Wednesday, 26 March 2008

Day of the Dead (2008)

Zombies are the worst. They never chip in for petrol.

Was this movie a calculated attempt by Steve Miner to disappoint and infuriate me? Cause if so, mission accomplished. You know, I kind of liked Zack Snyder's Dawn of the Dead remake. Like a hungry zombie, it stripped out the brains, heart and guts of the original, but damned if it wasn't entertaining. Day of the Dead takes everything that was annoying about that film (and modern horror in general) and turns it up to eleven.

Super-fast zombies running along walls/ceilings, dodging bullets and screeching like parrots? Eschewing the mature adult cast of the original for a bunch of annoying teenagers and twenty-somethings? Fast cutting, shaky-cam bullshit? Computers vomiting CGI everywhere? Check, check, check and hell yes.

The film mainly revolves around military hard-ass, Corporal Sarah Bowman, inexplicably played by the baby faced Mena Suvari. Jesus Christ, would it kill filmmakers these days to fill a tough gal role with an actor who weighs more than 90 pounds? Remember Sandahl Bergman in Conan the Barbarian? She looked like she could ruin some shit. Anyway, when a zombie virus invades her shithole home town, Corporal Bowman teams up with an unsurprising bunch of stereotypes and tries to save the day. These include such genre staples as the trash talking black guy (Nick Cannon) and the slimy scientist who will probably betray them at some point (Matt Rippy). Her commanding officer is Captain Rhodes (Ving Rhames, in what amounts to an extended cameo) who pretty quickly turns into a zombie and eats his own eyeball. Yum!

Like the original, there's also a semi-intelligent zombie named Bub. He doesn't eat people because he was a vegetarian in life. When I heard that I almost sprayed beer out my nose, so I hope you're happy Miner. They decide to sit him in the back seat of their car and take him along (I'd be calling shotgun pretty damn quick), which a good indication of the kind of brains trust we are dealing with here. I'm surprised they didn't let him drive.

There's also a bunch of annoying teenagers in this film, the two important ones being Corporal Bowman's brother Trevor (Michael Welch) and his girlfriend Nina (AnnaLynne McCord). They end up trapped in a radio broadcast tower, where Ian McNeice is playing a radio DJ. I swear that guy looks fatter every time I see him. I thought he was going to have a heart attack on camera. Trevor's mother, now a zombie, recognises Trevor's voice on the radio and has the sense to head to the radio station to find him (and eat him). By zombie standards, that's some Mensa shit. They try to explain these occasional flashes of intelligence by saying that the zombies retain part of their memory or some such thing. It's still stupid, but it does lead to some hilarious scenes like a platoon of zombie soldiers running around and firing their guns wildly like the most retarded militia in the USA (this is supposed to be scary).

Anyway, eventually Trevor and Nina meet up with Corporal Bowman and company, and together they stumble across the "secret" laboratory where the zombie virus was created. For some reason the lead research scientist has turned into a super zombie who can dodge bullets. Whether he knows kung fu is not explored. And please, people, having someone point out how bad an idea it is before splitting up does not make it okay. Anyway, a bunch of them die, they blow up the laboratory using some convenient gas cylinders, end of film.

If you haven't noticed, this is a remake in name only. It's disheartening, since Romero was forced to cut a great deal out of his original script due to budgetary constraints, and it would have been cool to see his original vision realised (albeit by a different director). No doubt the result wouldn't have been any worse than this dog's breakfast. There's a few characters who share the same names and there's some military dudes and some scientists, plus there's an underground bunker, I guess. That's where the similarities end.

This film has no subtext. It barely has text. I don't know about supertext, the jury's still out on that one. This movie joins the pile of shameless cash-ins along with Day of the Dead 2: Contagium and Creepshow III. Okay, maybe it isn't as bad as those films; the special effects are pretty good and it looks pretty slick, especially for a direct-to-video release. I guess if you can put up with epilepsy-inducing camera work, loud noises passing for scares and a moronic plot filled with morons - and if you aren't saddled with the expectations built up by the original film - you might like Day of the Dead.

Oh, and a word on this "fast zombie" bullshit. I don't having anything against it in principle. I liked the Dawn of the Dead remake and 28 Units of Time Later. However, some people say that zombies aren't scary because they are slow and weak, which is a profound case of missing the point. Sure you can kill them easily, you can run away, but where are you going to run to, fucker? As long as there are humans, there will always be zombies. The inexorable march of the zombie is a symbol of the hopelessness of the human race, the slow creep that is destroying civilisation. That's the scary thing about zombies. You take that away and you remove the smothering atmosphere, the sense of dread. The zombies become just another creature of the night. So I guess I do have something against it in principle. Forget I said anything.

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