Day of the Dead (2008)

Author: Brett Gallman
Submitted by: Brett Gallman   Date : 2008-04-12 13:52

Written by: Jeffrey Reddick
Directed by: Steve Miner

Reviewed by: Brett G.

When it was announced a few years back that an unknown director by the name of Zach Snyder was re-making George Romero’s immortal classic, Dawn of the Dead, there was a lot of teeth gnashing from horror purists. I won’t lie—I was among the throng of those bemoaning the lack of creativity in Hollywood while I was simultaneously very intrigued by the notion. Once the film was released, I was pleasantly surprised—the flick rocked my socks. Sure, it couldn’t touch Romero’s original, but it was an interesting reinterpretation of the original in the sense that it replaced the slow-building suspense with an action aesthetic that is somewhat reminiscent of Cameron’s Aliens. Of course, once the film became a massive success at the box office, attention soon turned towards Romero’s oft-forgotten and criminally underrated sequel, Day of the Dead. Sure enough, a remake was soon announced and pushed into production. Three years later, it has finally arrived as a direct-to-video film that can be described as nothing short of atrocious.

I can’t say I didn’t see this coming, however. Once the Day remake was announced, I was at least hoping that Snyder and his team would have some involvement with this film. Instead, something even worse happened, as Steve Miner was announced as director. I have no clue what happened to Miner after he directed House in 1986, as the man hasn’t directed anything I’ve enjoyed since then with the exception of Lake Placid. Ever since he wrecked the Halloween franchise with his insistence that none of the sequels existed before Halloween H20, Miner has essentially been dead to me. So when I strolled into my local rental store earlier this week, I decided I needed another reason to rip Miner a new one and gave this flick a rental.

Now, I don’t want to make it sound like I went into this film with an unconquerable bias. I wanted Miner to surprise me; hell, the guy has directed three of my favorite horror films (Friday the 13th 2, Friday the 13th 3, and House). Besides Miner’s involvement, the film also had another strike against it once it was unceremoniously dumped to DVD after it was supposed to be a theatrical release. Furthermore, the flick features one of the worst DVD covers I’ve ever seen: a zombie vomiting up human body parts. Yep, you read that correctly. Despite all of this, I went in at least hoping that it’d be a decent zombie flick. Unfortunately (but not surprisingly), that didn’t happen, as my worst fears were confirmed: Day of the Dead is not only entirely unworthy of its name, but also unworthy of my (or anyone’s) time.

The film takes place in a small Colorado town where most of the locals have come down with a mysterious virus. The military has been called in to keep things in order and to contain the virus. Soon enough, it becomes clear that his is no ordinary virus, as it turns its host into an undead creature with a hunger for human flesh. Some of the town’s inhabitants have a natural immunity to the virus and are left to fight for their lives against the hordes of the undead. Among these survivors are Sarah, a soldier with a “complicated” past that is never explained, her brother, his girlfriend, and Bud and Salazar, two soldiers under Sarah’s command. As they attempt to escape the town, they begin to stumble onto the terrifying truth of the virus’s origins, and it plays out just as clichéd as it sounds here.

If you hadn’t figured it out by now, this film has absolutely nothing to do with the original except for the fact that some of the characters share names with their original counterparts. This is one of those “remakes in name only” in every sense of the word, and I don’t even know why they bothered to give Romero any credit, as very little of his film is here. None of the character dynamics, suspense, or apocalyptic atmosphere that made the original so effective remain here; instead, all of this is replaced by cheap jump scares, awful dialogue, and a clichéd plot that you’ve seen a million times before. What makes the original great is that it’s really unlike any zombie film you’ve ever seen, but the remake is exactly the opposite. At times, the film does attempt to mimic some of Romero’s motifs of isolation and paranoia, but it just ends up feeling like a half-baked rehash that’s just been tacked on for no good reason.

If you’re looking to check this out just for the gore and zombie effects, don’t bother. This is not to say that both aren’t pretty good—they actually are. It’s easy to see where all the money for the flick went, as there a numerous decapitations, impalements, and disembowlments. However, it's all surrounded by some of the most inane dialogue and characters you’ll ever see or hear. Most of the acting is pretty terrible, with the exception of Mena Suvari, who does the best with what she has (which isn’t much). The rest of the characters are pretty much zombie fodder. Speaking of the zombies—these are the fast-moving type seen in the Dawn remake; however, unlike that film, the zombies’ movements are aided by CGI that looks laughably bad. If anything, however, most of the film technically looks better than most DTV flicks. Miner’s direction isn’t terrible (simply mediocre), but the film’s clichéd plot and atrocious dialogue sunk this one far before it ever made it to the screen. If there’s one saving grace about this film, it’s the fact that it moves pretty quickly, as it comes in right at 80 minutes long. If the film were one minute longer, I think I would have wanted one of the undead to claw my eyes out. You're better off sticking with Romero's original. As for this one? Trash it!

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