Friday, October 13, 2006

Day of the Dead

(1985) ****

Romero's zombie romp continues with the next logical step: what are the people who are "in charge" up to? Predictably, they're unraveling just as much as the world outside. It's Eggheads vs. Grunts as civilian scientists who are trying to find some leverage in the zombie disaster are losing favor with their military caretakers, led by the angriest guy to ever don the camo. Look at this guy, even his hair is pissed off.

I hadn't seen this since JPX and I had to go to some obscure drive-in to catch it when it was released. I remembered it as a long bout of tense claustrophobia, since nearly the entire movie takes place underground and everybody's really tense. In Summerisle's review from last year, he mentions the lack of really likeable characters, which is something you want when the whole world is cinderblocks and flourescent lights. Considering all that, I was pleased at how much I enjoyed this. The zombies' makeup and the general gore level are truly inspired. Dawn's zombies were largely people with greenish face paint; here Savini is really showing off what he's learned in the ensuing years. And there's the extremely likeable pet zombie Bub, who definitely scores as the most appealing character. Nice bit of acting there, for real.

I liked the characters okay. They weren't multidimensional but they kept the story moving. After seeing a bunch of these flicks in a row, I'm less convinced it's about post-Nixon, anti-establishment paranoia and more about pure entropy. Chaos of the kind Yeats and T.S. Eliot wrote about, personified by the Horrorverse's mother of all sigma events: When The Zombies Get In. Just like Dr. Frankenstein always finds himself staring down at an angry, torch-bearing mob, this is what happens in every zombie movie. Eventually they get in. Day of the Dead has my favorite When The Zombies Get In moment of them all. The tension's hit a boiling point, people are getting shot, and one guy decides to deliver a truckload of zombies to the front door. It's uncertain why he's doing it; it could be to save those he cares about, to kill those he doesn't, or to finally face down the fear and despair that have been eating at him the whole movie. Whichever it was, it gets things cooking, and I was just as psyched to see that lowering freight elevator as I was the first time in that drive-in.

Regarding the bite/no bite question: this would seem to have the definitive answer, as one character gets shot, not bit, and later we see the severed head on a lab table, rolling its eyes around. Annoyingly, another character is gunned down by what seem to be all chest wounds, and he never gets up. Still a bit sloppy. But my decay question is answered. We hear Frankenstein tell his tape recorder that a zombie's decay rate is slowed so that it may be active for several years, and that the really fresh ones could last as long as ten. He also mentions the time to beat them was at the beginning, but now they outnumber us 400,000 to 1. Dang!

1 comment:

Octopunk said...

I must go on and on about the musical coincidences that happened when I watched Dawn and Day of the Dead.

Dawn's TV speech "the people they kill, get up and kill!" is sampled in the Gorillaz song Hip Albatross. I knew that one.

Then the ending theme -- dorky mall muzak -- sounded really familiar, and I realized the show Robot Chicken uses the same song for its ending theme, albeit sung by people imitating chickens.

In the beginning of Day of the Dead, a soldier yells "Hellloooooo" on a bullhorn, trying and failing to find alive people. I knew that bit was sampled in another Gorillaz song called M1 A1, but when the opening music sound eerily familiar, I realized something new: they'd boosted the entire first half of their song right from the movie.

THEN, during the early exchange in Day when the bad guy threatens our heroine with shooting if she doesn't sit down, suddenly the actors are reciting phrases that are sampled in one of my favorite My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult songs.

Ah, coincidences. Random bits that seem to be flying about suddenly wheel into place, pegs slide into perfectly shaped holes and the whole thing keeps moving like a fine Swiss watch.