Day of the Dead Collector’s Edition Blu-Ray Review: Now A Polished Genre Classic
After more than 25 years after its release, there are some things about Day of the Dead
that are static in time. Still remaining in director George A. Romero’s classic are the hammy performances. Still present is the silly dialogue. Abundant to this day is a display of astounding practical effects. And ever lasting is an entry in Romero’s cannon that has shaped zombie flicks up to this day. However new to the game with this glorious collector’s edition is a technical re-mastering that polished nearly every facet of this post apocalyptic gore fest and geek-out worthy special features – it’s a crisped up nostalgic treat from beginning to end.
Having not ventured into Romero’s third instalment in his famed “of the dead” saga in, oh, six or so years, my memory of the amount of vision present and its direct impact on modern genre fare had certainly softened. It all came roaring back with this revisit, reinforcing that what we were witnessing was a movie from a filmmaker unwilling to revert back and merely copy his previous works. He ultimately takes risks with what would become his baby – the series as a whole – and seeks to evolve his world and its themes. The payoff is immeasurable.
Day of the Dead
is a film that rolls out with a double shot of effects that are as masterful as they are perplexing in how they were ultimately pulled off, even with a bigger budget for effects artist Tom Savini than he was given on Dawn of the Dead
. A nightmarish jump scare pulls you in before presenting us with one of the undead: a jawless, bleeding monster that retains its effectiveness to this day. Then it’s off to the kitschy, early bunker scenes which see every nature of goofily exaggerated characters spouting one liners, excessive threats and clichéd ramblings. But damn if even that isn’t part of the fun, and is it the undead that are the true monsters of this small gang of survivors squabbling over control that are more akin to evil?
If that (purely) B-movie atmosphere isn’t your thing, Day of the Dead
wastes little time in presenting a very well realized, labyrinthine underground installation, much more nuanced themes about the nature of humanity, what remained of the zombie’s, and, of course, more brilliant effects. The amount one could pull from the latter half of this film and cite as inspiration for any manner of subsequent horror films is at times staggering and to see it pulled off so early in the genre is a strange experience. It’s so very simple to succumb to the urge to raise a finger and prepare to cry “cliché.” That is until you reel yourself back in and remember it was done here first.
Yes, everything I admired about Day of the Dead
upon first viewing certainly remains, be it the immensely intriguing (and splendidly rendered) zombie Bub (a great Howard Sherman) the fine amateur acting by female lead Lori Cardille and the overblown nastiness of Joseph Pilato (whose delivery I now realize mimics a perfect three way split between Michael Douglas, Michael Shannon and Ron Livingston depending on his level of malice-spewing). What makes this a must have for fans is both the polishing of visuals and sound. Especially in the cave-like setting which acoustically left a lot to be admired has been touched up, to a level where it still lends credence to the atmosphere while avoiding echo and distortion on a filmmaking front.
If you love zombies in general and haven’t checked out this classic, there has never been a better time than now. Care has been taken with this Blu-Ray Collector’s Edition and with Romero’s faculties to back up the entirety of the technical prowess on display it makes for an excellent viewing. And if you are a fan of the oldies, why are you still reading this and why aren’t you on your way to the store already?
Documentary: World’s End: The Legacy of Day of the Dead
Audio Commentary with Writer/Director George A. Romero, Special Effects Makeup Artist Tom Savini, Production Designer Cletus Anderson and Actress Lori Cardille
Behind-the-Scenes Footage from Special Effects Artist Tom Savini’s Archives