Total Pageviews

Thursday, October 3, 2013

ZOMBIES: Great moments in Romero's 'Day of the Dead'

Bowie V. Ibarra


When people talk about George A. Romero's best zombie movies, you'll probably find a great many people will respond with 'Dawn of the Dead'.  I mean, how many zombie movies had that much action and zombie-smashing fun?

The next segment of fans (like myself) might say 'Night of the Living Dead', the original and the granddaddy of zombie horror movies. 

But a select few might say his third entry, 'Day of the Dead'.  Ironically enough, the minority might be right, and there's been a lot of people looking back in retrospective at the movie since the 2nd wave of the zombie wave has hit.  Here's some great reasons why 'Day of the Dead' might be Romero's true zombie masterpiece.

For his third entry, George finally got a big budget, $3.5 million, to film the movie.  But he had to change his original vision which included a zombie army learning how to use weapons.  In the end, the special effects-heavy original script made way for a cerebral adventure in the zombie apocalypse.

This movie has perhaps the most talented cast of the three up to this point.  The actors, from top to bottom, were outstanding.  Lori Cardille, who played Sarah, was the backbone of the cast, providing a solid protagonist to the solid antagonist, Captain Rhodes, played by an over-the-top Joe Pilato.  Rhodes goons were great, lead by another outstanding performance by Steele, played by Gary Klar.  And the misfits, John and McDermitt, played by Terry Alexander and Jaraleth Conroy, were outstanding middlemen to the struggles of the scientists vs. military through-line.

But the two people who stole the movie and are outstanding performance centerpieces were Dr. Logan and Bub, played by the late Richard Liberty and Sherman Howard, respectively.  Liberty, like Pilato, takes his character to great heights with theatrical skill, but doesn't go far enough to make it look ridiculous and remains based in reality. 

I refuse to give away the opening moment, but the following moment with Sarah and the misfits searching for signs of life along the Florida coast is magnificent, and quickly and efficiently displays the hopelessness of the zombie apocalypse.

Between 'Dawn...' ('78) and 1985, Tom Savini became one of the most legendary masters of special effects, and he put his tremendous skill on display in this movie.  The makeup and final feast gore effects are out of this world.  This is one of the first movies that Greg Nicotero of 'The Walking Dead' fame cut his special effects teeth on.

Before Quentin Tarantino was doing Mexican Standoff's at the Denny's in 'Pulp Fiction', Romero created one of the most tense moments in film during the early parts of the movie.  Not only that, but it put the acting skills of all the actors at the fore, including Pilato and Liberty in a great moment as they explore their philosophies on how to deal with their circumstance.

When Romero did not get the budget he needed for his initial vision, he had to scale the script back a lot.  So instead of relying on special effects, he had to rely on dialogue and character relationships to propel the story.  Its in this monologue, when John and McDermott invite Sarah back to their trailer, where you see how expertly crafted the movie is.  It's a monologue that rivals Duane Jones' 'Beakman's Diner' monologue from 'Night of the Living Dead' for performance, depth, and the hopelessness of the end of the world.

Again, one of the outstanding performers in the movie was Anthony Dileo, Jr., as the unstable Miguel.  From the word 'go', Miguel is a mess, seen praying in the helicopter and judged as unstable by his own girlfriend, Sarah.  When Miguel is left alone after suffering a serious wound (no, i'm not going to spoil it for you) and believes his friends have been killed, he unleashes zombies on his enemies in a hugely emotional gambit that has lethal results.  It is one of my favorite moments from any zombie movie.  His 'sign of the cross' gesture was one I used when playing high school football, so its a very special scene to me.

For me, a good Romero movie has to have a 'feast' scene.  You know what I'm talking about, right?  The moment when the zeds get a stack of people and just munch out on them.  You get the most tremendous final feast scene committed to film with this one.  The only other one that comes close that I can remember is in 'Land of the Dead'.  But man, you get to see the heels torn apart and devoured by hundreds.

The movie ends remarkably well, and is the only movie that offers any kind of glimmer of hope.

All in all, will not punch your Zombie card if you have not taken in this movie yet.  Be ready for a little more depth both in performance, dialogue, and script, as well as a tremendous story that could arguably be the best film in the Romero trilogy and, perhaps, the genre.

And if you appreciate zombie horror, you'll love the 'Down the Road' zombie horror series from  Down the Road, Down the Road: On the Last Day, and Down the Road: The Fall of Austin.  Pick them up in paperback or Kindle today.

BOWIE V. IBARRA earned his BFA in Acting and MA in Theatre History from Texas State University.  Network with Bowie at his official website, today.

No comments:

Post a Comment