“We’re bein’ punished by the Creator. He visited a curse on us. So that man could look at…what Hell was like.”
George A. Romero is three for three in leaving me wanting so much more at the end of his films. This is a credit to his world-building ability, and Day of the Dead is just as solid with that aspect as Night and Dawn. Once again, Romero keeps the action limited to mostly one location, and, once again, makes the most of said location, always keeping things interesting and engaging. That said, though, Day of the Dead feels like a very different film than the previous two.
Day of the Dead takes place – from my best efforts, anyway – about six months after the end of Dawn, and we’re following a new group of people. This time, we have a set of doctors trying to research the living dead, and a group of chauvinistic, unlikable military men tasked with keeping them safe. They hide out in an underground bunker, trying to figure out a way to reverse the effects of the living dead, or at least tame them, in order to take back the world. Just as I argued with Dawn, though, Romero uses this platform as a way to investigate the human interactions that take place in the most desperate of times, and he does so wonderfully.
This time around, Romero focuses more on the science behind the zombies, and there is actually a lot less killing for the majority of this film than in the previous ones, giving it a slower, more deliberate pace. Even though it is different, it’s just as solid at what it does, though, and it’s always entertaining. I was fascinated as Dr. Frankenstein, as the group calls him, tries to tame “Bub”, the first zombie we get a name for in this series. It’s slow, but so well acted that I was hooked, and was fascinated by what Bub would do next. It humanized the dead, and that allows for some more depth that we didn’t get previously. The human characters are very black and white – good or evil – so it was great to see some gray with Bub.
I ended up loving Day of the Dead a lot more than I expected. I know I’ve put this film on previously, but I must have fallen asleep for a lot more of it than I remembered because virtually everything felt new here outside of the first five minutes, so for all intents and purposes, this was a first-time viewing for me. What I always thought was a weaker film is anything but. Day of the Dead is just as solid as the first two phases, and comes highly recommended.