Friday, May 23, 2008
Movie Review – Day of the Dead (2008)
Hoping to build on the success of Zack Snyder’s excellent 2004 remake of Romero’s Dawn of the Dead, we have a revisioning of Romero’s sub-par Day of the Dead. Sub-par is a good word to use here. Whereas Romero’s third zombie outing was not as brilliant as Dawn of the Dead, Day was still a Romero film and – at the end of the day – was a fucking awesome zombie film. Day of the Dead 2008, on the other hand, was a big, stinking pile of shit when compared to Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead. What’s more, it is almost a sacrilege when held up to Romero’s Holy Zombie Trinity.
Strong words? Yes. Unfair? I think not.
The plot is straightforward… the movie opens with some teens making out in an abandoned Nike missile site in the mountains of Colorado. This is standard fare for most horror films. When one of the horny teens gets a nose-bleed, we get some heavy handed foreshadowing. The generic, pretty teens leave the make out spot, two of them argue, and the girl decides to walk home. She is, of course, attacked in the woods. Meanwhile, back in town, the army has quarantined everything for a “training drill”. Of course, everybody in town is affected by some sort of strange flu-like virus. The military cordone is run by Captain Rhodes (as played by Ving Rhames) and he’s assisted by Corporal Sarah Bowman (played by Mena Suvari). Her sidekicks are two other enlisted guys (Nick Cannon as Salazar and Stark Sands – who plays “Bud”, an allusion to “Bub” from the original). Things go downhill quickly as it becomes apparent that the infection is some strange virus that turns people into zombies. The characters run around town blah blah blah they fight some zombies blah blah blah they go to the gun store blah blah blah they end up back at the missile silo and discover the government and a douchebag named Dr. Logan is to blame for the outbreak blahhditty blah-fucking blah ….
This movie was bad on so many levels I’m actually at a loss as to where to start bitching here.
Let’s start with the obvious… the zombies. Apparently, the virus is airborne and some people are just immune. Once you get sick, it takes a couple hours to settle in. Then, you get a nosebleed, become catatonic for a few seconds where you apparently die, and come back as a zombie. And here’s where this movie gets ridiculous. The instant you die, the virus makes your skin peel off and get all yucky. Then – and it’s never explained except in that it probably seemed cool to the hacks who filmed it at the time – the zombies can now jump, vertically, 25 feet in the air. They’re also super strong and can also run across walls and ceilings like Spiderman. Which, is cool. Wait, did I say that was cool? My bad, I meant to say it was fucking retarded.
The zombies also retain memories of their life before they died. And that brings us to the crux of why I dreaded watching this. I’d heard rumors about the Bud zombie from people who’d seen advanced screenings and the thought made me cringe, but I soldiered on (mainly because I scored a free rental at my Hollywood video. Boy would I have been homicidal if I’d paid money for this crap-tastic travesty!). Anyway, Private Bud got a thing for Sarah. He’s also a pacifist and a vegetarian. So, when he’s bit and turned into a zombie, he helps the characters and doesn’t chomp any of them because he’s got a boyish crush on Mena Suvari and obviously can’t stomach long pork because –you know – “meat’s murder, maaan!”
That's right, horror fans. A zombie that doesn't eat human flesh... because he's a vegetarian. Vegetarian zombies? So what, instead of stumbling around moaning, "BRAIIINNS!!!", they instead insist on "GRAAAIINNS!!!"????
I’m stunned at the awfulness.
What else was wrong? The dialogue was cheesy and stilted, the story was weak, and the plot had holes bigger than the one between Paris Hilton’s legs. Nick Cannon’s character Salazar was a walking caricature of every faceless, cocky, brash, black character you see in the bazillions of low budget movies out there. Ving Rhames was in the movie just long enough to get a paycheck so he could finance his next cycle of steroids and Mena Suvari sleptwalk through her role.
Essentially, this was a by the numbers horror flick by people who aren’t fans of the genre, It has the feel of a movie made by writers, directors, and producers whose normal cinematic contributions are by the numbers, stereotypically stupid teen comedies.
The good? There was little to be found in here that was good. The effects were all right, when they used real effects. I qualify that because they felt it was necessary to make the zombies act like those stupid herky, jerky ghosts you see in the countless PG-13 remakes of Japanese horror films that the horror genre’s been flooded with lately. And they overdid it with the digital blood. Attention all horror film makers. We can tell when it’s digitally created blood! It looks fake! If you can justify spending $12 Million on a movie that Uwe Boll would think is good, spend the extra hundred bucks to pick up a few cases of Karo Syrup and food dye. It looks better, morons! I’m just saying…
It did have zombies, and the chaos when the infection took hold was well filmed. I especially love that they went with running zombies. That, I think, was Zack Snyder’s best contribution to the genre. Running zombies that never get tired and don’t feel tired are scary as hell. In this film, they made it visceral and scary went they weren’t shitting things up with a need to “explain” why the zombies are.
And that’s sort of the crux, I think. That’s what separates a good zombie film from a bad zombie film. I don’t care what causes the dead to come back from life, and you don’t need to have the main characters somehow “stumble” upon the why’s and wherefore’s. I DON’T CARE! What happens in low budget films is that the producers and studio people get wrapped up in the writing process and have to spoon-feed the audience with some idiotic dues ex machine explanation because they’re under the delusion that horror fans need explanations. We don’t – so don’t do it!
A perfect example of how not to be assholes here is to look at Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead (and comparisons are inevitable here. The Dawn and Day remakes were on polar opposite ends of the good/bad spectrum). Snyder was a fan. You could tell he was. He didn’t explain why the world was going to hell in a flesh chomping hand-basket. He could then spend time concentrating on important shit - - like character development and plot. But, unfortunately, we didn’t get Zack Snyder this time around. Instead we got a writer who has the distinction of having written the sequels to the suckfest’s that were the Final Destination movies; and a director who’s biggest credits include the shitty teen soap operas, Felicity and Smallville.
And that’s what’s wrong with horror films today. It’s looked down upon by mainstream directors and writers. So we’re stuck with the likes of Uwe Boll and the hacks that put this film together. It’s funny really; because when big name directors and writers commit to horror films, they tend to be good. It’s sad...
So – what’s the final verdict on Day of the Dead 2008? Take a pass. Watch it when it comes to cable, or if you get a free rental. Don’t spend money on it, because I guarantee you that it will most likely be money wasted - and an hour and a half of your life you won’t get back. It pains Doctor Zombie to say this, dear reader, but this was just a bad zombie film and it was redeemable only in that they had some good gore. That though, was about it. I give it 2 out of 5 chomped brains only because it did have gore, and it did have zombies.
Doctor Zombie’s Rating: 2 out of 5 Chomped Brains