Thursday, 4 July 2013

Day of the Dead (2008) - review

2008 (USA)

Contains spoilers.

This film does so many things wrong it's hard to know where to start.

Let's start with the obvious; the name and let's get one thing straight. This is not a remake, nor a re-imagining, nor a reboot; it's the ability to stick Romero's name and namesake on the cover to give a third rate zombie cash-in a semblance of legitimacy. Rather than showing any bravery or recognition of the original it's yet another formulaic zombie origin story with the merest acknowledge of the original story and ideas. We're at ground zero again, at the time and place when the zombie virus emerges and we're not watching as in the original, a tense group of disparate powerful characters locked in a power struggle, isolated and unclear who if anyone is left alive, instead the focus is on a bunch of pretty teens running from one place to another screaming.

I get ahead of myself. The small town of Leadville, Colorado has been quarantined by the military because of an outbreak of the sniffles (though we do find out later there's more than a flu-epidemic behind the 6 or 7 man town blockade). Trevor (Michael Welch) and his girlfriend, Nina (AnnaLynne McCord), back from a kiss and a cuddle at the nearby underground bunker conveniently open to the public, unite with Trevor's sister Corporal Sarah Cross (Mena Suvari) who is part of the quarantine unit, discover their mother is ill and take her to the hospital where pretty much the rest of the town are all waiting to be seen. So with everyone in one place, a highly infectious air born virus and doctors and the military wandering round brazenly without masks trying to deduce what's going on with a doctor from the CDC, the virus shows its final symptom and it's chaos, blood, screaming and carnage.

Let's take it step by step. You get the sniffles, then a nose bleed, you feel a bit rough, you go a bit quiet, then suddenly your eyes cloud over turning milky white, you explode in hickies and you want to eat your friends. Oh, and you can now move at superhuman speed, leap large distances and crawl on the walls and ceilings. Now, I'm quite the fan of the new modern Boyle quick and nimble undead and I could even stomach them, at a push, in a Romero associated modern movie, but this is all too much. It's all too fanciful and fantastical; suddenly they're not dead-humans but possessed demons or something and you find yourself less immersed and less scared. Miner and Reddick seem to know what makes a modern zombie what it is and there are times it kind of all works, the scene of carnage in the hospital waiting room is particularly good, and while I'm not overly fond the instant blood sores the zombies all made up well with a good emphasis on teeth. For some reason though they decided this wasn't enough and it would be cooler to speed them up and give them tricks and you know what, it's not. One last thing, have you spotted what's missing? They don't explicitly die, they kind of turn, it's ambiguous but I'm going to give them a pass. Bud (more of him later) comments that Trevor and Sarah's mum has gone very cold just before she turns, add to this that they still obey the basic zombie rule of requiring a good whack to the head to be taken down and I'm happy to think they are dead, even if it's never actually stated.

So I don't like the zombies. I also don't like the plot and story, or what there is of it. Miner and Reddick have fashioned an incoherent , nonsensical narrative full of holes as if like their zombies they decided at the last minute they weren't good enough on their own and it needed this added or that tinkered with, without seeing how it would affect the film as a whole. From continuity errors like Sarah leaving at what looks like the middle of the afternoon to drive across town, arriving in the pitch dark, or deciding to add a super-zombie boss or giving zombie soldiers guns to fire; it's one sigh-worthy decision after another and turns the thing into both a bit of a mess and a farce. Also don't get me started on the call back to 'Bub', by having Bud turn into 'the friendly zombie' because perhaps he's a vegetarian or he fancies her; it feels forced in and doesn't work.

Miner and Reddick seem to have really missed the memo of what makes a good zombie film, fashioning an over-engineered incoherent shambles that bears no semblance to the film it's taken the name of. It constantly treats the viewer like an idiot opening up giant chasms in plot logic and reasoning to enable the narrative to move forward. There's a constant reliance on convenient items and events that feel out of place and forced and only there to enable subsequent overly-staged scenes or sequences. The only redeeming feature is really the cast who I feel actually do a half decent job with the script and story, and ironically I found them all quite likeable, even if they are all rather simplistic and one dimensional. Special mention must go to Ving Rhames as Captain Rhodes who now holds the title of daftest and most entertaining zombie noise of all time for his wobbling cheeks rasping groan.

There is a good film somewhere here and maybe it all got lost in post production but what we're really left with when all is said and done, is a zombie film as stale and formulaic as you're going to get made worse by lots of unwelcome and misguided high level decisions. It really isn't very good and it's rather an insult to Romero's original. Pass this one by, 3/10.



  1. Spot on. Ving Rhames has been in THREE zombie films at this point? They keep getting worse and worse.

    1. I just picked up Zombie Apocalypse too, and I get the feeling I'm not going to think much of it...

  2. Can you please review Day of the Dead 2: Contagium?

    1. Just for you, I've this minute ordered it and will get on it!