Day of the Dead is generally considered the lesser (lessest?) of George Romero’s “Dead trilogy” — which technically is now up to six films — and with good reason. While not a bad movie, its pace is about that of a Romero zombie. Until the last 15 minutes of the movie, the zombies are relegated to being either lab rats or cattle rounded up to be, well, lab rats. Thus, we’re forced to deal with a bunch of (sigh) human interaction: long-winded discussions on life and death and the state of the world, arguments on what their course of action should be (The consensus? Sit around and argue about what their course of action should be.).
We’re actually supposed to sympathize with the zombies, and with such annoying humans, it’s not hard to do (Whiny-ass Salazar is the possibly the single most irritating character in cinematic history, making Bill “Game Over” Paxton’s role in Aliens seem downright heroic.). Still, while I don’t totally discount humanizing zombies (Romero’s Land of the Dead handled it well.), Day‘s intimate portrayal of “Bub” the zombie is tantamount to Freddy vs. Jason 2: Return to Brokeback Mountain.
While Romero once again includes a strong black co-lead in John (Terry Alexander), the problem is that he’s, well, not really a co-lead. He has the smallest of the major black roles in the Dead films. He’s basically limited to one big monologue about “the Creator” and why He’s put them in the position they’re in (He’s Jamaican, so he has to be spiritual, I guess.). Still, criticisms aside, the gory make-up in Day of the Dead is some of the best you’ll ever see. Unlike Dawn of the Dead, these zombies could actually be deemed scary…if they weren’t so darn lovable.
(Black nerd trivia: Ernest Dickerson of Bones and Demon Knight fame shot some of the opening outdoor scenes as the second unit director.)