DAY OF THE DEAD
Review by Michael Jacobson
Lori Cardille, Terry Alexander, Joe Pilato, Richard Liberty
Director: George A. Romero
Audio: DTS HD Mono
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.78:1
Studio: Shout! Factory
Features: See Review
Length: 101 Minutes
Release Date: September 17, 2013
on it…CHOKE ON IT!!”
watching Day of the Dead for the first time in a number of years and
looking around for other reactions to the film, I realized I was not alone.
I was one of a fairly big number of fans of George A. Romero’s original
two Dead movies to originally dismiss the final chapter as a bit of a let
down, but later saw the picture with fresh eyes and found it to have its own
unique style and merit. Perhaps we
should form a national support group to pick each other up and encourage
others…yes, it’s indeed okay to like this movie.
still pales a bit in comparison to the first two, but most horror films do.
Night of the Living Dead is probably the apex of the low budgeted,
simply conceived yet superbly executed horror film, and it was arguably the most
pivotal modern moment in the history of the genre.
Dawn of the Dead took the concept and reimagined it with style and
fury, elevating the shock value while working on the levels of parody and social
commentary and at the same time spinning a dark apocalyptic vision.
I consider it the greatest horror movie ever made.
of the Dead was
primed in our minds to be a climax of unprecedented scope, yet for monetary and
other concerns, it was scaled back instead.
Writer/director George A. Romero tried to convince us of a world where
the living dead had all but taken over, humanity was barely a petrie dish
specimen, and mankind’s time was running out.
But here was a case where our imaginations couldn’t quite fill in the
gaps of what wasn’t shown. We
hear about the end of the world, but we spend almost all our time in an
underground base/storage area where the living people argue and scream at one
another and where hoards of zombies are corralled for experimentation in a
desperate last ditch effort to find a solution and save the world.
limited scope doesn’t lend to the script’s suggestion of worldwide
calamity…maybe if you played the three in order it would have more effect?
I’m not sure. What plays out is highly serviceable horror, but it doesn’t
seem to exist beyond the aperture the way it did in the first two pictures.
Not even television or radio broadcasts lend to the illusion of a
before, the setting takes place in a world where the dead are returning to life
to feast on the living. Only now,
the game is just about up. As Sarah
(Cardille) and her science team scope far and wide for human survivors or
even a radio signal, none is found. Believing
there has to be others somewhere but isolated in an underground chamber with an
odd fellow scientist, Logan (Liberty) and a dwindling Army unit led by Rhodes (Pilato)
for protection, the stress and bleakness of their situation has taken a toll on
final hope is to learn something from the zombies that can be used to either
reverse or stop the process, or to fight back against them.
Time is running out, as even in a secured underground mining area, the
specimens of dead are often too much for the remaining humans to handle.
Logan performs bizarre (and sometimes gruesome) experiments dealing with
behaviorism while Rhodes, a captain who has just about reached the end of his
rope and is becoming more monstrous than even the undead, is running out of men
is a lot of screaming in this movie, which is probably what turned me off of it
at first. The world is hanging by a
thread and all humanity’s last hope can do is yell and posture and curse at
one another? It’s enough to make
you lean toward hoping for no survivors, and at first, it almost seems to
smother the gravity of the situation Romero is trying to create.
the more I see of this picture, the more I realize that the disparity of his
vision is probably an accurate one. The
question that is subtly posed is not whether or not we will be saved, but
whether or not we even deserve to be. One
character even suggests that mankind had failed so miserably in its domination
of the world that the current catastrophe might just be God’s way of wiping
the slate clean to start anew.
the horror happens, it happens with great gusto and ferocity.
Tom Savini, who continued to supply Romero with make-up effects for his
creatures, really outdid himself with his work here.
His undead look more horrifying than ever…and of course, when they have
their meals, you may just lose your last one.
does ultimately work as a horror film; a point I didn’t concede before but
willingly do so now. It succeeds
more than it fails, though a couple of major hurdles kept it from being equal to
its predecessors: namely, the
aforementioned lack of proper scope, and also the strange stab at optimism
Romero goes for at the end. It
seemed false. Merciful, maybe, but
false as well.
I have to join my brethren in criticism, as well as standing up for myself as a
professed horror junkie, and say that Day of the Dead deserves a second
look from those like me who gave up on it too quickly the first time.
It’s also a good time for newcomers to take a look while the film is
enjoying a renaissance of sorts, after being mostly buried for nearly 20 years
as a video shelf curiosity. I guess
things sometimes do come back from the dead after all.
Lori Cardille’s father was radio personality Chilly Billy, who appeared in
Romero’s Night of the Living Dead as himself!
be frank, I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t seen it.
After the original presentation of this movie on DVD was decidedly
sub-par, I began to think that there was no hope for this film, considering how
much of it was shot in darkened, murky settings.
This new high definition treatment is a revelation.
The flaws are all gone; no softness, grain, color problems or distortion.
Every shot, from the few bright outdoor scenes to the many darkened
underground ones, showcase an amazing new integrity.
Every color is perfectly rendered, image detail in all light levels is
remarkable, and the print is clean and free from debris or grain.
I kept thinking the other shoe would drop and it never did.
Prepare to be dazzled.
I am uncertain why for Blu-ray this disc went back to mono,
when on DVD it had a full surround channel. Mono may be original, but
horror always benefits from more speakers. That being said, this is still
a clean, dynamic job all around.
This disc begins with a commentary track that unites George Romero with make-up artist Tom Savini, production designer Cletus Anderson and lead actress Lori Cardille. If you’ve heard Romero’s other tracks with cast and crew, you know what to expect…lots of memories and laughs, kind of like a reunion party.
There is also a brand new documentary on the legacy of the
film, a retrospective featurette containing new interviews with Romero, Savini, Cardille, Pilato, Howard Sherman (the zombie Bub) and other crew
members. A second featurette takes
you back to the behind-the-scenes of the movie and mostly focuses on Savini and
his terrific make-up and gore effects.
Three trailers (the second one is especially a hoot) and three TV spots are included, along with a 15 minute audio interview with actor Richard Liberty from 2000, a promo film for the Wampum Mine, production stills, advertising and make-up galleries, and a bio on George Romero.
Day of the Dead has come back stronger than ever thanks to Shout! Factory's terrific Blu-ray release. For fellow horror lovers, unequivocally recommended.