The last film in George A Romero’s classic original zombie trilogy, Day of the Dead was generally considered to be the weakest of the three – neither as groundbreaking as Night of the Living Dead (1968) or as satirical and entertaining as Dawn of the Dead (1978) – but Romero has suggested it was his own personal favourite.
Set in an underground army missile bunker near the Florida Everglades (a 25-acre limestone mine in Pennsylvania was used for the shoot), it’s the darkest film in the saga (and the most gore laden) and has a remarkably claustrophobic and strange atmosphere.
A small group of scientists and soldiers are trapped in the Florida bunker – conducting experiments on captured zombies – with their dwindling numbers depleted by death and their despairing sense of isolation compounded by the fact that they can’t contact anyone on the radio now, not even Washington.
Dr Logan (Richard Liberty) speculates that the zombies now outnumber the living by 400,000 to 1.
By this point, it’s hard to tell who we’re really rooting for, the hateful, bickering soldier ‘heroes’ or their shuffling, bloodthirsty zombie captives, personified by the ‘thinking zombie’, the oddly lovable Bub (Howard Sherman) who Logan is trying to “domesticate”.
Psychotic Captain Rhodes (Josef Pilato) just wants to shoot the remaining zombies while John the helicopter pilot (Terry Alexander) wants to fly away to a tropical island and forget them. The arguments are refereed by the group’s only female member, Sarah (Lori Cardille), a fierce feminist who heads up a research team.
Day of the Dead builds to an enjoyably blood-drenched finale, but be warned – this is the nastiest of the three films and Romero spares you no detail when the flesh munching capers arrive. Strong stomachs will be needed at times.
Anthony Dileo Jr
George A. Romero