You wanna know how stale the Zombie genre is? It was getting clichéd back in 2003 and that was 11 years ago. Long story short, I'm burned out on zombies. But once in awhile something great like SHAUN OF THE DEAD or ZOMBIELAND comes along and puts a fresh spin on the living dead. I can only speak for the first two seasons, but honest to goodness THE WALKING DEAD television series has been my favorite zombie medium since the George A. Romero zombie films. His classic zombie films, NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (1968) – DAY OF THE DEAD (1985).
My favorite zombie film is George A. Romero's DAWN OF THE DEAD (1978). But his third zombie movie, DAY OF THE DEAD will always have a special place in my heart. It was the first zombie , let alone exploitation film I ever saw. I was probably 9 or 10 years old when I first watched DAY OF THE DEAD. It was on television, and the channel was the USA Network. I never saw the movie from beginning to end and back then thought it and THE TOXIC AVENGER were the same movie.
If I remember correctly it was around 2002 when the zombie nostalgia bug hit me? I wanted to get all the Romero films on DVD. The Italian horror genre was peeking my interest as well, but that's another can of worms. The thought just occurred to me that it was around this time that I fell in love with horror movies again! Yes, how could I forget! Eli Roth's CABIN FEVER came out the same year as my zombie movie phase. And I'll say it again, I fell in love with horror movies again. You see, the late nineties was a terrible time for the horror genre.
So now that basically zombie fandom is everywhere and kids can buy zombie breakfast cereal, I'm kinda done with it all.
Then a few weeks ago I watched a documentary called NIGHTMARE FACTORY. It was about the special makeup effects studio KNB Effects Group Inc. They are the best in the business and my personal favorite makeup effects team. Their big break was doing the makeup work on a little film you may of heard about called EVIL DEAD II: DEAD BY DAWN!
One of the founders of the group, Greg Nicotero got his start assisting the great Tom Savini on DAY OF THE DEAD. It had been a few years since I watched the zombie classic and the documentary got me all nostalgic, so I decided to watch the film.
I forgot how much I love DAY OF THE DEAD! Yes, it's one of the meanest zombie films you will ever sit through, but man it's so good. The zombie makeup effects hold up. I would even say they are still the best practical effects on a zombie movie ever! CGI gore just cannot compete with practical gore when done correctly.
So in DAY OF THE DEAD it's pretty much over for mankind. Some survivors made up of military soldiers and scientists are seeking shelter in a old missile silo. The scientists are doing experiments on the zombies to try and make them more domesticated. Tensions are at an all time high as the soldiers are wanting to leave and find greener pastures. But the scientists beg for more time.
When the high in command finally figures out that experiments are being preformed on dead soldiers, all bets are off and things start to get bad. Real bad. The underground compound gets compromised and the zombies run (walk) amok.
By today standards DAY OF THE DEAD might seem textbook, which is fair to say. But the performances are still great. It still has that exploitation feel to it. And the gore, oh my gosh the gore! DAY OF THE DEAD should be zombie makeup effects 101 if it isn't already.
Final thoughts. What keeps me watching DAY OF THE DEAD is the story and characters. The gore is just a bonus for me. It's a hard film to watch. The movie makes you stop and wonder what's worse, mankind or zombies? It's social commentary like this that make the first three Romero zombies films worth watching year after year.