Dia De Los Muertes

Ah, and you thought SHOCKTOBER! was over. We still have this wonderful post-Halloween holiday. So I can’t remember where I read this unique, insightful description of 1985’s DAY OF THE DEAD as “one of the most depressing dispatches from the battle of the sexes” — though I’m certain it must have been a review from the gilded pages of CINEFANTASTIQUE — which is not exactly the kind of critique one might expect from a film ostensibly about flesh-eating zombies and their victims. George Romero’s long-awaited follow-up to his Dead series received mixed critical notices yet still made a profit (unrated as DAWN OF THE DEAD) though it’s certainly well-regarded today, primarily for Howard Sherman’s classic portrayal of “Bub,” Romero’s first supra-intelligent ghoul and Joe Pilato’s scene and reel chewing performance as the angry, unhinged Captain Rhodes. Tom Savini also reaches a triumphant plateau in terms of zombie deaths and make-up effects (my favorite being the shovel decapitation), which take somewhat of a backseat to the bickering scientists and military plotline. Lori Cardille stars as Sarah, a take-charge scientist trying to keep her team together while Rhodes threatens a coup in their underground laboratory lair. Their profane verbal duels comprise a chunk of the film, with Romero wisely keeping the implied threats of sexual and physical violence just under the surface. DAY OF THE DEAD is melancholy the way the others are not, lacking the midnight movie espirit of DAWN, even though the trilogy ends of an optimistic note. As stated, Sherman’s Bub is a great creation, Romero’s chance to do a Karloffian monster character (note that Rhodes calls the manic Dr. Logan, “Frankenstein”). And the penultimate moment betwixt Bub and Rhodes is classic genre cinema. So…remember.

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13 Responses to “Dia De Los Muertes”

  1. i haven’t watched this in ages either. shocktober would have been the perfect time, but as per the usual tech dreams shocktober horror movie big push wherein watching as many (new and used) spooky flicks is the mandate, being wizard busy i officially had my worst shocktober yet, i’m ashamed to say, sigh (tho on the night i did manage my annual pilgrimage to ‘halloween’ on blu – beeauuuuuty – and the boy chose ‘wrong turn’ for his late-night all hallow’s eve pick – his first viewing – so i’ve been going around the house at night cackling maniacally like that mutant hillbilly just to freak him out)

  2. actually it’s WHOOPING and cackling. the whooping adds a whole ‘nother layer of mutant hillbilly charm.

    for some reason i completely forgot (and not because it’s forgettable per se) having watched ‘mimic’ for the first time in ages on halloween eve with a bunch of kids who’ve never seen it, still my fave del toro flick, big soft spot for mimic – tho i suspect i’d be in the minuscule minority on that one (rob bottin creature design to boot, i bet his hair looked fabulous whilst doing it) – but now having to put up with a lot off ‘big elephant-ass mutherfucker’ and variations thereof from the mouthy pottymouth tween peanut gallery.

    certainly on the list of ‘little kids get MUNTED’ horror movies, ‘mimic’s gotta be up there with jaws, the shining, pet sematary, alligator, IT, silver bullet, frankenstein…poor wee poppets

    • Still haven’t seen MIMIC – there’s a director’s cut out now. And Soderbergh did a rewrite…AND ROB BOTTIN!

      • you haven’t seen ‘mimic’? good god man how do you live with yourself!? ;-) nah mimic is a funny one, when it came it out it got a fair bit of lambasting for being GDT’s ‘aliens’ ripoff — and while there are certainly some blatant similarities/parallels to cameron’s grand ill-fated space insect battle, right down to crescendos in the score directly mimicking (haha) horner’s hastily composed ‘aliens’ masterpiece practically note for note, it’s unique enough in premise, design and execution to stand alone as a little B-horror gem for this rabid ‘aliens’ fan (also surprisingly little-seen from what i gather; doesn’t seem like one of those movies that’s always around gathering dust in the dvd bargain bins so i wonder if availability has been limited, or maybe it’s just me living in a backwater… i have it on dvd but i’m super keen to see a director’s cut on blu i assume, goody goody gum drops)

  3. I had a lousy Shocktober too, Leah. The weather was unseasonably warm, I was busy with real life stuff, it just didn’t feel like it. Spent most of the month watching DEADWOOD. (Well, there are some pretty scary characters on that show.)

