Day of the Dead (2008) - 15/31 Days of Halloween
So far we've survived the Night of the Living Dead, endured the Dawn of the Dead, and now its time to face the Day of the Dead. With the immense commercial success of 2004's Dawn, a sequel and remake of its original's sequel (confused yet?) was inevitable, right? Well, this film has absolutely no ties to Snyder's Dawn remake... except one. Actor Ving Rhames returns, this time playing Captain Rhodes, though not even remotely the same character as Joe Pilato played in the 1985 original.
The film opens with a group of teenagers making out in an abandoned building as a military roadblock is being established outside town, headed by Captain Rhodes and Corporal Sarah Cross (played by Mena Suvari). Sarah tries to ease the concerns of some locals who wish to seek medical attention for their child in a neighboring city, and directs them to the local hospital instead. Two soldiers named Salazar and Bud report to Sarah, and while both are clearly enamored with her, Sarah selects Bud to accompany her into town to check on her mother, much to Salazar's disappointment. Sarah is furious with her brother's neglect of their mother in her declining health. When she learns her brother's friend is displaying similar symptoms, she decides to pay the teen a visit, instead finding a pair of mutilated corpses in the home. Sarah reports in to Rhodes and takes her mother to the hospital. Once there, patients begin to turn, and chaos erupts as the living dead kill everyone they encounter. Sarah, Bud, Salazar, and a CDC doctor named Logan team up to escape the hospital, rescue Sarah's brother, and discover the cause of the outbreak.
Okay, so... remember what I said yesterday about not liking how fast the zombies in Dawn turn? I take it all back. The zombies in Dawn succumb to the virus and reanimate at a snail's pace compared to these things. Not only that, but we watch them decompose in front of our eyes, going from nearly healthy skin to open sores and severe decomposition in a matter of seconds. I just couldn't take it seriously. Again, they're turbo charged, this time to the point where I could barely tell what was happening onscreen. But that's just as well, because if they slowed down, we'd be forced to look at that ridiculous zombie makeup. Fire causes the ghouls' heads to literally explode and their bodies to dissolve. Because... why not? Apparently the filmmakers thought it would look cool.
They were wrong.
This film is a remake in name only, simply borrowing a few names to draw fans of the original in... those that it gets right, but more on that in a minute. Gone is the underground research facility. With this being an origin story, we aren't shown the fatigue and desperation as the survivors worry that maybe they're the only ones left alive. There's nothing that made the original great. Romero's film dealt with ideas about the end, and what we humans cling to in our moments of despair. It's about leaving the past buried (literally) and starting anew... you know... greeting a new day.
I should also point out that a film called "Day" of the Dead shouldn't have the bulk of its story take place at night. I mean... just sayin'.
Now... let's talk about "Bud." That's right, I said "Bud." Not "Bub." Bud.
In Romero's 1985 Day, Dr. Logan is experimenting on the dead when he discovers that one (who he affectionately names Bub) is particularly bright, can be trained to behave in exchange for treats, and is even capable of limited speech. In this film, however, Sarah refuses to let Salazar kill Bud after he is infected, instead restraining him and dragging him along with them... for... reasons? Bud never attacks the main characters, and the only explanation the movie offers is that he was a vegetarian in life. I shit you not. Bud proves to mostly be a hindrance to the team and ultimately winds up getting his ass kicked by the other zombies when he tries to play hero.
So what's the verdict? Frankly, this movie is awful. It's a slap in the face to Romero's legacy and was clearly nothing but a loveless cash grab capitalizing on name recognition. It's lame, senseless, and not scary even in the slightest. You should avoid this one like the zombie plague.
But I have some interesting news, folks. This year, a second remake titled Day of the Dead: Bloodline was released. How does it compare to this one, and more importantly, does it pay homage to the original? Come back tomorrow to find out.
[NOTE: Tubi lists this film on their app, complete with cast information and poster, but when you watch it, Day of the Dead: Bloodline plays instead. Just in case any of you decide to track this movie down for yourself.]