Day of the Dead (1985), directed by George A. Romero

I hadn’t planned on watching this one for my Horror Pledge 2012, but they had it at the library and I realized I had never seen it, so went for it. I loved the first two, Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead, so it seemed only fitting to watch the final installment of Romero’s original Dead trilogy.

I’m a zombie movie fan, no question, but I have to say I don’t quite understand the cult surrounding the whole zombie culture thing. I’ve been on some online dating sites lately (research for an article, I swear. That’s totally not true.) and it’s amazing how many people write some variation of “thinking about the zombie apocalypse” as one of their interests or whatever.

It’s also amazing just how quickly that makes me want to go look at someone else’s profile (for research).

I mean, I totally get the appeal of the movies. Night of the Living Dead is a creepy, classic, low-budget indie scare flick. It and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) are two of the most important horror movies ever made, because they were made for pennies and totally changed the game.

I just have no interest in taking part in any zombie walks. I might watch one I guess. Not on a date though.

Anyway, not that I really have a point here, I just think it’s interesting and a little puzzling to have this huge culture come out of these films. There were other zombie movies before, and the concept goes back to Haitian legends or something, but the zombie as we know it, the slow walking, brain craving gore fest, came from Romero and these films.

This one is about a group of post-zombie apocalypse survivors barricaded in an underground military base, frantically trying to come up with a way to, at first, cure, and, later, to tame the hoards of zombies inhabiting the world. The small group left is half military, half scientists, and let me tell you, they are not getting along.

What’s interesting about Day of the Dead is that, kind of like The Walking Dead or even the original Dawn of the Dead, the focus is certainly not the zombies. They are just there, shuffling along, showing up occasionally to cause terror, while the real drama plays out between the humans. Romero’s strength in his early films was recognizing this and instead of making pure action or horror movies, his are filled with social commentary and human drama, making them exciting and interesting.

That’s not to say there isn’t any blood or gore. There’s lots. Zombies are one way to have your audience root for the killing of humans. Because they’re not humans. They’re zombies. It’s a bit of a cop out, but I enjoy it too, so there you go. Anyway, there is some horrific gore in this, including disembowelment and a head cut in half with a shovel.

But, you know, they’re just zombies so you can cheer and stuff and it’s OK.

The film also teaches you people in the military are homicidal jerks. I can’t really confirm whether that’s true or not, and surely a zombie apocalypse would be an added stress, but I can’t imagine these soldiers helping any little old ladies with their groceries, or saying “ma’am” or anything.

My final verdict is I enjoyed Day of the Dead, but not as much as the first two Romero zombie classics. It’s a worthy entry though, especially considering it was made nearly 20 years after the original Night of the Living Dead. I feel it works well with the others. He made three more after this one and I’ve only seen one of them, Survival of the Dead, which was terrible and far too jokey.

This one takes itself seriously, which makes it all the better, even though it has that cheesy, fun feeling to it that really makes the whole genre.

This will likely be the only zombie film I watch for this pledge, but I’m glad I did, because it’s such a staple of horror, and one perhaps a bit more popular than the more brutal offshoots of the umbrella genre. And this entry seems a bit more forgotten than the others. Change that and give it a rent. Or get it for free from your local library.

Day of the Dead is available on home video.