    I guess it wasn’t just me, then.

  4. DoTD holds up pretty well. There is indeed a melancholy feeling, which is a bit of a drag. It’s not as much pulpy fun as the others. And Romero had begun to slip into his preachy phase by this point. (I’ve probably said this before, but I have a theory about horror filmmakers like Craven and Romero taking their press too seriously after some critic draws questionable parallels between the civil rights struggle or Vietnam to their work — probably as a way of justifying said critic’s love for the disreputable — and then deliberately trying to layer deep thematics into the subsequent films, to often detrimental effect. That’s one long-winded sentence, but I think you know what I mean, especially if you’ve ever sat through THE PEOPLE UNDER THE STAIRS.)

    Anyway, there’s a real feeling of oppressive, claustrophobic doom in DAY, and the effects are the best by far of the original trilogy. Still not sure how I feel about Bub the lovable zombie, though. It’s an impressive performance, but something about the idea rubs me the wrong way — and idea that was taken altogether too far in LAND. The terrifying thing about zombies is their mindlessness. I don’t want to sympathize with them.

    Hey, maybe we should go ahead and have our own Shocktober in November, since last month didn’t quite scratch that itch. Dismember? Then again, it’s always Shocktober to freaks like us.

    • I’m a fan of THE PEOPLE UNDER THE STAIRS – it’s another facet of Craven’s “dysfunctional families” theme with a real Reagan era bent. Just a weird fucking film.

      I’m down with Bub if only because it so clearly a Karloffian character tho I like my zombies dead and scary.

      SHOCKTOBER!

  5. buggerdyfuck, just lost my comment for the SECOND time, why dear god why? (i have no doubt it’s down to me doing something mental, but what that is i have no idea, something to do w/the shift key and a fast trigger pinky…(?) )

    i’ve already run out of steam

    “I’ve probably said this before, but I have a theory about horror filmmakers like Craven and Romero taking their press too seriously after some critic draws questionable parallels between the civil rights struggle or Vietnam to their work — probably as a way of justifying said critic’s love for the disreputable — and then deliberately trying to layer deep thematics into the subsequent films, to often detrimental effect.”

    interesting fb. i wonder about that sort of thing too, annoying to think it’ll languish in the ‘never know’ basket, unless you get said director in some intimate situation, drunk and blathering while you pick their brain

    bring on ‘dismember’!

    (i’m also a bit of a pooh-pooher of the clever/sympathetic zombie – fuck that, too obvious a subversion of the genre, i want to be terrified of my zombies – but i’m a bit more open to the comedic zomboid a la ‘shaun of the dead’… tho to be honest even the sympathetic zombie isn’t a deal-breaker for me)

  6. I agree that it’s a weird fucking film, all right. McGill is moderately funny camping it up in bondage gear, but he just doesn’t scare me. I just remember a lot of interminable screaming and running around peppered with over-obvious “satire” and painful preachiness.

    A little tweaking and I think it could have worked on both levels — but then, I often associate Craven with movies that don’t quite get there. Even NoES falls apart in the final fifteen minutes, which is a pity considering the brilliance of what precedes it.

    Admittedly, I haven’t seen PUtS in years. Maybe it would play better now, viewed as a cult oddity. In those days, I was still hoping Craven would fulfill his potential and make his masterpiece, not realizing he had already come as close as he ever would.

    I’ll give it this: it’s not a bad as SHOCKER, as stale and cynical an attempt to create a franchise character as I’ve ever seen.

    • SHOCKER does have a moment of absolute Craven genius: the characters bouncing from TV show to show…

      But I would still love to see Craven’s original cut of DEADLY FRIEND — when it was called FRIEND and had NO HORROR. Bruce Joel Rubin wrote it as a unique love story and the studio demanded Craven add carnage like the famous exploding head basketball scene.

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