Day of the Dead (1985) is a horror film by director George A. Romero, and the third of five movies. It is preceded by Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead, and succeeded by Land of the Dead and Diary of the dead. Steve Miner directed a remake which was released in 2008.
Romero himself cites Day of the Dead as his personal favorite of all his zombie films (he mentions this in the documentary entitled "The Many Days of the Dead" on the Region 1 Divimax Special Edition DVD release of Day of the Dead from Anchor Bay Entertainment).
Day of the Dead deals with the zombie assault on a military establishment, satirizing the military mindset in the process. The film received the least enthusiastic critical review of the four films. Romero's original vision for the film was ambitious, but he accepted a prohibitively small budget in exchange for the production company to release the film without a rating. If he had chosen to go for an R rating, rather than being unrated, he would have had seven million dollars to work with. Instead, however, was given a mere three and a half million. The resulting film was smaller than the original but introduces the possibility that the undead are more capable of adaptation than was originally believed. The original script was considerably more complex and ambitious, involving the training of zombies to fight other zombies. Most of the lost themes were carried over to 2005's Land of the Dead.
The film has been widely criticized for various reasons. Many fans of the second film, Dawn of the Dead, were disappointed in this third offering, as its plot is considerably less sweeping in nature. Fans of the film point out, however, that the iconic human characters purposely contrast with the precocious zombie lead, "Bub", underscoring that zombies and humans are not so different. An outrageous selection of zombies are presented, and the special effects are worlds ahead of what was presented in the previous installment. Although the film is set somewhere in Florida (perhaps in Fort Myers or Sanibel Island, where the initial scenes were filmed), it was primarily filmed in Pittsburgh just like the earlier installments and undead extras include Akram Midani,the dean of Carnegie Mellon University and his wife Watfa Midani.
The overall tone of the movie is grim, unrelenting and dour, a change from the comedic satire of Dawn. The survivors in the film fear that they are the last humans on the face of the earth, though in Land of the Dead, it is evident that this is not the case. Perhaps more prevalent than in the other films in the series, Day plays on the theme that humanity is a greater danger to itself than any outside threat. The living characters in the film are made up of three distinctive sects who have their own ideas regarding their predicament: soldiers who want to destroy the zombies, scientists who want to study them for a resolution, and civilians who want nothing more than to live out their last days without care. This causes friction and a lapse in cooperation as characters struggle with one another rather than work together to survive the world that has changed beyond their control. The violence and gore also reach a level of intensity that the two previous movies did not. Being killed by a zombie in this film is presented as a horrific and brutally drawn out ordeal.
Despite its lackluster critical reception, the film is noted for its special effects work, notably Tom Savini's make-up and special effects work; and it was honored in 1985 with a Saturn Award for Best Make-Up.
The film is set within an underground facility that now houses two warring factions of the living: a small group of scientists who are studying the living dead in hopes of stopping whatever is reanimating them, and a small group of soldiers who are growing increasingly despondent and volatile. The commanding officer is the dangerous Captain Rhodes, who is verbally abusive and shows signs of being on the verge of a complete breakdown. Sarah is one of the main scientists, and her friend is a soldier named Miguel Salazar. The helicopter pilot John and his friend William live in a small trailer deeper inside the tunnel, away from the others, and remain neutral in the disagreements between the two other factions. Sarah learns that John and William have a simpler outlook on the situation, believing that the scientists are wasting their time when they should be finding a way to enjoy whatever life they have left. They would prefer to find an island someplace and live as comfortably as possible. One particular tunnel complex of the underground compound has been used to corral zombies for study by the scientists. During an operation to retrieve a few undead “specimens,” Salazar is bitten, along with another soldier who is killed immediately by one of his comrades (the previous films have established that any bite from a zombie will inevitably lead to death, no matter what kind of medical attention is provided). Rhodes reluctantly allows Salazar to live after Sarah amputates his wounded arm, but Salazar lingers on in a feverish, unstable frame of mind.
One of the chief scientists, Dr. Logan, has been conducting experiments on the undead collected from the corral. He has been working with a zombie he has named “Bub” to see how much of his human mind he may have retained. Amazingly, Bub seems to respond to common objects, and even reveals a docile nature instead of simply viewing Logan as "food".
Rhodes is not impressed by Logan's progress, and after he discovers that the doctor has been using his own deceased troops as food for the zombies, he shoots the doctor dead. Rhodes orders John to prepare the helicopter for evacuation, telling him that only the army personnel will be evacuated, and the scientists will be left in the silo to die. John refuses and Rhodes responds by immediately murdering another doctor, Fisher, by shooting him in the head. John realizes he must obey Rhodes. William and Sarah are taken to the holding corral and are forced inside with the undead. They make their way through the dark caverns and tunnels, trying to stay alive amongst the zombies who lurk there.
Meanwhile, the wounded and delirious Salazar has become completely unhinged and has made his way to the compound’s main elevator to the surface, deliberately opening the gates and leading the zombies into the complex. The dead advance immediately and kill Salazar. The distraction allows John to escape, taking the weapons from Private Torrez and Rhodes whom he knocks out, and running to help Sarah and William in the holding area. Together they find an alternate way to the surface through a large missile silo. The undead easily infiltrate the complex in overwhelming numbers and devour the remaining soldiers. Bub, who has maganged to unbolt his chains from the wall walks around the facility until he finds Dr Logan, he tries to show the Dr that he free'd himself until he realises he is dead, seemingly enraging the zombie. He picks up the nearby discarded guns and begins hunting the soldiers, he finds Rhodes and manages to shoot him several times unfatally but allowing the still hunger driver zombies to consume him.
Sarah, John and William make it to the helicopter, and the last shot of the film shows them living a relaxing life on a remote tropical island.
