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This is the movie in the series that divides fans. People either love it or hate it. Honestly, I hated it when I first saw it. It’s so bleak and the humans behave worse than the zombies do. Thankfully, one of my friends convinced me to give it another chance and I’m quite glad that I did. That was a couple of years ago and I really think that this is my favorite one. It’s scarier than Dawn of the Dead and it lacks the fun and hijinks of being stuck in a mall. The tone is bleaker and the protagonists are more unpleasant. Heck, that douchebag Harry Cooper is a sweet puppy compared to Captain Rhodes.
The movie is set after Dawn of the Dead in an underground military base in Florida. As John, a different helicopter pilot from the one in Dawn says, it’s a fourteen-mile-long tombstone for humanity and no one is going to bother to read the epitaph. It’s clear that the human population is very low compared to what was left in Dawn and there’s been no more communication from Washington D.C. There’s a group of scientists using the base under orders to figure out what caused the zombies and there’s a group from the military there to protect them. Tensions run high over lack of resources and the deaths caused by the zombies that the scientists have locked-up to use for testing.
Sarah’s the lead protagonist and a badass in general. She’s one of the scientists.
John, as I mentioned, is the helicopter pilot. He also wants to leave the base and settle on some tropical island for the rest of his days.
Then there’s crazy Captain Rhodes, played by the ever-awesome Joe Pilato. I will watch any movie with Joe Pilato in it. Anyway, apparently the captain before Rhodes was a bit of a jerk. Captain Rhodes is a maniac with a hard-on for violence. And a hair-swoosh that is *this close* to being Conanesque.
Most of the movie is about the clashes between the soldiers and the scientists and is a critique of militarism. The military force left behind in the movie is sadistic and as dangerous as the zombies. And, if you think about it, they’re protecting a country that really doesn’t exist anymore. In one of my favorite creepy movie moments, Sarah, John, Bill who’s the radio-operator, and Sarah’s boyfriend Miguel, go out looking for survivors and find a city that is literally nothing but the dead. America’s been cancelled in this movie.
But the movie also offers a critique of science. Dr. Logan is the head of the program. While Sarah wants to reverse the plague, Dr. Logan wants to work on training the zombies to be nice and integrate them into the world. As sadistic as Rhodes is, Dr. Logan crosses about half-a-dozen ethical lines in his research, which includes feeding the bodies of deceased soldiers to the zombies he’s studying.
The constraints of gender are explored in the movie. Sarah is a total badass and one of my favorite movie characters. She’s smart, Rhodes is clearly threatened by her, and she’s willing to fight instead of falling apart. Plus, when Miguel gets bit on the arm by a zombie, she HACKS HIS ARM OFF without a second thought.
Her and Selena from 28 Days Later are on my team of badass zombie fighting women. I really can’t tell George Romero how much I appreciate Sarah’s coolness and the fact that she wasn’t a stupid bimbo running around in her underwear with a gun, going up the stairs when she should be going out the door.
Despite her awesomeness, Sarah is constantly dogged by Captain Rhodes and his creepy underlings, Steele and Rickles. Miguel is also constantly harassed for not being strong enough, because he’s clearly cracking under pressure. Sarah tries to help him but he resents her and is embarrassed that she’s holding up better than him.
The movie made me wonder what makes a human human. As I said in another post, my first reaction to zombies is always to just shoot. I figure they’re hostile and they’re not like us. Dr. Logan’s approach is actually quite interesting, although I think it’s impractical. There are just so many zombies with so few humans, they could never train all of them. I think he estimated the zombie-to-human ratio as something like 400,000 to 1. Dr. Logan’s star “pupil” is Bub. Sarah notes that Bub doesn’t get agitated when Dr. Logan’s around because he doesn’t see Dr. Logan as lunch. It’s clear that Bub remembers things from his former life. It’s revealed that he was a soldier when he actually salutes Captain Rhodes and handles a gun correctly. I actually thought it was quite touching when Dr. Logan played “Ode to Joy” for Bub and showed him how to use the tape-player.
Of the three that I’ve rewatched so far this is the goriest. The effects work is absolutely top-notch and holds up remarkably well today. This scene never fails to make me sick.
There are also moments of humor within all the grossness and horror and despair. For some reason, I always crack up when I see that Dr. Logan gives Bub a copy of ‘Salem’s Lot to play with.
As for the Zombie of the Movie, I give the award to…
The zombie clown alert has been raised to orange, signifying an elevated threat of zombie clowns.
I will say that the movie suffers from what I like to call Eighties Synthesizer Music Overload. Parts of the score are fittingly creepy, but parts sound like the zombies are being followed by Depeche Mode. And no one is scared of Depeche Mode. But don’t let that keep you from watching this movie. Ignore all the mixed reviews and fighting and give Day of the Dead a chance.
- Scarina--the authoress and editrix of this site. I like scary movies and have dedicated my free time to cataloging horror--the good, the bad, and the ugly. Sometimes there are books too.
There's film criticism, literary criticism, and humor here. I can be highbrow but there's lots of pop culture too. And feminism.
I fervently love "Twin Peaks" and wish it were a real place so I could move there. I can't list my favorite scary movies because they change depending on my mood, the season, and how much coffee I've had.
I'm an artist looking for ways to blend creepy with cute. I try to channel my childhood nightmares, my love of horror, and my experiences with sleepy paralysis.
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