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Day of the Dead(1985)
A small group of scientists and soldiers have taken refuge in an underground missile silo where they struggle to control the flesh-eating horror that walks the earth above. But will the final battle for the future of the human race be fought among the living or have they forever unleashed the hunger of the dead?
For more about Day of the Dead and the Day of the Dead Blu-ray release, see Day of the Dead Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on October 26, 2007 where this Blu-ray release scored 2.5 out of 5.
Director: George A. Romero
Writer: George A. Romero
Starring: Lori Cardille, Terry Alexander, Joseph Pilato, Jarlath Conroy, Anthony Dileo Jr., Sherman Howard
» See full cast & crew
Day of the Dead Blu-ray Review
Romero's third Dead film makes its debut in high definition
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, October 26, 2007
They're learning...they're actually learning.
Day of the Dead is the third film in George Romero's Dead tetralogy. The Pittsburgh, PA-based filmmaker's zombie movies have set the standard for the zombie genre over the last 40 years. Does this movie live up to the reputation of the first two, or will viewers be hoping for a horde of zombies to burst into their living rooms to eat them, saving them from having to watch the rest of the movie?
Day of the Dead, set some time after the events of Dawn of the Dead, opens in a desolate Florida city. Alligators roam the streets alongside the living dead. Our heroine is Sarah (Lori Cardille), a scientist searching for signs of life on the surface. She is accompanied by our other heroes, John and William (Terry Alexander and Jarlath Conroy). When they find nothing but more zombies, they return to the everyday life of the underground bunker where they hide and study zombie specimens. The self-proclaimed leader of the band of survivors is Captain Rhodes (Joe Pilato), an overbearing, foul-mouthed, machismo officer who will not tolerate insubordination and is displeased with the work of Dr. Logan (Richard Liberty), an eccentric scientist studying the zombies. Through various grotesque experiments, Logan hopes to find out what drives the zombies to behave as they do. The burning question throughout asks, "who will tear up our survivors first: the zombies or themselves?"
What happened here? Nowhere near as chilling as the original Night of the Living Dead or well-made and eloquent as Dawn of the Dead, Day of the Dead is foul, depressing, poorly acted, poorly written, relentlessly violent tripe. It's so bad that I can't believe it came from the same man who brought us Night and Dawn. None of the characters are even remotely likeable, even the "good guys." Each character is depressing, not to mention a stereotype. We have the crazy military officer who runs the place his way and threatens to kill anyone who questions his decisions. We have his subordinates who are loyal yet slightly afraid of him, a group of racists who hate everyone not wearing fatigues (and even some that do if they happen to be Hispanic). We have the "mad scientist" type who has no trouble violating corpses in the most hideous of ways "in the name of science," the type who can cut the head off a body one minute and sit down at the dinner table the next, still wearing his blood-soaked lab coat. We have the "voice of reason," a strong-on-the-outside-but-terrified- on-the-inside type who will stand up to the authority of the military (until she and her friends are threatened at gunpoint) and is biding her time until she and her other halfway tolerable compatriots can get themselves out of the mess they're in. Then there is Bub (Howard Sherman), the somewhat tamed zombie who remembers how to open a book, shave, and listen to music. He's the best character in the film and one of the more memorable characters in horror film lore. He's the antithesis to the character of Rhodes. He also happens to be the most civilized character in the movie (despite being dead) and, in the end, does something we the audience wanted to do ourselves for the majority of the runtime of the movie.
There is a meaningful message in here, but unlike in Dawn of the Dead, Romero absolutely fails to convey it in an entertaining and compelling manner. Instead it's veiled in unrelenting foul language, hateful, uncaring, and conceited characters, and gruesome violence. What Romero has done here is show that the zombies are not the only beings to have degenerated into lifeless automatons. The zombies have a one-track mind, and so do the vast majority of our characters, most notably Rhodes and Dr. Logan. They have broken down into a most basic mental state, where what they know best clouds their judgement and interferes with their ability to consider alternate ideas or assess situations rationally. Even the drab, filthy, lifeless bunker in which the action takes place only reinforces the single-mindedness and near lifelessness of the characters. Romero's message comes through loud and clear, but we are beat over the head relentlessly by it, and it's just not a fun ride like Dawn of the Dead was.
