Day of the Dead ★★★★

Night of the Living Dead is one of my favourite all time horror films. Dawn of the Dead is not far behind. Yet, I had never finished the first cycle of Romero's dead trilogy by watching Day of the Dead. For me, Day of the Dead was a black hole in my life, a hole where a horde of zombies were lying in wait, ready to feast on my belly full of lard flavoured jello. Anyway, the day of my apocalypse was nigh and then, with a corpse fart for a fanfare, it arrived. As of now I can say that I have seen Day of the Dead and survived to tell the tale.

Unfortunately, though not entirely unexpectedly, the tale is about as creaky as a rigor mortis encrusted corpse stretched on the rack. In other words, I did not enjoy this film anywhere near as much as the first two. The difference between this film and the others is as stark as night and day (sorry, couldn't help myself). Romero's commentary on society and humanity continues along their logical axis with an admirable degree of cohesiveness and clairty. But its not the message that is the problem here. Rather, it is the horrible package within which it is delivered.

The majority of the film is set in an underground missile silo bunker. Naturally emblematic of the military industrial complex's apex of destructive insanity and the ineffective political institutions that fail to curb it's runaway proliferation. And this location does provide the perfect setting for Romero's post-Dr. Strangelove world. However, unlike the pressure cooker of the farmhouse in Night or the society in a snow globe shopping mall of Dawn, the bunker in Day feels blandishly sterile in comparison to those prior hot boxes of collapsing humanity. Here, the setting is more like a strait-jacket resulting in insular and circular monotony and rendering inert any power that this symbology might have had.

It also doesn't help that we have transitioned from the gritty realism of the characters in Night to the bunch of ridiculous cartoon characters we have here. A despotic military asshole and his pair of trigger happy idiotic red neck storm troopers are the perfect toy soldiers as a moronic force of evil. Equally troublesome, the white-coated boffin turned mad scientist is a bizarre almagamation of Dr. Frankenstein meets B.F. Skinner for a post-apocalytpic age as he tries to train his undead friend, Bob. There is also an hysterical traumatised soldier who goes bat shit crazy like the exploitative stereotype that every mental health expert has been trying to dispel for the last twenty years.

Then there is the good guys, an exasperated good looking woman, a self-interested yet ultimately wise and sanguine Jamaican and an 80s action movie reject who looks like he has been practicing shooting his machine gun in front of his bedroom mirror ever since he was a teenager. The one thing that all three of them have in common is that they can't act for shit. The message is still clear. The military and the scientists can't save us from the mess they most likely created in the first place. But the heroes have nowhere to go, and considering how few acting chops they have, flying to Hollywood in a chopper is not going to save them.

Lets not forget, though, the doctor's good friend, Bob. A zombie that can think and learn! Hows that for a party trick. Then again maybe Bob is the future. Perhaps, the living have truly fucked up. Maybe it is time to hand the keys to the world over to these shuffling rot infested corpses and be done with the whole damn shebang. Zombies, in living death, could possibly be better custodians of the wretched global mess that humans, the deadly alive, have wrought for themselves. OK, enough of that wretched nihilistic bullshit. Fuck zombies. Except for Bob. He really does seem like a rather swell guy.

If nothing else, this film is an absolute masterpiece of gut churning gore. Flesh is ripped asunder, amputated limbs are munched on like turkey legs at thanksgiving, bucket loads of guts are dragged through corridors and there is much partaking in the feasting upon bloody, yucky, ambigous looking organs. All in all, good fun is had by all. It is certainly a highlight of an otherwise lacklustre film.

And so maybe Mr. Romero left me a little disappointed here. But I cant help myself from still having a sweet spot for the loveable pony-tailed little rascal. So, I guess when the Day of the Dead comes, if I were to hop in my helicopter and fly off to a remote beach in the carribean and spend my last few days sipping pena coladas until the zombies learn how to swim, if this was the only film left on the face of the planet, then maybe I would be ok with that. Thank fuck thats a hypothetical scenario, though.

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