This high-octane, more dynamic, so-called remake of George A. Romero’s 1985 horror classic Day of the Day (astonishingly given the same title) is simply nothing at all like the original. It never once recaps scenes from the original version, and therefore doesn’t quite play out like a remake, but more like a stylish retrofit. It’s not that I didn’t enjoy Romero’s classic, this one just triumphs in aspects the original lacked. Smarter zombies with hyper-kinetic behavior, better characters, and much more action, Halloween H20 director Steve Miller’s Day of the Dead is, to my surprise, a worthy retrofit of a somewhat-dated classic.
After an virus epidemic sweeps through the town of Leadville, Colorado, a handful of survivors immune to the virus fight to survive. Taking shelter in homes, cars, and radio stations, they begin their escape from the town’s overwhelming infection. The zombie guidelines are as followed: shoot them in the head, don’t get bitten, and run as fast as you can. The undead can be quicker than you think.
With an uncommonly terrific look, nifty make-up effects, and a script that marginally out-smarts the original, this retrofit pulls no punches. It might not have the political commentary (government accusations) and explainations about zombie orgin that made the first stimulate your thoughts, nor does it have the abundance of handmade gore. However, it’s the high energy and expanded sympathy for a vegetarian zombie known as Bud (sharply performed by Stark Sands) that provides the continuous fun the first lacked.
Even as a stand-alone zombie picture, this has enough tense moments and gross-out features to keep the enjoyment flowing steadily throughout. Even the small appearance by Ving Rhames is amusing. But what really keeps the film so alive (no pun intended) are the solid performances by the zombies, Mena Suvari, Nick Cannon, and a stand-out performance by Stark Sands.
Screenwriter Jeffrey Reddick (writer of the Final Destination films) provides his well-known intellect for thrillers to a film that, without Miller and his talents, probably would’ve been just another dead-head zombie flick. This action-packed thrill ride with limited piffle leads to a predictable, if satisfying, ending that will provide either a goofy smile or major eye-rolling gestures. However you see it depends on your mood. If you aren’t satisfied with the ending, an alternate ending is provided in the special features that I found to be a humorous conclusion to the film.
Included on the DVD (complete with an eye-popping holographic cover) are some pretty fascinating extras. The alternate ending for those who were “expecting the black man to die” is very funny and certainly worth a look, a well-collected photo gallery featuring close-ups of zombies and characters is fun to skim through, and the most interesting of all in the special features is the on the set featurette. This is a well-organized DVD and a great time awaits inside. 4/5 stars