Friday, April 4, 2008

Day of the Dead (2008)

This movie has been getting hammered with pretty overwhelming scorn by the horror community for months now, to the point where I wanted to see it just to see how bad it was. Of course, I forgot that I was listening to people that obsessively hate any and all film remakes, and it turned out good for me that the film wound actually being pretty good. I guess it turns out bad for you, though, since it’s hard for me to really write that much about movies that are decent, rather than verging to an extreme in either direction. Oh well, sucks to be all of you!

The film, in its function as a remake of the George Romero zombie movie from the 80s, retains three elements from its source material: the title, a military presence, and zombies firing guns. Beyond that, it’s a whole new animal, and given that the original was easily the weak link of Romero’s Dead series (no matter how many people nowadays try to claim otherwise), I can’t say that’s necessarily a bad thing. The film is set in some dive town in Colorado, helpfully surrounded by mountains so there’s only one road leading out of town. The military has quarantined the town under the guise of “military exercises”, but almost everyone in town seems to be coming down with bad colds, so we have some idea of where this is headed. Ving Rhames is the head of the military presence there, though he’s playing a different character than he did in the remake of Dawn of the Dead (this is not, as it was originally billed, a sequel to that film), and pretty soon he and his soldiers and some civilians are neck-deep in a swarm of zombies that are running around ripping into everyone they can find.

The film itself is pretty fast paced, as films with running zombies tend to be, and manages the difficult feat of simultaneously looking like it had a decent-sized budget, and looking cheap as hell. I always enjoy seeing monster carnage taking place in an actual town, where you can see it’s not just a series of sets with a few pans of some generic city thrown in to try to fool everyone, and this film certainly shows it has the budget to manage that. It then also throws that all away by continually using CG for blood, which is one of the cheapest and lamest looking moves there is for a movie. Seriously, that’s what I’d expect from the movies in the Tombs of Terror collection, not a movie with Ving Rhames and Mena Suvari. There’s a small army of older horror flicks that had no budget at all and still managed to have more convincing violence in them than this film did, and that simply should not be the case.

That problem aside, the movie is largely fairly entertaining. It’s not as good as, say, the original Night of the Living Dead, or either Dawn of the Dead, but it’s at least better than the average zombie movie to come out in recent years, so it has that going for it at least. Indeed, it’s at least as good as the original, if you can forgive the brief retardation of the ceiling crawler zombie that is every bit as awful as it sounds. Just go in expecting an okay zombie movie and nothing more, and you should be satisfied. Anything more than that and you’re just getting your hopes up way too much.

Rating: ** ½

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