2008 – R – Millennium Films
Starring Mena Suvari, Nick Cannon, Ving Rhames – Directed by Steve Miner
It’s easy to have a biased opinion on remakes these days because of the sheer volume of them. People will pass judgement without even seeing a trailer just because it’s a remake. Although we complain, we are first in line to go see them. Sure, over the past few years, remakes are more commonplace than ever, however filmmakers seem to be taking the source material more seriously while adding their own view or style to it, giving it a fresh and unique spin, so they are telling the same story without making it a carbon copy. Unfortunately that seems to be few and far between. A good majority of the time, we either get unnecessary updates that are aforementioned carbon copies or we get an insulting misrepresentation of source material, so painful it stings. And possibly the most painful of them all is Day of the Dead.
Talk about missing not only the mark, but the concept, the social satire, the amazing practical effects, the story telling, the larger than life characters, competent film making and story telling. Sure it’s common for a film maker to want to take a different approach when doing a remake (in fact, it’s something I encourage and want them to do), but there is a fine line between creativity and total stupidity. What do I mean? Do you remember how the other Dead film’s open? With interesting characters in the middle of a situation they are unaware of that they must immediately adapt to. How does this film open? With a group of four teens dancing in a missile silo playing grab arse. If there is one way to make your characters be as unrelatable as possible, it’s to have them do something that nobody can relate to. I think this concept is lost when older people are trying to write about what they think teens do now.
Anyhow, our two main teens, Trevor and Nina, decide they’ve seen enough prepubescent groping from their friends Kyle and… nameless girl and want to head home to make whoopee in a more comfortable setting. Along the way, Kyle seems to be showing signs of a cold, you know… obvious foreshadowing, so throw out any hope for suspense. It turns out there is an outbreak of this virus all over town and the military is now blocking any way in or out. Rhodes (played by Ving Rhames, sleepwalking through this performance) heads up the roadblock and couldn’t seem more uninterested if he were trying. One thing you may notice about these soldiers is that they aren’t exactly armed, leading you to believe it’s the Reserves. This brings me to one of my biggest gripes about the film, Rhodes is seriously underwhelming and stripped of what made him a threatening menace in the original. Ving Rhames moans out every line of dialogue like he’s falling asleep and never once gives any indication that he is a force to be reckoned with, because in this film, he isn’t.
Among his squad is Sarah, who the camera is pointed at most of the time (since it’s insulting to call her our heroine), rookie Bud (who I’m sure you all remember as the intelligent zombie BUB with a military background from Romero’s original) and the increasingly annoying, false representation of a generation, one liner, cliche spewing Salazar played by Nick Cannon. Never in my life have I wanted to physically assault a character after every cocky line of dialogue spewed from their stupid face as I have Salazar. Since Sarah’s mother is sick with coincidental plot device syndrome, she and Bud take a drive to her house and along the way, they have a one on one. She tells him her gun isn’t loaded and that it’s complicated (another plot point that is never truly explained) and he tells her that he is a vegetarian (which will come back to provide the “jumping the shark” holy grail of all plot points), only to run into her brother Trevor and Nina where the mellow drama begins. Trevor holds a grudge against his sister for wanting to do something with her life and leaving and to my recollection, this is never resolved or fully explained, making it entirely pointless. Then again, I could say that about everything in this movie.
Learning that Kyle was showing the same symptoms, they all head over to his house and find his parents mutilated and report it to Rhodes while en route to get their mother to the hospital where we meet the other insult to source material, Dr. Logan, who is now suave and sleazy, rather than a burnt out scientist on the verge of losing his mind, because you know, that might have been interesting. When at the hospital, Sarah leaves her brother to look after their mother, while Rhodes then sends a team to check on Kyle’s house, but come to find out, there are three bodies instead of the reported two. Yes, in this movies, the zombies are intelligent and set traps, but that is the least of the stupidest abilities the zombies have in this movie…
This is when things go to hell, both for the characters and for you, the viewer. All of the infected people go from catatonic to undead with super human powers! Not only are they incredibly fast and agile, they can also leap great distances and crawl on the walls and ceiling! Hmm, maybe it was a radioactive spider that bit all of them. Now, there is nothing wrong with wanting to do something different, as I stated earlier. Making changes that a pose a threat can make for the characters to develop and adjust to the situation in an interesting way and possibly provide you with something you haven’t seen before, but IT HAS TO MAKE SENSE! Other than a quick one sentence explanation that is never followed up on, it is never mentioned how this virus can give the undead abilities that are outside of normal human capabilities. If you want us to believe the creatures can do this, again, IT HAS TO MAKE SENSE in your film’s reality. If the movie hasn’t completely lost you earlier, it definitely will now.
