007), Dead Moon Rising (2007), Rising Dead (2007), Undead or Alive (2007), Zombie Farm (2007), Carnival of the Damned (2008), Colin (2008), Dance of the Dead (2008), Dead Country (2008), Dead Set (tv mini-series, 2008), Evilution (2008), Lifeless (2008), Make-Out With Violence (2008), Mutant Vampire Zombies from the Hood (2008), Ninjas vs Zombies (2008), Pontypool (2008), Reel Zombies (2008), Risen (2008), Solos (2008), Against the Dark (2009), Autumn (2009), Dead Snow (2009), The Dead Undead (2009), Edges of Darkness (2009), The Horde (2009), Horrid (2009), Platoon of the Dead (2009), Silent Night, Zombie Night (2009), Yesterday (2009), Zombieland (2009), Zone of the Dead (2009), The Dark Lurking (2010), The Dead (2010), The Dead and the Damned (2010), The Walking Dead (tv series, 2010 ), Zombie Apocalypse (2010), Zombie Beach (2010), Bloodlust Zombies (2011), Exit Humanity (2011), Xombies 3D (2011), The Battery (2012), World War Z (2013), Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead (2014) and Navy Seals vs Zombies (2015); those which affectionately spoof Zombie Beach Party (2003), Shaun of the Dead (2004), Fido (2006), Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead (2006), Planet Terror (2007), Wasting Away (2007), Z: A Zombie Musical (2007), Zombie Cheerleader Camp (2007), Zombie Strippers! (2008), Attack of the Vegan Zombies! (2009), Doghouse (2009), Georges Intervention (2009), Romeo and Juliet vs the Living Dead (2009), Stag Night of the Dead (2009), Zombies of Mass Destruction (2009), Big Tits Zombie (2010), Dale of the Dead (2010), Santa Claus vs. the Zombies (2010), Zombie Driftwood (2010), Zombie Drugs (2010), Bong of the Dead (2011), Deadheads (2011), Juan of the Dead (2011), Abraham Lincoln vs. Zombies (2012), Cockneys vs Zombies (2012), Pro Wrestlers vs Zombies (2014), Zombeavers (2014), Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse (2015), Attack of the Lederhosen Zombies (2016) and Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (2016); and direct remakes such as Night of the Living Dead 3D (2006) and Day of the Dead here; as well as Romero hangers-on like Day of the Dead 2: Contagium (2005), Return of the Living Dead: Necropolis (2005), Return of the Living Dead: Rave to the Grave (2005) and Night of the Living Dead: Darkest Dawn (2015); not to mention Romeros own revisiting of the material with Land of the Dead (2005), Diary of the Dead (2007) and Survival of the Dead (2009). Day of the Dead 2008 completes the oddity of a trilogy of films, which has now all been completely remade from Night of the Living Dead (1990) and Night of the Living Dead 3D, Dawn of the Dead 2004 and Day of the Dead here perhaps a filmic first.
Day of the Dead 2008 comes from Steve Miner, a director with a long if not particularly standout genre history. Miner began working as a production assistant for Wes Craven on The Last House on the Left (1972) and then went onto produce Cunninghams Friday the 13th (1980). He made his directorial debut with Friday the 13th Part 2 (1981) and went onto helm the genre likes of Friday the 13th Part III in 3D (1982), House (1986), Warlock (1989), the Mel Gibson cryogenic sleeper awakes romance Forever Young (1992), Halloween H20: Twenty Years Later (1998) and Lake Placid (1999). With the exception of Warlock, most of this is unexceptional hackwork.
Day of the Dead 1985 is an unsung masterpiece. On the other hand, you can fairly much see where Day of the Dead 2008 is heading from the moment it opens. Instead of any of George Romeros stunning metaphors for the doom of the human race, the opening scenes give us teens making out in a bunker. When we next get to Mena Suvari manning a roadblock and setting up a quarantine around the town, we realize that the basics of Romeros Day of the Dead have been essentially thrown out the window. In his version, Romero gave us a vision of zombies having overrun the Earth and outnumbering humans 400,000 to one and a handful of survivors hunkered in a bunker; here Steve Miner and Jeffrey Reddick, who previously wrote Final Destination (2000), have simply gone back and recreated the basics all over again and shown the beginnings of the zombie outbreak. (In the Romero original, all explanation of how the zombies had overrun the Earth could only be found by referring to the previous films). Where Romero created a film about isolation and explosive cabin fever that became a philosophical look at the end of humanity, Day of the Dead 2008 quickly becomes just another zombie film by the numbers.
Everything about Day of the Dead 2008 emerges as wrong in just about every way. The characters from the original have either been substantially curtailed or rewritten. Indeed, about all that the characters here have in common with their counterparts in the original any longer are their names. In the original, Captain Rhodes was a psychotic bully a terrifyingly good performance from Joe Pilato. Here Rhodes merely becomes the commanding officer of the operation who is killed within the first few minutes and thereafter remains a zombie. (This oddly also marks Ving Rhames second appearance in the trilogy of Romero remakes he having also appeared in Dawn of the Dead 04). We have a Dr Logan but he is no mad scientist, just a double-dealing medic who was partly responsible for the original outbreak but is never engaged in any experiments on the zombies. The bunker that was the oppressive all-surrounding setting for Day of the Dead 1985 does eventually turn up but it is no more than a convenient place that the survivors on the run use to hide. The worst of the new characterizations is that of Bud (Bub in the original). In the original, Bub (a great performance from Howard Sherman) was a pet zombie experimented on by Dr Logan who had started to remember fragments of his life as a human; here Bud becomes a friendly soldier (Stark Sands) that we see going through the process of turning into a zombie, only to arrive at an appallingly sentimental scene where, having fallen for Mena Suvari, he remembers enough of his humanity to sacrifice himself to prevent her from being devoured.
One of the noticeable things that Day of the Dead 2008 has done is recast the original with a youth cast the parts of Sarah, Salazar and Dr Logan from the original have been recast with actors under the age of 30, while there have been a good number of completely new roles created to add more young people to the mix. Most of these roles pass with thorough forgettability. The usually fine British actor Ian McNeice does an incredibly bad job of trying to affect a cowboy accent to play a hardnosed radio DJ. One of the more annoying performances in the film is that of Nick Cannon as Salazar, which Cannon plays by keeping up an annoying barrage of quips and one-liners throughout the film.
One of the good aspects about Day of the Dead 2008 indeed about the only decent aspect is the zombie makeups. We get the usual machetes and bullets in the head and various body parts and bodies being incinerated. Particularly good is the progressive degree of decay that we see Stark Sands undergo as he turns into the zombie Bud. Steve Miner opts to go with the modern fast-moving zombies that Zack Snyder introduced in Dawn of the Dead 2004, as opposed to Romeros blankly shuffling dead, although this gets fairly silly when we get to the point of zombies scuttling along the ceiling. Steve Miners set-ups are mostly routine, although there is one good scene with Mena Suvari being pursued through the air ducts by the legless Ving Rhames zombie.
A further remake has been announced with Day of the Dead (2017), which adheres more closely to the original.
(Nominee for Best Makeup Effects at this sites Best of 2008 Awards).
Entire film available online here:-