Starring Lori Cardille, Terry Alexander, George Nicotero, Sherman Howard, Joseph Pilato
(7-Very Good Film)
Ambitious. Slow. Brutal.
Rather than growing complacent of his own invention (the slow-moving, flesh-eating zombie), Romero (director of The Night of the Living Dead) took his idea a step further with each new entry. In Day of the Dead, a group of scientists hole up with hyper-masculine soldiers, as the world around them crumbles to pieces, destroyed by zombies. “It’s another plague,” says one of the characters. Sent by God to wipe humans out. The scientists, intent on creating a cure, are in constant strife with the soldiers, who pose as much of a threat as the hordes of zombies. Romero’s characters are more philosophical than three dimensional: Rhodes (Pilato), the head soldier, is a “with me or against me” type, a petty dictator over their isolated camp. Sarah (Bowman), a scientist and the film’s main protagonist, is an optimist. She believes in a cure, and saving humanity. Dr. Logan (Liberty), lead scientist, nicknamed “Frankenstein,” makes the same mistake of that literary mad genius, and plays God, attempting to manipulate death. Then there’s John (Alexander), my favorite character, seemingly apathetic and always pragmatic. These characters and their motivations play out over the course of this slow-burning, ultimately effective horror flick, and give it artistic merit, where its contemporaries and followers settle for mindless gore. Enough can’t be said about the low-budget special effects in this picture, which are grisly and extraordinary. When the floodgates do open in a manner of speaking, and the violent deaths hit, Day of the Dead becomes a tour de force. One of the private’s deaths is one of the goriest and most unforgettable movie deaths I’ve seen. Terrific soundtrack and performance by Sherman Howard as Bub as well. However, marring some of its grand ambition is the over-the-top acting, especially of the soldiers, and slower pace, that is eventually rewarding, but holds the picture back from being great entertainment.
-Walter Tyrone Howard-