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Day of the Dead



Review #219, Movie #290
Day Of The Dead



Year Of Release
1985

Director
George A Romero

Producer
Richard P Rubinstein

Writer
George A Romero

Cast
Lori Cardille, Joseph Pilato, Terry Alexander, Richard Liberty, Jarlath Conroy and Sherman Howard

Notes
On the theme of keeping it between close friends and family, Lori Cardille, the lead in this film is the daughter of Bill “Chilly Willy” Cardille, who had a role as an extra in Romero’s original Night Of The Living Dead.

Main antagonist Joseph Pilato was also a friend and past co-worker of Romero’s as he had been in Dawn Of The Dead and Knightriders.

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Synopsis:
A group of survivors hide out in an underground Government Lab. The group are split into two disparate parts, the first is a collection of Ex-Military guys lead by the despotic Captain Henry Jones, holding desperately onto their former way of life but managing to become a rag-tag bunch of undisciplined Ex-Soldiers.
The second part of the group are Civilians and Doctors made up of a Helicopter Pilot, a Radio Expert and a trio of Scientists who are working on a way to "train" the Zombies into becoming less aggressive.


But Captain Jones isn't happy, and declares a kind of Marshall Law if everyone in the facility doesn't do exactly what he commands.


Review:
Now we're talking.
For me, this is my favourite of the original trio of Dead Films, it was also the first of the three I watched as well back when I was a kid.
Looking at it now as an adult and reviewer, it takes the best parts of the first two films, the jumpy psychological scares, the action and bloodsoaked gore and the atmosphere of being in a cramped environment... and combines a heavier hand of the exploitation of blood and guts and then, wraps the whole lot up into a slightly newer setting of isolation with paranoia.


This one definitely feels much more fleshed out than the first two. In a mirror of history, this one has a budget of 6 times the second film... and it really shows too.
The general aura of the film is more about the breakdown of society within a small group and is the epitome of Stephen King's "As a species we're fundamentally insane. Put more than two of us in a room and we pick sides and dream up ways to kill each other" quote (though the film isn't based on that obviously, I'm just using it as reference).


It's definitely the most interesting psychologically of the original 3 films in that term.


The other thing that makes its mark is the paranoia that builds up. You're never really sure what the main antagonists (Military guys) are up to or what Captain Jones will suddenly decide to do next.
It's an interesting dynamic for the main group of protagonists that the viewer is rooting for.
You get to care about, let's call them Good Guys, you get to care about the Good Guys... and it's all down to the fact that not only do you get to know them and their personalities within the first 15 minutes or so, but it's down to Jones and his Military guys being a bunch of thugs with guns and acting basically like power mad d*ckheads.


Romero draws a very clear line down the centre of the film with who is who, what is what and it allows for the viewer to just sit back and enjoy the ride without doing to much thinking.



As for the acting...
Joseph Pilato plays Captain Jones... Pilato is more a campy, pantomime type villain... but he has a very serious edge to him that stands him apart from other similar styled villains like say, Alan Rickman in Die Hard.

His backup comes from Gary Howard Klar, Ralph Marrero, Phillip G Kellams, Taso N Stavrakis and Gregory Nicotero. Gary Howard Klar is the main of the bunch and he's perfect as the second in command brute-with-no-brains.

Our heroes are...
Lori Cardille as Dr Sarah Bowman. Cardille's not a perfect actress, but in this she's pretty on the money, especially when she's holding her ground against Pilato's bad guy.

Jarlath Conroy also makes a good showing as the Radio Tech Bill McDermott. He's held in the background more than I'd have liked but his character is the most likeable of the group of Heroes and he proves to be an asset to the group of actors too.

Terry Alexander is one of the best on show. He plays Chopper Pilot John. Alexander really nails the role perfectly and manages to be tough and funny at the same time.

Best on show though is by far Richard Liberty as Dr Matthew Logan, nicknamed Frankenstein because of his experiments on Zombies. Liberty plays a very underrated role throughout but is incredibly naturalistic.

Back up comes from Anthony Dileo Jr, John Amplas, and Sherman Howard makes a memorable show as "Bub".



The action and effects, like before, have been ramped up because of budget... but also tweaked to look more realistic as well.
The Zombie effects and makeup are top notch and seem to have been made the standard for pretty much every Zombie film since.

This time round like I said though, the blood and gore scenes are pretty much all for shock factor. Almost every scene involving a Zombie chomping someone has been given the OTT treatment, including having people pulled in half for the sake of it and having a Zombie being experimented on.
I like it though, it stands out and shows the imagination of the filmmakers alongside the new special effects techniques they were obviously learning and some of it is used to expand the legend of the Zombies.
There's also some animatronics going on too, some of which are brilliantly made.

The general atmosphere in the cramped facility is top drawer though and draws the viewer in.

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All in all, my favourite of the first 3 films... packed with action and improved Zombie effects and has put back in some of those scares and jumpy bits that were lacking from Dawn.
The general atmosphere and psychological edge are also top notch.

I'd say this one was probably the best written too.

Another Classic though like Night and Dawn? Almost.

My rating: 90%