Anchor Bay presents
Day of the Dead (1985)
"I've been sendin' up and down the coast from Sarasota to the Everglades and still gettin' back the same dead air. There's nothin'. There's nobody, or at least nobody with a radio."- William McDermott (Jarlath Conroy)
Stars: Lori Cardille, Joseph Pilato, Howard Sherman
Other Stars: Terry Alexander, Jarlath Conroy, Richard Liberty
Director: George A. Romero
Manufacturer: GTN New Media
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (language, extremely graphic violence)
Run Time: 01h:40m:49s
Release Date: 1998-11-10
DVD ReviewDay of the Dead is the third entry in George A. Romero's renowned "Dead Trilogy," a series of zombie films which began in the 1960's with Night of the Living Dead, continued in the 1970's with Dawn of the Dead and concluded (for the time being) with this 1985 film. This entry focuses on an underground bunker in Florida, where a small group of scientists explores the biochemical and physical nature of captured zombie specimens. As the situation grows riskier with no results that might lead to a means of destroying or controlling the creatures, the military group assigned to support and protect the scientific effort becomes edgy and paranoid, threatening the safety of both groups as the walking dead take over the world.
The Dead mythos expands a bit in Day of the Dead, particularly in the character of Bub (Howard Sherman), a zombie whose bloodthirsty nature is mitigated by vague memories of his previous human existence. Bub's uncomprehending, pained clumsiness is touching in the Frankenstein manner, providing some of the film's best scenes and adding valuable shades of gray to its world. This series entry abandons the sheer terror of Night... and the social satire of Dawn... in favor of a more straightforward siege-and-battle story—while this approach keeps the film fresh, Romero isn't a terribly strong action director and the film's pacing suffers in spots. But the writer/director's forte has always been social dynamics, and Day... is no exception—while individual characterizations tend to rely on stereotypes and anti-stereotypes, the script and the actors bring conviction and energy to Day of the Dead's story of two philosophically opposed groups under pressure. The actors are largely unknown, but most are talented professionals and all seem thoroughly committed to the material. Even when the characters are talking about nothing at all, there's a level of tension just underneath the surface—every line and every look carries political weight and potential danger in the film's highly-charged atmosphere, and it is these scenes that endure after the "shock value" of the film's gore effects has worn off.
Speaking of gore, no discussion of Day of the Dead would be complete without mentioning horror FX guru Tom Savini's amazing and gruesome contributions to this unrated film. The zombies' faces are individualized enough to be quite convincing, ranging from slightly-discolored normal skin to badly decayed and damaged flesh. Injuries and wounds are presented in a naturalistic manner, while sophisticated mechanical effects permit graphic dismemberments and disembowelments. There's also a lengthy sequence paying hommage to the original Night of the Living Dead in which the zombies feast on a hapless victim, this time in full color as Romero's camera lingers on tearing flesh and red, glutinous, thankfully unidentifiable innards. As technically and viscerally fascinating as these scenes can be, Day of the Dead lets some of them run on a bit too long—nothing's more deadly than boring gore, and it happens on a few occasions here.
Day of the Dead has its flaws—it's a grim movie that reportedly suffered from budgetary restrictions, and the characters are frequently forced to sit around waiting for something to happen. But it still deserves its hallowed place in the Romero zombie trilogy. While it's arguably the weakest of the three "Dead" films, it's still intelligent and boldly graphic, outclassing most of its competition from beginning to end. Even my wife (no horror buff, she) admired this one.
Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: B
|Aspect Ratio||1.85:1 - Widescreen|
|Original Aspect Ratio||yes|
Image Transfer Review: Anchor Bay presents Day of the Dead in its original 1.85:1 theatrical aspect ratio, with a non-anamorphic transfer. The source print has some flecks and reel-change markers but is generally clean. The image is a bit soft and darker scenes tend to be lacking in detail and grainy with some digital "haze" in the transfer. Colors are bright and stable, and well-lit scenes look fine, but this 1998 transfer is visibly behind the current state-of-the-art.
Image Transfer Grade: C
Audio Transfer Review: Day of the Dead features a monophonic soundtrack encoded as Dolby Digital 2.0 for ProLogic decoding to the center speaker. John Harrison's synthesizer score is supported with decent bass, and dialogue is quite clear considering the relatively low-budget production. There are a few "pops" around reel changes, but this is a solid mono track with no major defects.
Audio Transfer Grade: B+
Disc ExtrasStatic menu
Scene Access with 12 cues and remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
Extras Review: Anchor Bay presents Day of the Dead with the feature film on one side and the supplements on the other. 12 chapter stops (with simple illustrated text menus) are provided—the "extras" are few but worthwhile:
The film's theatrical trailer is presented in a 1.33:1 full-frame aspect ratio with Dolby Digital 2.0 "big fat mono" sound, nicely transferred from a decent source print.
Behind the Scenes Footage:
Twenty minutes of footage shot in handheld 16mm with sound on the set of Day of the Dead make up this casual documentary, which is surprisingly coherent despite its lack of formal structure. Production assistants and Tom Savini discuss the technical aspects of the gore effects while working, and there are a few shots of George Romero at work. It's a refreshingly non-promotional collection of material, and it's a kick to see decaying "zombies" munching on apples and relaxing off the set.
Extras Grade: B-
Final CommentsDay of the Dead is chock-full of zombie goodness, enhanced by George Romero's intelligent script and a serious cast. Dead neophytes are advised to check out the earlier Romero zombie films, though Day of the Dead can be enjoyed on its own easily enough. The DVD is a bit dated technically but certainly watchable—it's definitely worth a rental, and the only reason to delay a purchase is Anchor Bay's planned 2-disc deluxe edition (no date announced at this writing).
Dale Dobson 2000-08-04