Day of the Dead (1985)

(TubiTV streaming, May 2017) Zombie movies often work as indictments of humanity, and Day of the Dead proves to be a particularly depressing example of the form. George Romero’s third zombie film takes place on a military base, sometime after the zombie apocalypse, as experiments take place to understand and control the zombie menace. This leads straight to particularly gory sequence of medical horror, combined with the usual tropes of humans being terrible to another even in the face of a mortal threat. Combine the two and you’ve got the makings of a particularly depressing zombie film, even by the glum standards of the genre. (Ironically, though, this is one rare zombie film in which a few survivors find a relatively peaceful situation at the end. Go figure…) If I was more of a gore-hound (and I really am not), I’d probably be enthusiastic about the inventive ways Day of the Dead shows zombies at their worst, and the unsettling cumulative impact of the medical experiments on the living dead. Some of the stuff is still good enough to make anyone wonder how they did that in a pre-CGI age. (The opening “Calendar” jump scare is top-notch.) The nihilistic plotting is far more depressing, though, with the situation inside the bunker growing bleaker by the moment. Day of the Dead is definitely a zombie film for subgenre aficionados—I’m not much of a zombie fan, and I found the film far too gloomy at times.

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