Sunday, June 20, 2010

Day of the Dead: Why Aren't We Talking About It More?

I've never been the biggest zombie lover and I'll tell you right here and now why that is. The only zombies I had been exposed to before my horror kick were the annoying kind. The REAL kind. Only the not real kind because it was just lame kids pretending to be a zombie ALL THE FUCKING TIME. For a while, and still kind of right now, kids are obsessed with zombies. During college there was this school wide game called Humans Vs. Zombies. Now I mean no offense to anyone that took part in this game but for those of us that did not, it kind of really sucked. When I am walking to class, the last thing I want to do is get violently shoved to the side by a "human" while he runs away from a pack of "zombies". It was ridiculous. It was annoying. And it greatly marred my opinion of zombies for a long time to come.

Then during my reincarnation into a horror fan, I watched George Romero's Night of the Living Dead and not long after, Dawn of the Dead and I realized that zombies weren't annoying---they were a vital part of the horror genre until teenagers started ruining it for everybody. Why do we have to treat zombies like a boy band? Why does every piece of clothing, jewelry and thong have to be cool and reference a zombie?
Zombie movies are getting out of control and while they may be entertaining they are starting to make me hate zombies. Which is why when I go back and see Romero's early zombie films I get excited--because it's a movement back to when zombies were to be feared, loathed and most importantly---dead and acting like it.

Sure I may cause a bit of a ruckus here with all you zombie lovers but I'm just tellin' it like it is. Day of the Dead is an interesting one for me because well.....because I LOVED it. I was completely and utterly amazed. Why had no one told me to see this? Why was I barely even aware that this was part of Romero's zombie series (don't laugh it's TRUE) (And sometimes I'm an idiot)? And the answer is; because it's just not talked about enough. And this begs the question- Why??????
I'm not a zombie expert obviously, but I found it completely fascinating that the zombies in Day of the Dead start behaving more like our present day zombies. They have a character and they start acting surprisingly human. The best evidence is when we see the zombies chained to the wall and they have a certain look of frustration and anger that they are chained and unable to move. I couldn't help but think back to the zombies in Night of Living Dead, completely void of emotion or any actions that would merely suggest a thread of reaction. Would they be acting in the same way? Somehow I couldn't imagine it. Rather, I pictured them just standing there trying to walk and getting the same old results BUT not caring. They were simply the walking dead and they did not make us laugh or cause us to name what our favorite zombie was. In a similar fashion to how each zombie film evolves to fit society's fears-- Romero's zombie films also evolve with the fads. Zombies soon become actual characters and vital parts to the story---they soon come to stand for entertainment.

With the introduction of Bub the zombie, we are given a glimpse into the future of zombie comedies. Giving a zombie oddly humane characteristics, is almost like dressing a dog in clothing.
It's absurdly funny but also depressing when you think about it. After all--do I really want to know that zombies are capable of human emotion once again? Don't I want them to just be dead and still walking? Well yes, but you can't deny the power of a dog in a top hat er---zombie shaving his face

Or listening to some really sweet jams.

That being said, even though I despise where zombies are being taken right now, I can understand that Day of the Dead is great. I really started to enjoy how the great science debate fanned out. Even the concept of donating a body to science was apparent and fantastically drawn. War vs. science. Gaining knowledge by taking the problem and figuring out how to use it vs just killing everything? It's all there and I loved it. We are still presented with the age old conundrum of what is more terrifying; the zombies or us? But then we are also handed the question of what happens when the zombies start acting like us. Double the trouble apparently. Perhaps Logan wasn't entirely right---but you can't deny that blowing all the zombies away won't solve the problem. And that's where the real thinking begins.

Now the zombies although a bit more humanized, were loads more terrifying. I attribute this to the fact that they were suddenly given a brand new set of disfigured and gross looking teeth. I'm telling you, it's all about the teeth.
That first scene when the group is searching Fort Meyers--and we get all those fantastic shots of dead bodies. And then the zombies slowly start coming out? Fantastic stuff. It's moments like that, that will continue to prove to us that these zombies while starting to go mainstream, do not fuck around. They are still terrifying and that is so important to me.