During the undead attack, Rhodes is immediately devoured, which could be a good thing that this piss poor version of the character is done with, or it will anger you that perhaps one of the greatest antagonists in a zombie flick was portrayed against everything that made him great. Either way, he does come back undead, giving an mildly interesting chase scene with no legs, only to be comically killed off by Salazar, adding insult to injury.
A good majority of the movie is the soldiers WITHOUT WEAPONS trying to escape from the hospital and is it boring. During the escape, Bud is bit on the hand. Salazar wants to waste him, but Sarah pleads and says he can be of use until he turns, at which point, she will take care of it. After stealing Rhode’s Humvee and stopping at a gun store that somehow has fully automatic weapons, Bud turns into a zombie, but to their surprise, he’s obedient like a soldier, which I suppose is fine. But in the most idiotic of explanations as to why he isn’t trying to eat them, as Sarah says, is because he’s a vegetarian. So let me get this straight… in this backwards world, if you were a vegetarian, when turned into a zombie, you won’t crave human flesh? In this health aware world where vegetarians are pretty dominant, these zombies are supposed to be a threat? I’m sorry… I need a minute to wash my brain off all the stupid.
Trevor and Nina managed to escape to a radio station where a few other survivors are holed up and wouldn’t you know it, a few of them are hiding the fact that they are infected. The film does try to pass off some suspense here where you briefly wonder who’s infected, but then you realize it doesn’t matter since the three brief characters that have nothing to do with the plot are killed, leaving Trevor and Nina to be rescued by Sarah.
By the way, it’s at this point I realized they’ve been calling Sarah “Corporal Cross” when it’s referenced that their family’s last name is Bowman, so… did the writer just forget this or is he as brain dead as the zombies? Speaking of, in true nature to this film, it’s never explained.
After an accident from a run in with zombie Kyle, they come across an underground bunker that just so happens to be where the scientists were developing the virus for…? There is a scene with Mad TV’s Pat Kilbane, but he barely brushes the topic. It’s never fully explained, so who cares! We don’t need to explain anything when we have zombies! And that’s how the film treats you; as if you are stupid and they can shove zombies into something and you’ll watch it, which I guess this means we did, so joke’s on us. Touche. Anyway, while they putz around and failing to provide any exposition, zombies attack and kill Logan, which I’m sure we’re all heart broken over since he was so likable, as is Salazar (FINALLY). I really haven’t talked much about his character, other than how intolerable and irritating his “hip-teen-lingo-catch-phrase-of-the-day” dialogue is, but trust me… the less said, the better. It’s like being talked down to by an older person who is trying to relate to your generation.
So Sarah, Nina and Trevor escape and the film throws in an ineffective jump scare. Nobody cares. It’s over.
Like all uninspiring remakes, these characters can only be identified by their stereotyped character trait. The tone of the film comes off as a cheap teen slasher flick, maybe due to the fact that Steve Miner directed, whose previous works included Friday the 13th Parts 2 and 3 and Halloween: H20. And For a movie called Day of the Dead, a lot of it takes place at night, but I guess that’s just me nitpicking.
Day of the Dead feels more like a humdrum teen slasher of the post Scream era then it does your insipid cut-and-paste zombie flick. How many times are we going to see the same story about some virus spreading the infection? Why do these filmmakers feel like they need to explain everything? If you have a strong enough story and characters that we care about, details like that are left a mystery and it adds to the doomed feeling of the situation the characters are in and that’s part of what made George Romero’s movies work! If you’re going to remake one of his movies and claim you are being faithful, while putting a fresh “spin” on it, the least you could do is just that. There’s another thing that gets thrown out in the remake world too much; “putting a fresh spin on it.” When you hear that, it usually means they gave the characters cell phones and Facebook jokes in their dialogue. Updating a film is fine. That’s been done since the dawn of films, but you need to make your characters relevant to the time period and give us examples of why they work in the situation that’s going on, instead of vomiting out the same annoying, slang spewing rejects from cliched stereotypes.
Not only is this a god awful remake, but a god awful film overall with absolutely nothing good about it. I found it to be unenjoyable, even with a group of friends looking for a cheesy movie to have fun with. Everything about this film is not only a misrepresentation of its source material, but to the genre as well to the point where it feels insulting. Even the editing seems to be sped up or have frames chopped out so the zombies seem like they are more supernatural, which comes off as laughably bad (but not frustrating like Automaton Transfusion). And of course being a late 2000’s horror film, practically all of the effects are unnecessary CGI and boy, does it look terrible. I’ve seen better effects in Asylum movies. I don’t know what else to say. This movie is so awful, they couldn’t even get it released theatrically! I can only tell you that this is one of the few times I would urge someone to stay away from a film. Treat it like a zombie outbreak; get out of there and stay away from this stinker as far as possible!
The Lost Highway virus makes you crave TGIF sliders.