Saturday, 23 July 2016

Day of the Dead 2: Contagium - review

2005 (USA)

Contains spoilers.

I'll cut to the chase. Ana Clavell and James Dudelson's unofficial sequel to Romero's seminal Day of the Dead is a long winded, incoherent, uninspired and quite frankly shoddy piece of film making that should come with an apology. Make that two; one for actually thinking it was ok to release what can best be described as meandering, pointless and confused soap opera cross cum episode of the x-files in that state, and two, to Romero, for trying to take advantage of a fan favourite's namesake, instead tainting its legacy forever by association.

So what's wrong? Let's start with the zombies. You'd think at the least; given the blatant lack of effort, competence or savviness of all involved, that they'd be able to follow the Romero undead template, given, you know, the whole sequel what-not. But no. Never have I come across such a convoluted incoherent miss-mash of ideas; that maybe if part of a zany silly zombie spoof might have had some merit, but here, acting as the central narrative pillar in quite the serious zombie melodrama it's incredulous. First there's a soviet spy plane, a crazy Russian pilot with vials of a highly infectious recombinant virus of unknown origin, a memorial hospital, an outbreak, then a thirty year gap. Then there's a new age psychiatric doctor out with four patients enjoying the peace and tranquillity of a grass verge, the discovery of a lost and forgotten thermal flask and the lack of foresight to not open it. We've come to expect a certain level of contrivance and naivety in the precursor to a main story and recognise that it's all part of the great zombie hyperbole; so as daft and convoluted as all this is I'm kind of ok with it. It isn't really what I'm talking about.

It's the zombies themselves. Clavell and Dudelson's nonchalant attempt to explain the disparities, as a side effect of each hosts differing reactions to the DNA tampering virus ultimately fails and the multitude of undead we're left to make sense of is nothing but confusing and insulting. There's Isaac (Justin Ipock), Emma (Laurie Maria Baranyay), Doctor Heller (Andreas van Ray) and the gang who were first exposed and these guys are kind of cognisant mutating-larvae zombies with a kind of shared consciousness and meta-physiology. They're hungry gut-munchers and dead, but they're self-aware even able to demonstrate restraint. Then there's Marshall (Joe C. Marino) the warden who was bitten by Emma; he changes quickly into a b-movie monstrous mass of sinew and muscle hell bent on dishing out as much indiscriminate carnage and death as possible. Then there's everyone else and they're kind of just normal zombies albeit some shuffle, some run, some jump and some spasm about like defective crabs. It's all a perplexing mess and makes absolutely no sense whatsoever, which is a major problem as the slow unveiling of all this is pretty much the entirety of the narrative.

That's not quite true. There's, a good old Italian 80's inspired army vs undead slaughter-fest to start things off and while it doesn't hold up to any kind of scrutiny it definitely possesses the so bad it's good vibe. Then there's the ending; an almost comical explosion of violence and carnage that swings between audacious farce and serious Romero-esque satire without any conformity, and again there are moments I found myself quite enjoying what I was seeing. What we're talking about, and the problem is all the stuff in-between; a vast vacuous meandering lazy meh. A drawn out hokey b-movie cum soap opera with a single-story thread, that as said above is bafflingly incoherent and just tedious.

By far and away not the worst film I've reviewed it's still quite the all-round disappointment with a bewildering narrative, perfunctory if we're being polite, effects and make-up, and a music score that does nothing but mock and deride the action I believe it was commissioned to flatter. What occasional good performances there are; and there are some, are lost behind the all too many that are not, and if we're honest were ultimately doomed with a script that does nothing but fill for well over an hour.  A lazy production you'd be doing everyone a favour with if you just pretended didn't exist - 2/10.


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