Day of the Dead (Romero, 1985) and a New Release, barely worth mentioning

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Something sad about seeing this film, as this is probably the last “new” Romero film I’ll be seeing that is any good. Though not quite on the same level as his two earlier entries, this is still a great film. It widens the issues of communication and religion, bringing them to a level of government as well as individuals. The major battle facing us “today”, is less science versus religion, as it is science versus military. Romero does not simplify the argument, and is further complicated by the stress of the current situation. Extremes in all regards are treated with worry, and often result in great pain and tragedy.

It’s essentially a tug of war between defense and progress, and how both are abused through different means. Though not particularly obvious, the most criticized abuse is little regard or respect for humanity. Strangely enough, some of the most potent betrayals of human dignity are done and explored through both the dealing with the zombies, as well as the dead. As the zombies are seemingly “evolving”, some semblance of their previous life is restored, and the callous pleasure that both soldier and doctor take in tearing them apart becomes less pleasurable than perhaps it was in the other films… it’s suddenly tainted by the idea that these zombies were once people, and something deep inside still retains some of that.

As with most Romero films, there is also a huge problem of communication going on. Some of it is tied to what I’ve already mentioned, especially how the two schools not only fail to understand each other, but also fail to try and understand each other. It also works on a more interpersonal basis, and how perhaps our greatest failing is our inability to connect, communicate and work together. It will eventually be our downfall, and though we may not be overcome by a zombie apocalypse, it seems inevitable that human ego and lack of human compassion is what will bring us down.

I also liked, that this film seemed to have the strongest sense of humour of all Romero’s films. Dawn is also quite darkly humourous, but this one has even better laughs. Lovely experience.

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The Stepfather (Nelson McCormick, 2009)

An exceptionally average film, while it doesn’t do very much right, it doesn’t do very much wrong either. I quite like the ending actually, eerie in a predictable way and fun cover of a very famous song. Again, I have to ask, what is this trend of emotionally crippled fatherhood in the past ten years? If they’re not psychopaths, they are completely useless. A reflection on something larger perhaps? A lack of faith in authority, or perhaps a confusion over male identity? It’s interesting in that way, but only as the sum of a few other similar films. Amber Heard is super hot here, and so many gratuitous pantie shots. It’s still PG-13 horror :/

One response to “Day of the Dead (Romero, 1985) and a New Release, barely worth mentioning

  1. I’ll dissent from your pessimism (my untried hopes pegged on Diary and Survival are still strong!) but Day of the Dead is an engaging, though I think mysteriously flawed, effort.

    Robin Wood, like you, seems to revel in the film’s defiance of expectations, its (allegedly) unrelenting bleakness. My complaint with his approach is that it downplays Dawn of the Dead’s unrelentingness (certainly Wood still loves it though) as well as Day’s humor and offbeatness. You’ve highlighted that humor in Day, but I would say it’s verbal humor here, and more kind of subtextual humor in Dawn (the constant ridiculousness of the consumerism & such). For me, the Dawn humor is deeper and more unsettling.

    I think this film is at its strongest when it feels like Full Metal Jacket, which it seems to anticipate in its ludicrously wound-up military macho types. That Michael Douglas-looking actor who plays the Captain is really a gem, and his scene at the ‘conference’ where he threatens to have the protagonist shot deserves to be a point of reference for all those who love such violent tantrums in Scorsese or Tarantino.

    But the claustrophobia can’t disguise that this is a poorer-budget film, and in some ways has “jumped the shark.” The killings at the end are pretty horrific in some ways (I did flash over them involuntarily the last time I had a bout with nausea, alas!). Yet compared to the cannibalism in the apartment basement in the first act of Dawn, which feels like a revelation of hell, the sausage-link orgy here is gross to watch but somewhat detached. It may be the end of the world, but somehow the note sounded is closer to a whimper.

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