Friday, May 2, 2008

A Day In The Unlife...

Please bear with me as I’m working from a two week old memory, which in my dog years can be like months.

What can I tell you about Steve Miners Day of the Dead, the most grossly ill-named film this year? Actually calling this film Day of the Dead is like calling Friday The 13th Wet Hot American Summer. If you’re getting the idea that this film has nothing to do with the George Romero 1985 classic you would be dead on and you should have done better on the SAT’s. It’s a shame really, cause the film had a lot going for it. The budget was definitely higher than you normally see on these types of films. Mena Suvari and Ving Rhames give the film a semblance of credibility. Even Steve Miners name, while mostly associated with television has a certain pedigree with a couple of Friday the 13th flicks, Warlock and Halloween H20 under his belt. In fact, Day of the Dead would have been a much better movie under a different title and if they avoided making insignificant nods to the original by keeping the names and some settings intact. The potential was there, and as I said, it had a lot going for it and some parts were wholly entertaining.

Here’s the story rundown. A small town in Colorado becomes infected with a virus and is under quarantine. One of the officers (Suvari) has family in the town and accompanied by a communications officer Bud Crain (Stark Sands) drives into town to take her mother to the hospital. Soon the outbreak reaches critical and the town inhabitants become superhuman flesh eaters. Survivors band together and uncover a plot to create a super soldier while escaping the overrun town.

Ok, you might think. Sure it has nothing to do with the original, but it sounds like a good time, why all the negativity?

Right, fair enough, let’s start from the beginning.

Starting with the title. Let’s forget for the moment that there is already a film called Day of the Dead, heck, let’s forget there’s a Mexican holiday called Day of the Dead. Assuming these four words were never put together in a sentence in our current history, why does the bulk of this film take place at night? Now I know Dawn of the Dead did not take place at dawn though a key scene establishing the deads dominance does. Plus the title makes sense in building upon a franchise. For that matter the original Day of the Dead was primarily underground, but all the external shots were day shots, and besides Subterranean Silo of the Dead doesn’t have the same ring. A better title for this film would be Night of the Infected, or something along those lines.

Let’s jump to the talent. Mena Suvari worked pretty well with what was given her, but that wasn’t much. It’s hard to buy this cute as a button pedophiles wet dream as a military officer, and where did she find form fitting BDU’s? The last thing I should be thinking while watching a zombie flick is “damn, did she always have that butt?”, but think it I did, and in most situations this would be a perfectly rational thought, just not when flesh eating ghouls are active.
For the record, I now believe every Suvari film should have at least one view of her rear. Get that in the contract!

Ving Rhames was underused. He had little more than a cameo, and his end was off camera so there was no Ving Rhames bad-assery to be had.

Nick Cannon, the current Mr. Carey? Well mom always said if you have nothing nice to say. He bugged the hell out of me and every scene he opened his mouth in dragged painfully. Dude, I loved Drumline….what happened?

Actually the standout for me was Stark Sands as Bud. Why they would change Bub to Bud is beyond me, but his lovesick tame zombie was great. He was both menacing and likeable just as Sherman Howards Bub was in the original with a bit of Billy Connolly as Fido thrown in.

Everyone else in the film did an ok job, but like Suvari, just didn’t have a lot to go on. AnnaLynn McCord as Nina stands out among the supporting cast, and I may have bought her in Suvaris role as she seemed tougher and older at times. Fan favorite Christa Campbell also makes an appearance.

Day of the Dead breaks a lot of rules. The “zombies” are closer to the rage affected of the 28 Days film. Once infected, they quickly get sick and, I assume, die. Faster than you can say flesh eating bacteria, their skin starts splitting, lesions form and tad ah! Instant Zombification.

Along with the new undead appetite comes some super agility. Zombies jump from windows, leap 12 feet onto victims and somehow gain the ability to crawl across ceiling grids that would never support their weight. For awhile there I thought I was watching Marvel Zombies. Yet for all this newfound great power, they were not capable of pulling a 110 lb girl from an air duct by her feet when she was within arms reach, nor could they catch her if she got a 10 foot headstart.

Any zombie picture will stick to at least one, in my opinion, unbreakable rule. When a character gets attacked, they must without exception, show up as a zombie later in the film. Romero established this in Night by bringing Johnny back, and it’s a damn good rule. Main characters in this film are bitten or whisked away never to be seen again. C’mon, not even the main “villain” Dr. Logan shows up for our heroes to take down. That’s just unforgiveable.

Don’t insult the fans intelligence. We love Troma films. It doesn’t take a lot to make us happy, but simply reusing character names from another film doesn’t make it a remake or a reimagining.

Zack Snyder understood this with his reimagining of Dawn of the Dead and not only did he give Dawns (original) four male leads, I’m counting Tom Savini, cameos, He also cleverly named one of the malls shops after the female lead Gaylen Ross. Fan appreciation does not go unnoticed, neither does insults.

While I’m being insulted, guess why Bud (Bub) the horny docile zombie won’t kill. Take a minute, think about it……don’t know? He’s a frikkin’ vegetarian. I kid you not. That would make the safest place in the US during a zombie war Berkley Ca., some parts of Seattle and Colorado….where this damn movie takes place! Me, I’d probably hop the first flight to India myself.

Don’t even ask me about the promo art. I don’t get it. A zombie puking? It’s not gross or scary.

Bottom line. If you love zombie flicks and want slightly higher than average production values Day of the Dead may be for you. You’d better leave your preconceptions at the door though cause it has absolutely nothing to do with the original.

If you’re an easily riled purist, you may want to avoid this film all together. Oddly, if you’re not a zombie fan but love B movies than you may really enjoy it as well since it’s closer to a cheesy action film. At least it didn’t put me to sleep.

Of course that could be attributed to Mena Suvaris butt………

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