Yesterday we took a look at 2008's lackluster Day of the Dead remake. Have you ever heard that saying that there's never enough money to do something right the first time, but plenty to do it right the second time? Well, let's put that theory to the test with today's movie, Day of the Dead: Bloodline.
The film opens in the midst of an already bloody zombie outbreak, then flashes back to four hours earlier where we see a medical student named Zoe being quizzed in the morgue over a cadaver whose cause of death is determined to be the H1N1 influenza strain. After the lesson, Zoe has to attend to a patient named Max who makes her uncomfortable, but she endures his unwanted advances because of the incredible antibodies in his blood and what it might mean for medical science. Later, during a party, Max attempts to rape her when the H1N1 cadaver reanimates and attacks Max. The zombie virus quickly spreads to the other students and staff, and Zoe narrowly escapes. Five years later, Zoe is working as a medical researcher at a refugee camp run by the military. When one of the children falls ill from bacterial pneumonia, Zoe convinces the base commander to let her lead a supply run to the medical school. While visiting her old lab, Zoe encounters the zombified Max, who still remembers her. Max hitches a ride back to the base on the bottom of a humvee and resumes stalking Zoe. When he finally reveals himself to her, and she realizes that he still retains his intelligence and isn't like the other "rotters," Zoe pleads with the soldiers to capture him alive so that she can use the antibodies in his blood to create a vaccine.
While not a perfect film, Bloodline is a far better story and tribute to Romero's original than the abysmal 2008 remake. Bloodline retains enough of the original to be deserving of its name, but also creates a new story to keep the viewer engaged.
Let's talk about Max. Max is this film's Bub. Like Bub, Max retains a degree of intelligence and even possesses the capacity for limited speech. Where Bub was actually a sympathetic character we could root for, the audience is intended to despise Max from the very start. Johnathon Schaech is creepy enough before the outbreak, but after five years as a rotter hybrid, his mouth stretches to inhuman dimensions, leaving him with a grin that sends chills down your spine. There are times when the movie goes a little too far with Max's speaking parts, but aside from that, I found Max to be a fun and unsettling take on the Bub character, not to mention topical, considering the recent spotlight on sexual harassment against women.
The zombies, called "rotters" in the movie, are pretty generic in terms of makeup. There was one rotter in the medical school raid scene that I really liked, a particularly rotten fellow with a hanging lower jaw. Sadly, he was the only rotter with any real character. I like when filmmakers actually make zombies look like time affects them. No zombie should still have eyeballs after a few weeks, let alone five years. I want to know who's been doing laundry for the rotters in the picture above. It's probably whoever's been cutting the grass on The Walking Dead.
So what's the verdict? Well, despite being rated 0% by critics and 8% by audiences on Rotten Tomatoes, I actually liked it! The opening annoyed me a bit with its depictions of bitten humans exploding like shaken soda cans, and aside from Zoe, Max, and the Salazar brothers there really aren't any memorable human characters, but I really liked the direction the story took with Max, and I found Zoe to be a capable and reasonably flawed protagonist. She did what needed to be done, and she shouldered the consequences of her actions.
It may not be everyone's cup of tea, but that's alright with me. I say give this one a shot since it's streaming on Netflix. You just might enjoy it as much as I did. Be advised, however, that Max and his behaviors may be particularly upsetting to some viewers.
Tomorrow we'll leave the living dead behind. What creatures will we encounter? Come back tomorrow to find out, kids.