MARCH 30, 2008
You might wonder why this is a Non-Canon Review... that’s because I saw the Day of the Dead remake last fall at a test screening, and didn’t review it on the basis that A. I already had a review for that day and B. it wasn’t finished. My rule is, unless I love the movie almost completely (such as Repo), or it’s a complete, un-savable abomination (like Invasion), I wait for the final cut out of respect for the filmmakers. Plus, one or two scenes I like may be removed, thus making the film weaker, or one or two scenes I really hate might also be removed, making the film better.
And that was exactly the case with Day. This cut was much improved, even though only minor things were changed. More importantly, and this is the same way I felt when I saw it before, I really don’t get why this movie is being ripped to shreds on Aintitcool and such. I have watched at LEAST three zombie movies that are far worse just for HMAD, not to mention all of the ones I had seen before that were far more worthy of being raked over the coals. It’s certainly not a perfect film, but I don’t think anyone involved with this version of Day set out to make anything but a goofy, fun, action-zombie movie. Which is exactly what it is.
The irony is, Romero’s original is hardly beloved by the general horror fanbase, many of whom consider it boring and cheap. I happen to really like it (though not as much as Night or Dawn), but after I learned my lesson with the Dawn remake, I knew not to damn this one before I saw it. Sadly, it seems others don’t feel the same; even those who liked the Dawn remake seem to hate on this one for the same types of things that film had in spades (fast zombies, emphasis on action, younger cast, etc). It baffles me when people hate a remake for simply being a remake to begin with, but even moreso when it’s a film relatively few people defend anyway (though to be fair it’s been thankfully re-evalauted in recent years). It seems like people just wanted to hate this movie for the hell of it, regardless of reason. I even read a review from guy who seemed to primarily hate the movie because a lot of it didn’t take place during the day. Oh yeah, genius? Night takes place over 24 hrs, and Dawn takes place over several months. And the original Day takes place over the course of a week or so. So go fuck yourself!
Screenwriter Jeffrey Reddick did a Q&A after the screening, and revealed that originally his script had more in common with the original film, but due to rights issues, producer/director wishes, etc, pretty much all of those things were lost (he also dislikes the ceiling zombie as much as everyone else – “not my idea”). So, like Dawn 04, this is basically the same concept as the original (military, zombies, quarantine), but is otherwise its own movie, and it should be judged as such. Unlike other remakes, you certainly can’t accuse Reddick or Steve Miner for plagiarizing the original – there’s literally nothing repeated other than a few character names.
(Speaking of which, Ving Rhames plays Rhodes. He is NOT playing his Dawn character. However, Joe Pilato, who played Rhodes in the original Day, also appeared in the original Dawn as a different character, so in a strange sort of way, it’s fitting).
So what works, and what doesn’t? Well, there are some fantastic zombie gags, particularly the demise of Mena Suvari’s mother, which had the entire crowd cheering. And it’s certainly a step up from the original in action; once people begin turning into zombies, the film is almost nonstop action until the end. And the ensemble cast is good, a nice mixture of teens, adults, and older folks (Ian McNeice is a hoot as a radio DJ). Christa Campbell is a bit oddly cast as a mother (with a husband that looks twice her age), but who the fuck cares? She’s in the movie, which is good enough for me.
As for the humor itself, it’s pretty hit or miss. “I’ll give you some money...” (see the movie for context) is possibly the funniest line of the year, and McNeice also gets in a few good lines. Sadly, Nick Cannon is given the bulk of the ‘jokes’, and his racially tinged (and mostly improvised, according to Reddick) one-liners grow tiresome after a while (“Why do white people always want to split up?” is the biggest groaner – don’t ALL dumb horror movie characters always split up, regardless of race?). But he gets eaten, so it works out. Also, the editing is a bit too Halloween 6-y for my tastes - every time the action cuts to a radio station (where a few characters have holed up), we are given flash edits and Avid farts. They also crank the film speed on a lot of the zombie attack scenes, not always to a successful degree. It’s nowhere near as annoying as House of the Dead, lest you start to get the wrong idea.
Most importantly, the movie is just fun. I had a blast watching it with a big crowd, and it will play best when you have your buddies with you (and maybe a beer or two), even at home. It’s fast paced without being incoherent, most of the CG is good (it’s about a 50/50 split between CG and practical effects), the characters are likable (even Cannon is somewhat endearing), and best of all, it’s its own movie. Is Romero’s better? No (well, YES, but that’s not the point), it’s just different. Had they intended to make a film as serious and thought-provoking as Romero’s original, then this would be a colossal failure. But they wanted to make the movie fun, action packed, and a sort of roller coaster ride. And in that regard, the film is a success. Like Black Xmas, it’s OK to dislike it, but comparing it to a film that shares only a title is insulting to both films, if you ask me.
At the end of the screening we all got a DVD of the movie (with a lenticular cover!). Since I got two (who said being married isn’t beneficial?), I will give away one to a lucky reader! Just write in the comments why you would like a copy, and I’ll pick the winner (considering the abysmal number of entries for previous contests, I’m guessing it won’t be hard). Contest ends in 10 days (when this review is no longer on the main page). Good luck!
What say you?