A girl wakes up in a clean white brick cellar with a hanging calender with all days crossed facing her.
Suddenly, dozens of rotting wounded arms burst out of the walls grabbing her!
It’s just a dream. The real nightmare is about to begin.
This is how 1985’s George Romero’s Day of the Dead starts, as if a theater play had opened its curtains.
This is the story of three scientists, one technician, one helicopter pilot, and eight soldiers; all living at an underground goverment facility, trying to figure out a way to “control the zombies” and stop them from feasting on the human race.
Tensions arise between the military and the lab coat crew, when the scientists’ efforts turn to be unsuccessful (which is debatable), and when one of them starts using the cadavers of the deceased soldiers as material for his experiments. Meanwhile the zombies slowly crowd the entire perimeter of the base, ready to attack at any time.
Day of the Dead is a dark high-concept horror film and the phoenix last cry of the “Living Dead Trilogy”. Romero’s original concept was that of a US$ 7 million high-budget flick that would be equivalent of “Gone with the Wind”, but in the horror genre. Nevertheless, high budget horror films meant risky business for the investors, even back in the 80’s glorious splatter golden era.
Un/Fortunately Romero was forced to cut the investors some slack and cheapen the 200 pages original screenplay. Was it bad? Quite the contrary. Shooting in an underground cave gave the film an oppressive claustrophobic feeling similar to that of 1982’s John Carpenter’s The Thing.
If I had to rank this film on a list of other zombie movies, this one would definetely enter the top 4 area. The soundtrack is amazingly original, combining caribbean sound with weary synth. It does the job.
On top of that, the cast is superb and they all work perfectly as a well organized orchestra with an organic work flow. It was rare to see a strong female character on a horror movie, that wasn’t the virginal princess in distress. Lori Cardille did an oustanding job as Sarah. Logan, the mad scientist, played by Richard Liberty, appears to be the only sane person with a clear answer to solve the zombie apocalypse, only to be gunned down by the military. Joseph Pilato performs a damn mean SOB. How to also forget “Bub”? The iconic Zombie of the entire film.
With all that being said, some questions arise from the story. What about the unstable Pvt. Miguel Salazar and his relation to Sarah? Was something really going on? Why did he did sacrificed himself and gave access to all the undead? Anthony Dileo’s character attracted me, regarding to his lack of sleep and apparent mental breakdown. If I ever meet Romero or talented Mr. Dileo, I would like to ask those questions myself.
Day of the Dead, is an obligatory tour de force for any zombie fan and for anyone who likes strong female characters on screen. Watch it, it’s more than worth it.