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Day of the Dead (2008)
"Day of the Dead" is a vile, pathetic, slapdash motion picture, and this comes from a critic who didn't even like George Romero's 1985 original film. Whatever qualms I had with Romero's sluggish direction and uninspired screenwriting have now been effectively erased by this monstrosity of a remake.
A cold-like outbreak has infested small-town Colorado, forcing military reservists to be called in to keep order. Lead by Sarah (Mena Suvari) and Rhodes (Ving Rhames, wisely keeping to just a cameo appearance), the officers clash with the locals to maintain peace, but once the symptoms turn to zombification, the town erupts into violence, as the monsters begin to chow down on anything they can get their scabby hands on. Teaming up with skittish Bud (Stark Sands) and boastful officer Salazar (Nick Cannon), the group attempts to break out of the town, hoping a remote medical outpost will offer them shelter to mount a counter-attack.
Honestly, "Day" isn't even a remake. Screenwriter Jeffrey Reddick ("Final Destination") only cherry-picks a few of Romero's ideas to help cook up a zombie outbreak, relying more on his own wheezing imagination than anything Romero concerned himself with. The new "Day" is an insulting sensorial experience; a cheap-looking, laughably mismanaged gore picture created by careless gentlemen who have no sense of timing, visual competency, or hold a basic command of cinematic language. It's a pageant of stupidity that hopes gushing wounds and deliberate fanboy-catnip slices of ultraviolent cheese will mask the reality that it's a worthless offering in an increasingly abused genre; a cash-grab from financial fatcats hoping to bleed another nickel out of pushover horror fans.
Steven Miner is the credited director on "Day," and I'm shocked he's willing to keep his name on this rubbish. While proving some competency with a few "Friday the 13th" sequels and the satisfying "Halloween: H2O" retro bouillabaisse, Miner loses all his credibility with this take on "Day." It's a visual fumble, with Miner chasing every trendy camera and grotesque edit trick in the book, forming a senseless visual dynamic that could be achieved by any music video nimrod with a camcorder. "Day" is also riddled with shoddy special effects, most looking to heighten the body count with substandard digital bloodletting and dime-store makeup effects. Are Karo syrup and detachable rubber limbs that expensive these days?
The zombies (a questionable label, since the flesh-munching goblins here aren't actually undead) certainly don't appear menacing, and they sprint around the film like students of Speedy Gonzalez, blessed with the ability to float through the air and possess baffling digital adhesiveness that allows them to climb walls like Spider-Man. They look and act like clowns, but Miner is convinced of their threat and pours on the mayhem with glee, perhaps knowing that relying on the written word is the last thing this film should do.
For Romero fans, there's really nothing to recognize in the new "Day." Reddick's tweaks are all over the material, the worst offense being the reimagining of the Bub character, here called "Bud" and turned into a vegetarian zombie. Why, you might ask? I haven't a clue, since the film does nothing with the twist besides mount pedestrian sympathy ploys. The impregnable bunker? Only used in the film for 15 minutes, with the majority of "Day" staged aboveground. Again, why? Sorry friends, I have no answers here. Reddick is looking to smear connections to Romero to boast of his own originality, but using the title "Day of the Dead" promises something Miner and Reddick aren't willing to provide, preferring three-card Monte marketing confusion to compel the curious to partake in this debacle.
Hey, it worked for the ridiculous "Dawn of the Dead" remake, why not here?
Casting is the final insult of "Day." My apologies to Denise Richards and her turn as nuclear physicist in "The World is Not Enough," since Suvari is clearly the most miscast actress in film history playing a butch military leader capable of fending off a zombie holocaust. Not surprisingly, she's unable to sell the machismo of the moment, and the role exposes even more of her professional limitations than previously seen. However, I would take a 1,000 Suvaris if it meant no Nick Cannon. Essentially playing himself, Cannon spends the entire movie asserting his skin color and adding eye-rolling racial tension for no good reason. It's a despicable performance.
With a photographic glow best described as "urine" colored, "Day of the Dead" is not a striking film to behold. The anamorphic transfer (1.85:1 aspect ratio) has trouble with detail, especially during low-light sequences, which tend to turn to mud. Overall, what little color is allowed into the frame looks reasonable, but the DVD image lacks any sort of energy.
Obviously, with a film as splattery as this, the 5.1 Dolby Digital sound mix is going to be quite active. It's a solid mix wasted on such a terrible film, but it does give some bang for the buck without sacrificing overall quality.
In a development that could be best described as "ballsy," the "Day of the Dead" DVD contains an audio commentary. That's right, director Steve Miner, writer Jeffrey Reddick, editor Nate Easterling, and actors Michael Welch, Stark Sands, and Christa Campbell sit down to chat about their appalling movie.
The conversation is expectedly harmless, discussing the troubles of shooting in Bulgaria, how the name "Bub" is a dismissive moniker that necessitated immediate change (oh, good lord), referring to slow zombie lovers as "traditionalists," pointing out the tributes to other Miner productions, marveling over Bulgarian onion rings, blowing off the remake debate with a disturbingly spineless "we gotta eat too" explanation, and offering nuggets of general production minutiae.
Personally, I had to choke back vomit every time the group chuckled at a Nick Cannon punchline. Avoid the track at all costs.
"Alternate Ending" (5 minutes) is nothing to swoon over, only slightly altering the fate of one of the main characters. Hint: it did not make me happy.
"On the Set" (15 minutes) is straightforward B-roll footage, showing the production check off a few days of work. It's always interesting to witness the effort that goes into filmmaking, and the lack of polish here is strangely endearing.
"Interviews" (15 minutes) are EPK leftovers, talking to cast and crew about the experience of creating "Day of the Dead," making everything appear rosy and artistically competent.
International, Unrated, and Theatrical Trailers are included, along with looks at "Smiley Face." "King of California," "The Contract," "Blonde and Blonder," "The Perfect Witness," and "Headless Horseman."
Finally, a Photo Gallery is included.
"Day of the Dead" wasn't rocket science to begin with, yet Miner and Reddick manage to make things even worse with their greasy, imbecilic approach. The film ends with a visual jump straight out of a "shocking" YouTube trick video, which accurately sums up the wretched, desperate vibe of this incompetent debacle. Romero's film wasn't perfect, but it's practically the cure for cancer compared to this botched abortion.