Saturday, January 5, 2013

Movie Review: Day of the Dead (1985)

Day of the Dead (1985) written and directed by George A. Romero

I saw this over the summer on the ITV player but didn't want to post the review till after I could see Dawn of the Dead, which was just on the BBC's iPlayer! Then it showed up on the iPlayer so I could watch it again.

MPAA rating


ZPAA rating

Adults only

Gore level

10 out of 10--The gore was full on here: lots of nasty looking zombies in full color (generally green-gray or blue-gray) in varying states of decay and damage; lots of zombies eating flesh and tearing up people (even people who are still alive); lots of zombie deaths by gunshot, head slicing, head drilling, etc.; a corpse with bugs crawling on it; internal organs falling out several times; cauterizing a wound with a hand-made flaming torch; blood flying and oozing everywhere.

Other offensive content

Lots of swearing and profanity; vulgar references to sex though nothing to see here; disrespectful attitudes towards everyone; calling the zombie problem a punishment from God; the U. S. Army men are a bunch of unsympathetic jerks.

How much zombie mythology/content

Unlike Night of the Living Dead, this movie doesn't hint at any causes for the zombies, other than one character who speculates that they are a punishment from God. Certain zombies show some more civilization or attempts at living peaceably with decent humans, though perhaps a mad scientist doesn't really count as decent.

How much fun

I laughed once or twice during the film and it seemed like it was intentional. At one point, the mad scientist gives a book to a zombie to see if he would try to read it. What book is it? Stephen King's Salem's Lot, not exactly the sort of tome to inspire civilized living.

Synopsis & Review

A mixed group of scientists and soldiers are hiding out in an underground bunker in Florida. They go out by helicopter to find people who might still be alive. The effort has met with no success. In the meantime, the scientists try to figure out what is going on, if there is a cure for the zombies or if they can be pacified in some way other than feeding on the living.

The movie features a lot of discussion and arguing between the scientists and the soldiers. In general, the soldiers are presented as a bunch of jerks who are more interested in fun things like killing and throwing their authority around. The soldiers don't see the point of trying to pacify the zombies in any way other than head wounds. And they have doubts about discovering causes or cures. They are cartoonish and one-dimensional villains for the movie.

The scientists are pretty rational. One doctor (who is nicknamed "Dr. Frankenstein") locates the part of a person's brain that survives when zombified. He attempts to civilize a zombie through a set of trial-and-error tests, giving rewards to the zombie (nicknamed "Bub") when he behaves properly. Rewards include classical music, books, and other items. You know the scientist is crazy when he offers a gun to the zombie to see if it recognizes it and what to do with it. Also, he keeps his experiments under wraps because he doesn't think the soldiers will go along with it. He's certainly right about that. Once he tells more people about what he is doing, the whole group starts to fall apart.

Civilization is a big theme in this movie. In addition to trying to civilize the zombies, there's also the sticky issue of these people trying to live together. They have a really hard time working together or communicating. Often they will have meetings where they talk past each other, only presenting their own points of view without listening to the others. They debate about the value of reestablishing the prior civilization. Meanwhile, two misfits, a helicopter pilot and a radio guy, have set up a little tropical resort room in the bunker where they can pretend they are at the beach having a good time rather than waiting around for the end to come.

The movie is noticeably from the 1980s. The music score and the hairdos immediately place the movie in time. The production is amazingly good, though it may be too good in the gory scenes, especially when people are pulled apart on screen. There's a few too many scary scenes that are just dream sequences, with the dying character suddenly waking up and saying, "Whew, good thing it was just a dream!" Once or twice is okay for something like that; here it is overplayed.

The ending is much more upbeat for a Romero film. It's reminiscent of Trading Places or Shawshank Redemption and is a bit of a strange counterpoint to the rest of the film. Maybe that is supposed to be a dream sequence too.

The movie is pretty interesting in its discussions though the depiction of the military is a little too relentlessly negative. The gore does require a pretty high tolerance for such things.

Movie Trailer

No comments:

Post a Comment