Monday, April 7, 2008


Welcome to Leadville, Colorado, on the day the dead start to walk the Earth.
A remake of George Romero’s third installment in his Dead series, this is a straight-to-DVD feature starring American Beauty’s Mena Suvari as Sarah Bowman, born and raised in Leadville, and back as part of a supposed military exercise that quickly turns into a tour of zombie Hell.
Sadly—and much like the surprisingly rapid decay and decomposition of newly-turned zombies—the film itself likewise quickly degenerates into a tour of low budget horror Hell.

First of all, we really didn’t need remakes to Romero’s originals. That’s a given.
But, however unnecessary the remakes may have been, it’s to the credit of directors Tom Savini and Zack Snyder (who gave us 1990‘s colour redux of Night of the Living Dead and 2004‘s adrenalized zombies in the revisited Dawn of the Dead) that the first two were actually well-made and ultimately, excellent additions to the ranks of zombie cinema.
This Day though, is frankly a terrible mess.
Brought to us by Steve Miner—who directed the second and third parts of the Friday the 13th franchise, as well as Halloween H20—the Day of the Dead remake should really just have stayed dead, or at the very least, spent a little more time in deep freeze while another draft of the script was cranked out, and another, more capable director chosen for the unenviable task of walking in Romero’s shadow.

To begin with, why the script by Jeffrey Reddick (who co-wrote Final Destination) chooses to favour a youngish cast is a mystery, as this feels like nothing so much as part teen horror flick, part kids dressing up to play soldier.
Now, just to be clear, I actually thought Suvari was passably effective here; save for some rather screamy bits, she passes muster, as does Stark Sands (Conor McNamara, in Nip/Tuck’s “2026” flashforward episode), who brings a curious pathos to his role of Bud. (If you’ve seen Romero’s original, you’ll get an idea what ultimately happens to Bud, based solely on his name.)
The script though, doesn’t really treat their characters with any real respect. But while Suvari and Sands attempt to make the most of what little is given them, the other performers aren’t so skilled or lucky.
Joan of Arcadia’s Michael Welch (as Sarah’s younger brother, Trevor) and other Nip/Tucker AnnaLynne McCord (as his girlfriend Nina) are vaguely ridiculous, as is Torchwood‘s Matt Rippy (as CDC doc, Logan). Nick Cannon meanwhile, as Salazar, is merely amusing, but not in a good way.
It’s also telling that the two older members of the cast, Ian McNeice (as Paul, the local DJ; you’ll recall McNeice as Robert Drudge, the police surgeon in From Hell) and Ving Rhames (who plays Capt. Rhodes, the brother mentioned by Rhames’ character in Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead), are given ultimately thankless roles here. Rhames, in particular, is made to look like quite the fool in his final onscreen moments in Day.

Why the script chooses to forego the claustrophobic setting of the original Day is also another mystery, instead opting to show us the disaster that befalls Leadville, when the film’s budget clearly can’t afford to.
And while there is an anti-military swipe towards film’s end, it’s piddling compared to the socio-cultural commentary Romero manages to squeeze in amidst the gore of his originals.
Also, for those of you who took issue with the running zombies from Dawn, well, you’ll ab-so-frakkin’-lute-ly abhor Miner’s Day zombies, who not only leap, they also actually spider climb across ceilings.
I kept on waiting for them to go all Yamikazi on Suvari’s a$$, but sadly, they didn’t.
And while some of the gore effects are adequate, there’s also some rather dodgy CGI and visual effects in here, particularly when we get some zombie BBQ on the menu.

Miner’s horror record had been spotty before this—Friday the 13th Part II was the last time Crystal Lake was any fun, but his Part III and Halloween H20 were not particularly good. (Though the on-screen pairing of mother and daughter Scream Queens Janet Leigh and Jamie Lee Curtis in H20 was admittedly a great and knowing nod.)
Now he’s touched a third classic horror franchise and left behind an odious reek, like an alley cat marking its territory.
The man should stop while he’s behind…
And the remakes of Romero should stop too.

(Day of the Dead OS courtesy of

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