In the truest sense of the word, Day of the Dead is a remake. It takes an original idea (in this case: zombies), and at least one solid element from that idea (in this case: the military), and twists the story into something ?new?. In the end, there were a few things that worked in this remake of the George Romero classic and?quite a few that didn?t.
Writer Jeffery Reddick (Final Destination) and director Steve Miner (Friday the 13th Part 2, Warlock) know that the zombie renaissance is nearing an end. While a lot of clichés are still used in this film (the search for a working car, the stockpiling of weapons, etc.) there have also been some improvements to staples of the genre, like fast zombies. I normally have a problem with fast moving zombies as there is little about them that actually makes any sense. Why should something rotting be moving so fast? But Day of the Dead actually does it right. People do get infected by being bitten, but it starts as a flu that takes over the town, and takes over the victims bodies while they are still alive. Therefore it actually makes sense that the zombies could be fast because technically, their bodies haven?t decomposed yet.
The basic ?plot? follows the expanse of the virus as survivors have to get away, shoot zombies, and say goodbye to their ransacked town.
But I know we?ve all come here for zombies and gore and I?m happy to say that the gore in Day of the Dead is also fantastic. I was expecting mid-to-low rate effects and makeup, but this film treats the audience to buckets of blood, pounds of flying skin, and gooey, dripping entrails, tendrils, and bones. The zombie faces all look like moldy swiss cheese, and the gross out factor is just wonderful. The action was fairly exciting too. There are certainly moments where anyone who?s well versed enough in zombie flicks could tell, action for action, what?s going to happen next, but the gunplay and chases are exciting enough. Though the film definitely had clear-cut budget restraints, the battle scenes were edited well enough to keep the modestly budgeted fights tight and fast paced.
The only major complaint I have with Day of the Dead is that the whole thing plays out a bit too much like a videogame. The characters are stereotypes (girl soldier, guy soldier, girl civilian, guy civilian), they stock up on weapons halfway through the action, and everything, at several points, just explodes! It gets to the point where you half expect them to get power-ups. All of this would be forgivable as typical action fare, but the dialogue is at times so weak, and the acting so flimsy, that it really takes you out of the action and excitement, instead of drawing you in.
Mena Suvari plays her role of the strong female army officer with some gusto, but she looks ridiculous. Her army outfits are a bit too big, and her soft features just don?t sell it. There?s no way she?s gone through the ropes long enough to lead troops. She looks like a kid dressing up as G.I. Joe for Halloween. Nick Cannon brings his usual forgettable swagger to the table, and the writer does little to help his performance as cheesy pop culture references come tumbling out of his mouth. Ving Rhames, who gets top billing in the movie, is in it just long enough to snarl and bark a few orders.
See it for the gore, the action, and the amazing feats these zombies can pull off (running along ceilings?honestly!), but don?t expect much else.