The gore and special FX were of course outstanding. I'm not one to get excited about the extent of gore and or/ intestines having a free for all--but this was great. This may as well have been zombies actually pulling apart someones body. I was convinced. Those moments of zombies eating and ripping apart someone while they are still alive? Holy crap. Where is this movie when people talk about holy crap? Not only the scenes towards the end with the disemboweling and decapitations...but what about those laboratory scenes?
Even the nightmare sequences,
the subtle moments of skin ripping? Wow wow wow.

To put it lightly- I whole heartily enjoyed this film. I may even go so far as to say that I enjoyed it more than both Night and Dawn? Is that wrong? I have a strange feeling that I'm not supposed to like this as much as I did. But it's the truth. I was engrossed the entire time and didn't surf on Facebook or Twitter which is pretty astounding. I was invested in each of the characters, and cheered loudly when those assholes were ripped apart.
I rooted for Bub and all his sharp shooting skills. And I loved the resourcefulness of our heroes.

I wasn't crazy about that abrupt ending though. That final getaway could have really been something you know? But I was also stressed out--and to instantly know that our heroes were OK was fine by me. Overall I couldn't have been happier with my final decision to go on ahead and watch Day of the Dead. But seriously why aren't we talking about this all of the time? I feel like I could write a thesis on its importance if I just had some caffeine and my dorm room back. Hmmmm sounds like a project for my vacation.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for making me see this in a new way now, it wasn't my favorite.

I once had a great conclusion for Land of the Dead.

B-Sol said...

When it first came out, Day was a total bomb and was actually overshadowed by the spoof, Return of the Living Dead. It was a critical disaster, too (but all Romero's movies are.) HOWEVER, over the ensuing years, it has been reassessed and embraced by zombie lovers everywhere, so welcome to the fold, Andre!

I will say it is my least favorite of the original three, mostly due to the really awful acting (not to say the folks in Night and Dawn deserved Oscars, but you get my drift). Nevertheless, I still love this movie. And unfortunately, that abrupt ending was literally due to the money running out...

This movie is a flawed one, but a classic nonetheless. Glad you discovered it.

Andre Dumas said...

Bad acting?! I guess I had my bad acting detector switched off cause I missed it! I don't know I think it's the overall story and idea behind the evolution of the zombies and it's connections to modern day that sell it to me. Whereas in the other's I felt like we were just waiting around and waiting to kill some zombies. I don't know I just have a feeling about this one B-sol!

That's too bad about the money, although wasn't it because he wouldn't settle for an R rating so they gave him less money? It was worth it I think.

Christine Hadden said...

I really have to agree with you about zombies, Andrè. They are not my favorite "monster" (I'm a vamp lover through and through) and I'm really not crazy about them having personalities.
I passionately love Night of the Living Dead - maybe it's the black & white, maybe it's the lumbering brainlessness, maybe it's just Duane Jones - I don't know. I liked the '04 Dawn remake, and I do love the first three in Romero's series - but all this recent influx of zombie movies has given me a bad taste in my mouth, and it's not brains.

I'm pretty sure I'm supposed to love zombies, right? It's a prerequisite to being a horror fan I think...but honestly - I'm just not going crazy over them like everyone else.

That being said, I feel the need to get out my copy of Day of the Dead (because yes, though not a zombie lover, I do own the first three, the '04 DotD remake, and my favorite zombie flick, Shaun of the Dead) and revisit Bub and friends - and I can tell them Andrè sent me:)

Oh - and those underwear are truly disturbing.

B-Movie Becky said...

This movie is completely underrated. I love it almost as much as Dawn and Night.

Bub is awesome!

Liam [Less Than Three Film] said...

