A Horror Classic. Day of the Dead (1985) Review

Happy Halloween everyone!

Since entering Uni trying to stay active on Duffhood and YouTube has been a struggle. I was hoping to get more horror reviews done but of course I had other commitments.

I only reviewed 28 Days Later and Crimson Peak so I spent some time pondering on which film I’d do for the end of the season.

After some consideration I knew it would have to be one of my personal favourites. So, while it might not be a favourite for most people, I thought I’d cover Day of the Dead.

This holds a special place in my heart
This holds a special place in my heart

Popular opinion has labelled this film as the weakest of George A. Romero’s ‘Dead’ trilogy. Its not perfect but it certainly doesn’t deserve all the slander its received.

The war with the dead has been fought and lost. In an underground base a group of scientists and soldiers try to find a way to stop the dead walking. There’s an increasing tension within the group as Rhodes, a psychopathic military captain, abuses the scientists for not making progress.

One of the scientists, often referred to as ‘Frankenstein’, thinks he’s found a solution. Working with ‘Bub’, a tame zombie who shows some signs of humanity, he thinks the zombies can be taught to be civilised.

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Rhodes however does not agree. This then leads to a cut-throat conflict between the scientists and soldiers which is suddenly disrupted when the dead swarm the complex.

Being the third in the trilogy Day makes a rather pessimistic conclusion. Accepting humanity’s mortality seems to be the main theme running through the three films.

The protagonist, Sarah, is trying everything to stop the dead rising at the beginning. By the end she’s given up and gotten away from the problem, she’s focused on spending the rest of her days happily.

Thematically, Day says we will face certain death and the worst thing to do is try to stop it.

Structurally the film moves at a pretty good pace. Most of it consists of dialogue scenes and while there’re a few lines that could’ve been cut and I can understand why some people might’ve been a little bored watching this, its still compelling and intense.

The characters are a bit generic. Rhodes and the soldiers are enjoyably vicious and silly, some of the other characters however are rather stereotypical.

John for example, despite his charming personality and memorable lines, is a stereotypical Jamaican.

One of Day’s significant strengths is its depiction of a women, a quality that Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead was lacking.

Of course the film isn’t a feminist masterpiece but unlike Barbara and Francine, Sarah isn’t a brainless scream queen. She comes across as a very capable individual trying to solve a serious problem in an intense environment.

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One last thing I have to mention is the zombies and gore. If you think the film’s boring I urge you to watch till the end. I won’t go into any details but it has one of the goriest, most intense climaxes in zombie cinema.

Despite its flaws in characterisation and pace, Day of the Dead is a great conclusion to a fine horror trilogy and is unjustifiably underrated.

Day of the Dead earns an outstanding 8 out of 10.

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