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DAY OF THE DEAD
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Reviewed by: Pat Torfe

Directed by: Steve Miner

Starring:
Mena Suvari
Nick Cannon
Michael Welch
Ving Rhames

Movie:  
star star star star
Extras:  
star star star star
Overall:  
star star star star
What's it about

A retelling of George A. Romero's underrated classic, the zombie epidemic has spread via cold-like symptoms to a small Colorado town, leading the military to come in and police things. The remaining survivors attempt to break out of the town, hoping a remote medical outpost will offer them shelter to mount a counter-attack.

My question is, when did zombies get super powers?

Is it good movie?

Well, here it is. After the horrid internet trailer, and the eventual move to DTV from a theatrical release, Steve Miner's take on Romero's classic shambles home. And when I say 'take', I don't mean remake, since this isn't a shot-for-shot retelling. That said, does it do the original justice, or is it the very least any better than CONTAGIUM? Well, things didn't look so good when you realize that the dude who produced this (James Glenn Dudelson) also produced CONTAGIUM, and early reviews haven't garnered much sympathy. With that, I popped this sucker in and hit 'Play'.

The first thing I will say about the film is that it certainly gets straight to the point. Everything is go time, and Steve Miner's quick cuts help to enforce the action. Unfortunately, we're left with cliché characters that annoy the hell out of you in cliché situations. Case in point: Teens are making out in an abandoned house, and two of them decide to go exploring. I'm sure I've seen this before in one or two movies. Heck, Miner directed FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 2 and PART 3, so why reinvent what you already know? Plus, some of the characters are so blatantly stupid to the point you have to be loaded to enjoy the film (a recurring theme for this one).

Speaking of characters that annoy you, let's get this out there: Nick Cannon is the equivalent of photocopying your ass at work and sending the copies to your coworkers because it's apparently hilarious. Uh, no. Cannon is neither funny nor likable in this film. Every time the guy opened his maw it was either some catchphrase that didn't need to be said, or an expletive that served no purpose other than to say, 'Oh look, I'm badass because I can swear like a mofo.' Yeah ok, maybe that works with grade school kids, but not here. Then there's Mena Suvari, who is cute as a button, but NOT a soldier. Did they even think that someone as petite as Mena would be a good casting decision for a military role? Ving Rhames is in here for a short time, and he's probably thankful for it.

This of course brings me to the other big complaint about this film: What is wrong with these zombies? Okay, I can understand the deal with the 'rage zombies' in 28 DAYS LATER and the zombies in RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD, but a typical zombie is a slow meandering corpse whose sole purpose in their (after)life is to eat human flesh. A zombie is not equipped with superhuman speed, nor with the ability to drive a pickup, nor are they vegetarians! Man, when I heard that in regards to Bud (not Bub) not eating Mena and (unfortunately) Nick, I just about pooped myself. I can't believe they'd put that out there as an 'excuse' for him not following 'zombie protocol'. Top it off with the camera undercranking each time the zombies felt the need for speed, I was waiting for the Benny Hill music to kick in.

In the end, is the film a total waste? Well no, if you ever wanted to see Ving Rhames eat his own eyeball, then here's the place. The CG effects aren't up to snuff, though I did like the whole view of the virus attacking an infected person's cells. The rest of the gore is delightfully gooey, with folks being munched on, gunshots, zombies being fried and barbecued, and Nick Cannon kicking a decapitated head like he was Ronaldo and making He-Man references.

Actually, I'm sure the movie could be watchable with some booze and a couple friends who are as inebriated as you, and everyone's not in the mood for thinking.

Video / Audio

Video: For a film called DAY OF THE DEAD, there's sure a lot of night shots. The anamorphic 1.85:1 widescreen transfer is decent, even though there's certainly a lot of yellow being thrown into the mix. Perhaps it was used to 'up' the sick feeling. That line is so easy to play with I won't bother touching it. The use of urine colour aside, back levels are strong, though grain creeps into things at points and detail can be muddy during the night sequences, but overall the colours are fairly crisp and clean.

Audio: A pretty good mix of squirts and splashes for zombie snacking, the 5.1 Dolby Digital mix is a standout. Action flows seamlessly from one side to the other, though I did find that some of the ambient sounds of folks screaming and general carnage tended to be a little louder than it should be.

The Extras

For starters, the DVD isn't a hard one to miss. The animated holographic slipcover just screams 'buy me!', even though the zombies in the film don't spew yellowish-green puke mixed with various bodyparts (including the foot of a pigeon, for some reason).

First on the docket is commentary by director Steve Miner, writer Jeffrey Reddick, editor Nate Easterling and cast members Michael Welch, Stark Sands and Christa Campbell. This isn't really a commentary to enjoy listening to, as we hear nothing interesting, save for the lame explanation of changing 'Bub' to 'Bud', referring to folks who did the slow moving zombies as 'traditionalists', whining in regards to the remake debate as how they as actors have to eat, too (oh, please), and general giggling (?!) at every time Nick Cannon delivered his worthy one-liners. Avoid like your ex's underwear drawer.

Following that, we have a 5 minute alternate ending where the fate of one particularly annoying character turns out for the better (for them, not us). Personally, I'd rather the entire cast and director walked up and apologized for wasting my time.

On the Set is 15 minutes of behind the scenes stuff, with a clear lack of polish on everyone's part.

On the heels of that are 15 minutes of interviews with cast and crew chatting it up and talking through gritted teeth about how everything is hunky dory with the film.

Finally, we get the International, Unrated, and Theatrical trailers for the film, along with a throwaway photo gallery and previews of other films such as THE PERFECT WITNESS (think MR. BROOKS meets BEHIND THE MASK), HEADLESS HORSEMAN (stupid 'head' jokes = stupid movie), SENIOR SKIP DAY (FERRIS BUELLER rip-off) and BLACK OPS (Lance Henriksen is in it, but why?).

Last Call

After all this, I have to say that while it isn't pretty, DAY OF THE DEAD is better than CONTAGIUM. But that's like saying some parts of the Titanic are deeper underwater than other parts. I give it a '2' because you really need to be buzzed to enjoy it. If you're looking for a worthy follow-up to the remake of DAWN OF THE DEAD, keep looking, though this is your consolation prize, at best. Better yet, watch the only thing that comes close to the original: *gasp* the original itself?! Trust me.

ARROW IN THE HEAD'S RATING SYSTEM
star star star star I'D BUTCHER MY FAMILY TO SEE THIS AGAIN
star star star HANG ME BUT I DUG IT A LOT
star star AN OK WAY TO KILL TWO HOURS
star JUST SLING AN ARROW IN MY HEAD AND LET ME DIE IN PEACE

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