Non Canon Review: Day Of The Dead (2008)

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?


  1. I'll throw my name in the hat for the copy of the film. Why? Well, I'm a huge zombie fan. The original Dawn of the Dead is my favorite horror film of all time. I've seen all the other Romero ones numerous times as well. And yes, I even watched "Day of the Dead 2". Wow, I can't believe I typed "Day of the Dead 2" without puking all over my...oh shit.... *PUKES ALL OVER KEYBOARD*

    Damn, almost made it. Anyway, zombie movies in general are a favorite of mine, even ones that aren't particularly great. Even if this "Day of the Dead" re-imagining isn't wonderful, that's ok. I'll be going into it with an open mind. I also don't mind it being different. I mean come on, if they're going to remake it, then it might as well be different. We already have Romero's film (which I enjoy, but could definitely be improved upon)

  2. I was turned on to zombies and horror films by Max Brook's book A Zombie Survival Guide. Ever since then, I have loved zombies with an undying passion of a thousand suns. I remember watching the original Dawn of the Dead when I was 10 years old and loving the scene with the helicopter taking off a zombie head. I spend most days at work looking around the rooms and building planning the perfect defense for a zombie outbreak. I would love if Day of the Dead would join my movie collection so I could add one more zombie flick to the beloved others.

  3. I would like a copy to watch with my friends and a six pack of beer (each), and because the original Day is actually my favorite of the Romero sequels. (I still put Night on that horror-geek pedastal; I understand the importance of Dawn, but I've always thought it was a bit too long--I should really get round to watching the purportedly brisker Italian edit.)

    Also, I have liked the remakes of both Night and Dawn on their own terms, and would like to see whether Day continues that much-maligned streak.

    Oh, and this morning I rescued a slug from my garage and returned it to the yard, hoping that in doing so I would avoid the sluggy vengeance you described in a previous post. That's a good deed, right? :)

  4. Hey, long time reader, first time poster... offer people stuff and that's what happens, I guess. On the whole original Day thing -- I don't think it's as good as Dawn, but I agree that it's certainly got a lot to recommend it. Yeah, the army guys are a little silly, but I love the outsider ethos really coming into its own, and the female lead kicks ass. And, of course, there's Bub. You gotta love Bub. I think it's a lot bleaker than Dawn, and as such is in some ways a better successor to Night: we can kill all the zombies we want, but in the end, we're still screwed because once we kill all of them, we're stuck with one another.

  5. I would like a copy cause I live in Malaysia and it's hard to find original DVDs like these.

  6. You should give the copy to me because I'll turn around and sell it on ebay, and use the money to pay back some of the loans that I spent on the zombie short I just filmed. (I know you got a soft spot for film students, and I'm about to graduate and head up to LA, so fork it over or I'll eat your face)

  7. My turn...I would love to win a copy of this DVD because:

    1. It has the most hilariously cheap box art I've seen in a while for a some what mainstream movie. I mean look at it...a violent JET of green vomit! That just cries out awesome.

    2. I really really want to see it but don't want to give the studios a dime less I be charged with encouraging more zombie movies. Zombies need some rest. I'm almost zombied-out. Give Werewolves a chance?

    3. One more DVD in my collection and I can officially open a video store out of my apartment.

  8. It's great to see someone stick to their guns and constructively critique a film without pandering to the lowest common denominator.

  9. I don't want a copy, thanks to a 'friend' I already have one.

    Send me another and I'll set you on fire (in a loving and caring sort of way).

  10. whoa whoa whoa ShortfilmTexas...Zombie out? Thats blasphemy.

  11. Id be honored to get my hands on your copy! Im currently finishing the scripting process of my very own horror movie, hoping ill be able to start filming in 09. I use your reviews alot, reading about what you consider great horror paradigms has actually really helped give me some perspective on how to go about some of the more subtle aspects of my own film effort.

    Regardless of whether im lucky enough to nab that dvd, id be honored if next year you would consider reviewing my film. T'would make me very happy.

    Ill talk to a friend of mine who is in the industry and just check on the rules regarding that sort of thing.

    Anyway, thanks for the offer! Keep up the awesome reviews!

  12. Hi BC,

    You should give me your extra copy because I never win stuff (writing contests once in a while, but that's oober hardwork and not nearly as fun)and anyway, I have a crush on you.

    Listen, I'm a big zombie film fan and have written essays regarding thier social relevance, in particular Romero's films.

    Last great zombie film I saw was 28 Weeks Later, but I had to buy a "previously viewed" copy at Hollywoood Video.

    Thanks, BC. XXOO

  13. I also liked this better than most reviewers seemed to. Nothing special, but halfway decent. They should never have bothered calling it Day of the Dead though, I think what caused all the negativity.

  14. So, who won the DVD?

  15. Oh, sorry, the winner was Vicar, who narrowed everyone out by admitting a fondness for the Night remake, which I've always quite liked and gets a bum rap by a lot of horror folk, for whatever reason.


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