Day of the Dead ★★★★

This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

This review may contain spoilers.

Reviewed for HoopTober VII: The Month of Hell(th)

George Romero pushes the zombie genre even further in his third "Dead" installment, Day of the Dead.

It's always been a sort of known element in zombie films that "the real enemies are the humans," but nowhere is that on display more than in this picture.

Protagonists Sarah, John, and Jarlath are caught between a team of ethically questionable scientists and a band of restless soldiers. Everyone is trapped in an underground bunker, and by the time the audience joins the situation, the tension is high and stitches have already popped.

I enjoy this movie for the themes, namely "civility is its own reward," and the special effects by Tom Savini are clearly done by a master at the peak of his career. Joseph Pilato's turn as Captain Henry Rhodes, the selfish, power-hungry villain of the piece, is especially enjoyable among as cast of distinct characters.

There are some elements holding this movie back. I'm not a gore-hound, and there's blood and guts aplenty in this shockingly visceral movie. Yes, some of the practical effects have aged, but damn is it still unsettling and stomach-turning thirty-five (!) years later.

The oppressively hopeless atmosphere is also difficult to grapple with. The bare walls and empty rooms of the underground bunker echo the hopelessness and desperation slowly infecting the few survivors left. Even though this movie ends (somewhat) happily, there is a lingering sense of despair that rules over most of the picture. Instead of balancing the dire circumstances with, say, a mystery or a little hope (a la The Thing), Day of the Dead is a morbid descent into a weighty stew of depression and anxiety. Everyone here is doomed. They know it, and so do we.

Overall, however, these glaring difficulties for the viewer somehow make the film all the more compelling to watch, and the "Bub" subplot, despite its hollow messaging and awkward implementation, is a natural evolution of what Romero has been going for throughout this series to this point.

It's not the best zombie movie of all time - and it's probably the worst of Romero's original trilogy - but Day of the Dead stands out among its peers for its engrossing tone and lively characters, even if the film is a tough watch. Its influence can be felt in plenty of music and film today, and it deserves at least one viewing by any fan of horror.

HoopTober VII stats:
Days Passed: 45/47 (96%)
Films Watched: 28/31 (90%)
Pounds Lost: 11.9/14 (79%)

I've been grappling with anxiety these past few days, but I've taken steps to alleviate the pressure. Things are good, and I need to keep believing that in my heart, no matter how much my mind wants to sabotage it. At least the weight is starting to come back off again.

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