Saturday, May 19, 2012

"Day of the Dead"(1985)d/George A. Romero

I have to admit that I'm a little perplexed at the fact that we've never covered tonight's review here at the Wop, remembering how thoroughly amped I was the first time I caught it, with a couple of buddies in my old man's '79 Impala on a double-bill with C.H.U.D.(1984) at the legendary West Side Drive-In that night in 1985.Having been a hardcore Romero-ite for something like eight years up to that point, I was salivating like Pavlov's dog at the concept of a wrap to his wildly successful zombie trilogy(remember when it was merely a 'trilogy', folks?), and thus, denying Chevy-entry to any backseat-inclined brawds that might have had amorous designs on this momentous event.They'd have to wait patiently for a less pivotal double feature, like Gremlins/Ghoulies the following weekend(keep your eyes peeled for that particular ripper of a yarn in future posts), if they expected to get busted out by the kid himself, on the spacious bucket seats of his father's schooner-on-wheels.Gore guru Tom Savini provides the finger-chompin', gut-splayin', Saturn Award-winning splatter effects(his first coming on 'DOTD') that splash across the screen in bloody spurts between Romero's ambitiously scripted mouth offs and philosophical whimsy that make up the film's dialogue, in attempt to shed some light on communication breakdown and the ensuing anarchy born out of it, perhaps.Forced to scale back his original epic vision when the budget was bissected to three and a half million from seven, Romero's Day also faced a limited theatrical run in the States and opened to mixed reviews before grossing nearly thirty million dollars on the international market and earning lucrative bank in video sales across the globe since.Make no mistakes, this is classic horror we're looking upon...
"Whoa! Shouldn'ta dropped both those blotters before lunch..."
Sarah(Lori Cardille) awakens from a nightmare in the day of the dead, as the only female in a subterranean enclave of scientists and military hopelessly surrounded on all sides by ravenous zombies in the Everglades as they desperately race towards a cure for the zombification process and search the east coast for any potential survivors in a helicopter, as helmed by John(Terry Alexander), a self-centered patois-spitting pilot and his partner, McDermott, a brandy-swilling radio expert.Also along for the ride is Sarah's romantic interest, Miguel(Tony DiLeo, Jr.), a girly soldier in the throes of a mental breakdown.Touching down in Ft Meyers only turns up a shambling army of the undead, and a perturbed alligator.Underground, things aren't much sexier, as Major Cooper has just passed on, leaving the impatient skeptic Rhodes(Joe Pilato) in charge of the operation, which is rapidly dissolving into insults and threats when the head scientist, Dr. Logan(Richard Liberty), whom they affectionately refer to as "Frankenstein", fails to show any discernible progress in his experiments with zombie subjects, haphazardly rounded up on a regular basis by Rhodes' men from the surrounding mines.Sarah holds faith that a cure or reversal of the zombification process can be discovered, while Logan sees learned behavior modification for the pus-fucks as the only feasible option, with his star pupil being a zombie named Bub(Sherman Howard), who displays excellent manners for Frankenstein's company, indeed.The reanimated corpse clumsily shaves his dead skin with a razor, goes through the motions of reading a copy of Stephen King Salem's Lot, and even salutes Rhodes, who's disgusted by the whole display, to say the least.
...and a special cameo appearance by Mickey Roarke.
The problem is, Frankenstein's been secretly rewarding Bub's good behavior with a bucketful of soldier meat-treats, which earns him a short, controlled machine gun burst to the belly and a trip to meet his maker.Miguel gets himself bitten on the arm during one round up, managing to get one of Rhodes' men's throats torn out in the process, but Sarah quickly amputates the infected arm, cauterizing the stump with a torch, as Rhodes and co. make the scene at John and McDermott's place just outside the complex, demanding revenge for the increasing number of dead comrades, and resulting in an intense standoff between all parties involved.In the melee Rhodes wastes Fisher(John Amplas) and locks McDermott and Sarah inside one of the zombie corrals, demanding that John flies he and his soldiers off to safety, while an unhinged Miguel sneaks off to let all the zombies surrounding the complex in, getting dined on for his troubles.Meanwhile, Bub has broken free of his restraints, and shambled upon Logan's dead body, causing the ghoul to groan out loud in a burst of emotion, before picking up a gun and setting off on a course of...revenge?John manages to snag a pair of six guns in knocking Rhodes and one of his men unconscious, and he makes off into the darkened mine passages to search for Sarah and McDermott.Quickly trapped by approaching zombies, Rhodes sells his men out while trying to escape himself, and they're rended limb from limb by the rotting hordes, while the commander's path is blocked by a bitter Bub who shows some serious marksmanship for a dead guy in plugging Rhodes with several rounds before he's set upon by the horde who tear him apart."Choke on 'em!" he spits, watching as his innards are pulled out by the hungry ghouls.After Sarah has a repeat nightmare in the race to the chopper, she awakens on a beach where John and his soused buddy are relaxedly fishing from the shore.She crosses another date off on a makeshift calendar...
"Hold still!Do you want that eyelash outta there or not?!!?"
Look for fellow FX men Taso Stavrakis and Greg Nicotero among the military ranks here, both suffering fittingly horrible on-camera deaths at the hands of their pal, Savini, here.What keeps Day outta the running for the title of Romero's apex zombie opus, for me, is the number of irksome personalities amongst the survivors, especially Miguel, and to a lesser degree, the fake Jamaican, John and his comical dipsomaniacal pal, McDermott.Lengthy discourse from the characters as the story progresses doesn't gain them any advocate in me, I'm patiently waiting for the effeminate hispanic to get chowed upon by zombies by the time Dr. Tongue famously shambles in front of Romero's lens in the opening credits, and bummed knowing that the other two make it okay in the end.Don't get me wrong, I highly dug the characters of Sarah, Logan, Fisher, and Rhodes, especially, it was just a strange experience hating on any of George's roles, a first, really, as much as I ended up doing over the years and repeated viewings.And as much personality and realism the zombies and gore effects here exude, I think Day still could have used more of both in the end for that final boost into legend.Still, it remains one of my favorite zombie movies of the era, with much nostalgia enshrouding it's every aspect for me, and for that, it earns a well-deserved three Wop score on the scale; a must-see for every horror fan.
Rhodes(Joe Pilato) gets treated like the Minnesota Vikings did, on any given Sunday last season.

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