I really love Night, and I quite enjoyed Dawn but thought it was massively let down by one particular scene (the pie-throwing nonsense) but Day... I didn't like the humanising of the zombies.

I get that they're evolving, so to speak, and that it's making an interesting social commentary, but I hate the thought of zombies being able to use weapons. Hence why Land of the Dead was even worse for me.

Bub especially I did not get along with. I like my zombies as mindless killing machines - don't give them emotions please!

Pax Romano said...

"Why do we have to treat zombies like a boy band? "

I want that sentiment on a bumper sticker now!

deadlydolls said...

INteresting. I actually rank Day as my least favorite in the original trilogy and, in all honesty, just below Land (and above Diary; I've yet to see Survival) and echo a lot of B-Sol's thoughts. I hate the characters and most of the dialogue. On the other hand, the zombies look better than ever and that opening scene on the streets of Florida is actually one of my favorite openings of all time.

A good deal of my issue comes, unfortunately, from diehard Romero fans crying over Land and saying "Why couldn't it be more like Day???" I just feel it's an overrated film, but your viewing--first ever, really???--does put it in a different light. The film has grown on me over the years, and Romero's DVD commentary does help a lot. I still don't love it, but it remains a fascinating film for a lot of reasons.

Chris H said...

Hello? Helloooo? Is anybody there? Helloooooo?

Great intro scene!

I love love LOVE this one. I love the science vs. military aspect and how neither knows what the hell they're doing and can't work together to accomplish anything. I also love the dynamics of the relationships, especially the Dr. Frankenstein conundrum and how each side thinks he's icky, but still need him to hold on to whatever hope is left of being saved.

The setting is the absolute bleakest. Living humans being forced to live underground. Holy shit. I mean, can you imagine having to live miles below the surface of the earth?

I love Day just as much as Night and Dawn. They complete each other in a perfect trilogy where the abrupt ending actually feels appropriate to me.

matango said...

I think Day of the Dead was the first Romero zombie movie that I saw, sometime in the late 80s probably on USA. It was quite gory, even the tv cut.

I like the zombies with personality! I don't think there'd be much of a movie without them.

There's a script on the internet that is supposedly the original ( Romero couldn't make it because he wasn't able to get enough money. It's sort of a mix between Day and Land of the Dead, thematically at least.

Franco Macabro said...

Its not wrong at all to say you love this one more then the rest of Romeros zombie films, I actually prefer it to all his previous ones!

Its more epic somehow, theres more zombies on this one than in any other one...and that feeling of dread is simply amped up to the max!

Agree with you about the gore...its really great on this one! They used real animal innards on some scenes!

Dod said...

You know I kind of like zombies. And kind of like Romero zombies. Reading this review makes me want to see it again, and now.

The opening sequence gets right to heart of why I love zombie fiction. The real world ended, not by a building-flattening, ground-burning bomb, but by once-humans attacking alive-humans. Everything is left the way it was, and it's haunting. Goes hand-in-hand with my love for abandoned buildings. Also at the heart of it all, the zombies are us. They are the way they are the moment they "turned," so we get Marching Band Zombie and Clown Zombie and all the other favorites.

Then, on top of the awesomeness that surrounds your reviews, you include a picture of a dog dressed in human clothes. That's just plain cute right there, then you compared it to Bub's humanity. My head exploded.

Always, a great review, Andre!

B-Sol said...

Yes, they were gonna give him all the money he wanted, if he just conformed to their standards and delivered an R-rated movie. Have to give it to George for sticking to his principles, but i sometimes wish we got the Day of the Dead that he originally intended.

Rabid Fox said...

This is probably one of the few "of the Dead" films I genuinely enjoy, though Dawn of the Dead is still top of the pops with me.

And, yeah, the acting was pretty atrocious in spots.

Unknown said...

Great and insightful review! "Day of the Dead" is my absolute favorite film of the original "Dead" trilogy. George A. Romero's finest work holds up very well after more than 30 years and exemplifies the horror genre at it's most bold and profound.