Day of the Dead ★★★

Confining its action to an underground storage bunker, George A. Romero's "Day of the Dead," the third chapter in Romero's iconic zombie series is a smaller and less effective film than its two predecessors. Therein lies the film's biggest obstacle: as a stand-alone horror film, it works; but, in comparison to the great "Night of the Living Dead" and "Dawn of the Dead," "Day of the Dead" suffers.

Following a group of scientists and military men after the world has turned undead, "Day of the Dead" finds its characters squabbling over who has the right to do what, who is in charge of whom, and who is in control of the bunker. The scientists want to study the undead, some of whom have been captured, while the military men want to blow them all away. The drama between the two groups is compelling, but it forces the apocalyptic conflagration of the undead to the back burner. This also makes for uneven pacing as character beats, however interesting, dissipate any atmosphere and sense of dread that made "Night..." and "Dawn..." so special.

As far as its makeup and effects are concerned, "Day of the Dead" puts forth a more complex effort than Romero could muster before. Tom Savini's zombies are drooling, lumbering ghouls whose skeletal faces and snapping jaws are the stuff of nightmares. The blood flows in buckets full, especially in the film's final act when the drama gives way to zombie mayhem.

Though it has Romero's token social commentary and themes, "Day of the Dead" sags under its uneven story, annoying minor characters, and its habit of playing some of its dramatic beats far too over-the-top when subtle earnestness may have served the film better. The character focus, as opposed to the horrors raging outside the bunker, is commendable but causes the terror inherent in the global zombie invasion to fade. In no way is "Day of the Dead" a bad film; it does have its moments, making it a more than passable genre entry. The film simply fails to deliver on the promises of what came before it.

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