Day of the Dead Blu-ray, Video Quality
Starz presents Day of the Dead in 1080p with its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio. Overall I was pleased with the transfer. There are some speckles (some stationary for several seconds) over the opening credits and the overall image is a little soft. After the first few minutes of the movie, the image cleaned up quite a bit. I noted crushed blacks, especially near the end of the film when the zombies infiltrate the bunker, and I noticed what appeared to be some edge enhancement throughout. This is a very two-dimensional image. Overall, however, this is a decent transfer. What color there is is vibrant and natural, but it won't pop of the screen. Gore fans will salivate over the detail visible in the rotting flesh and the blood and organs that spill out all over the place in several scenes. It's an upgrade from previous generation DVDs to be sure, but don't expect to be wowed by this transfer.
Day of the Dead Blu-ray, Audio Quality
The audio here is pretty bland. Again, like Dawn of the Dead, there is a DTS logo on the disc's artwork but there is no actual DTS track to be found once you pop in the disc. What we do get is the standard from Starz: Dolby Digital 5.1, PCM uncompressed 5.1, and the original Monaural track. The multichannel tracks feature little directionality. There is a decent amount of bass present in the soundtrack, and it sounds good, but the music is loud and sometimes drowns out sound effects and dialogue. When not being covered by music, dialogue is crisp and natural. Sound effects fare well here, and the groans of zombies in the distance come into your room with great effect. However, even with advanced equipment that can decode the PCM track, for this movie I feel the original mono track is the way to go. Honestly, there isn't much lost by playing it over the multichannel options, so why not opt for the filmmaker's original intent?
Day of the Dead Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Starz furnishes this disc with a slew of special features. There are two audio commentary tracks here. The first features writer/director George Romero, make-up wizard Tom Savini, production designer Cletus Anderson, and actress Lori Cardille. The track gets pretty slow near the end with some dead air and a lot of small talk to fill in the blanks, but it's lively and interesting through most of the movie's runtime, certainly much, much better than the movie itself. Next is a track with filmmaker Roger Avary. He is a self-proclaimed fan of George Romero and the writer of Pulp Fiction. This too is a good track especially for a solo job, but again with some dead air. This man obviously knows film. As with the other Starz horror releases, we get a "film fast facts" text-based track that covers some ground that the commentary tracks didn't (unlike the one from Evil Dead II). It's worth a watch played over one of the commentary tracks. Next are two documentaries, the first of which is The Many Days of 'Day of the Dead' (480p, 38:41). It focuses on the original script and watering it down for the budget, and shooting in the Gateway Commerce Center. Also discussed is quite a bit of the casting details, especially people wanting to be zombies. The story of the character "Bub," played by Howard Sherman, is featured. The other documentary is entitled Day of the Dead: Behind-the- Scenes (480p, 30:51). The focus here is mostly on make-up effects. It's very interesting to see how some of the gruesome effects were created. Next is an audio interview with Richard Liberty (Dr. Logan) (15:45) and a promo piece for the Gateway Commerce Center (480p, 8:12). We also get three theatrical trailers (480p) (one of the trailers shows an audience watching the movie with a zombie in attendance--interesting), and three TV spots (480p).
Day of the Dead Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
This film just didn't work for me. If you happen to like this movie, however, you'll be pleased with this Blu-ray release. The video quality is solid, the audio does its job, and there is a fairly good list of supplements. Be aware this is an extremely gory movie, by far the goriest I have reviewed yet. If you can't handle massive amounts of gore, skip this one. Completists and fans of the movie will want to pick this up as it is an upgrade over the DVD, but I'd suggest renting this Blu-ray before buying if you haven't seen the film before to make sure it's for you.
Day of the Dead: Other Editions
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