Led by a take-charge, opinionated black man, a ragtag group of survivors trapped in a building must work together to fend off a horde of flesh-eating zombies. Sound familiar? That’s right, it’s Day X! This overlooked little zombie independent does an admirable job of channeling the spirit of the classic Night of the Living Dead — not only with the plot similarities, but also with a strong, dialogue-driven script (whose only major flaw is deciphering how and why the zombie-making virus was released), well-developed characters facing moral dilemmas and skillful, gritty direction.
And of course, there’s that black guy. Ken Edwards carries a commanding presence as Frank Chambers, a gub’ment worker who actually gets off of his butt once in a while as a “security driver” for the Institute for Disease Control and Prevention. He’s toting around a mute gal who’s sort of an “anti-zombie”; her bite cures the virus that’s turning everyone into raving maniacs. (Technically, they’re not zombies since they’re not dead; they’re more in the 28 Days Later mold.) This unique spin on the zombie equation leads to warped scenes of the diminutive girl gleefully running towards the rampaging zombies, trying to bite them.
Writer/director Jason Hack delivers several such striking scenes in a film that makes the most of its meager budget. The surreal scene in which we’re introduced to Frank, for instance, has him calmly trying to start his car as a dozen sets of hands are pawing at him through the windows. Part of the effectiveness of the movie is the zombies (or not-quite-zombies) themselves. While other cheapie productions tend to just slap some eyeliner on their undead, Day X grays their skin from head to toe, something like Scott Speedman in Underworld. While the film’s still probably too cheap to be truly frightening, it’s efficient and effective, which is more than you can say for most zombie flicks with this budget.
So, do the NOTLD parallels extend to the black guy dying at the end? Well, maybe, but at least he gets to shoot a handgun, a shotgun and an automatic rifle. Just call him Rambro.