Composed and performed by John Harrison, with the help of Jim Blazer (Present Keyboardist of The Spencer Davis Group), Sputzy Sparacino (Lead Singer of Modern Man), and Sputzy Sparacino's band Modern Man, this album was given a limited release of 3000 in 2002. It includes a 12 page booklet with some information from John Harrison and Romero regarding the score.
- 1. The Dead Suite
- 2. Breakdown
- 3. Escape Invasion
- 4. The Dead Walk
- 5. If Tomorrow Comes
- 6. The World Inside Your Eyes
- 7. Deadly Beginnings
- 8. Diner of the Living Dead (Zombie Voice excerpts from the movie re-edited)
- 9. Dead Calm
- 10. Bub's 9th
- 11. Dead End
- The book Dr. Logan gives to Bub is Stephen King's Salem's Lot. King is a good friend of Romero's and was reportedly to appear in the film as a zombie for a scene, but couldn't make it.
- The film's original script featured a group of survivors living in an army base surrounded by electric fences in the jungle with several army posts and corales (opposed to those seen in the underground storage areas in the movie) to secure the fenced areas. It also featured a large army of trained zombies. The film studio that green-lit the production, however, demanded that Romero eliminate these scenes. If he did so, the studio would give him a $7,000,000 budget along with an 'R' rating. Romero refused to make any changes to the script and the studio allowed him to film as much gore as he wanted but the budget would be cut drastically to $3,500,000 and the film would be given an Unrated tag. Romero accepted and filming began in late 1984. According to Tom Savini, had they used a studio approved script to make the film more mainstream friendly, "it would have been like Raiders of the Lost Ark...but with zombies."
- All the zombie extras in the climax received a t-shirt that said "I Played A Zombie In Day of the Dead", a copy of the newspaper from the beginning of the film (with the headline "THE DEAD WALK!"), and one dollar bill.
- This is the only George A. Romero zombie film in which a zombie actually has a line of dialogue. Bub the zombie says, "Hello, Aunt Alicia," when prompted by Dr. Logan.
- In the scene change right after Logan tells the zombie that it needs to sit in the dark and think about what it did, and punishes it by turning off the light, a rendition of "The Gonk"/ Mall Music from Dawn of the Dead can be heard (as performed by John Harrison).
- Joseph Pilato ad-libbed the famous line, "Choke on 'em!"
- The original script states that the events of this film take place five years after Dawn of the Dead.
- At the end of the original script, the dead are no longer rising. This is never explained, and all current zombies remain so.
- In the dinner scene, McDermott says that "all of the shopping malls are closed," a clear reference to the film's predecessor Dawn of the Dead, which is set primarily in a shopping mall.
- The only film in Romero's dead series which does not show a person being bitten by a zombie and returning as a zombie themselves. (Technical note: in a Romero zombie film, zombie bites cause a lethal infection, after which the victim rises as a zombie. However, a person who dies for any reason -- car crash, heart attack, cancer -- will also reanimate as the undead, except in cases of massive brain damage; i.e., committing suicide with a bullet to the brain will prevent one's resurrection.)
- Joseph Pilato is one of five actors to appear in more than one of Romero's Dead films (although he plays different characters). In Dawn of the Dead: Extended Cut he plays a police officer at the docks. Still this has led some fans to speculate that it is the same character. Taso Stavrokis appears in Dawn of the Dead and Day, also as different characters. Tom Savini reprised his role of "Blades" from Dawn of the Dead in Land of the Dead (however, since he dies in Dawn, he is a zombie in Land). John Amplas, who played the title role in Romero's Martin, appears in Dawn as a squatter and as Dr. Fisher in Day. Romero himself has appeared (uncredited) in the first three films with a voice cameo in Land. Romero can be seen most clearly in "Day" as the the zombie with a scarf as the dead start to pour there way through the interior of the underground facility.
- Due to the rights issue being owned by another studio, in an attempt to cash in on the name, Day of the Dead: Contagium was released through Tarus Entertainment. The film itself has nothing to do with any of the Romero movies although the box art claims otherwise.
- The intestines seen in various scenes were actually real sets of pig intestines. After a crew member had supposedly accidentally left the guts in an unplugged refrigerator over the weekend, the intestines had become so vile and rotten that Joseph Pilato was nearly unable to complete the scene where Captain Rhodes is torn in half, due to the smell.
- Zombie film and Romero fans noted the change in zombie behavior in this film. Many of the zombies generally had a grey green color to their skin. This was done possibly to show the long term effects of decomposition and the elements. Another interesting change is the sudden increase in zombie strength. In both Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead (original), the zombies were generally weak and easy to push past. In Day of the Dead, the zombies had the power to pull human limbs, heads and bodies apart with relative ease - leading some fans to call this the "Play-doh effect."
- The song "M1A1", from the self-titled 2001 Gorillaz album, samples the pulsing synthesizers and the cries of "Hello! Is anyone out there?" from the opening of the film. The song "Hip Albatross", also by Gorillaz, features a clip of Terry Alexander's dialogue. My Life With the Thrill Kill Kult also sampled dialogue for a track on their album Confessions of a Knife.
- In the movie Dawn of the Dead they called Steven "Flyboy" like John in Day of the Dead.
- Out of all the Romero "Dead" movies, "Day" was the most financially unsuccesful where it found a cult status in the latter part of the 1980's on home-video as a cult-movie - and now rated by some critics as the most powerful film of the then trilogy and also within the horror genre.
- Romero took Cinema '84 and the producers of "The Return Of The Living Dead" to court for infringement over the title. Where as Romero was shooting "Day", the court proceedings were taken in favour of Cinema '84 - and the title was obviously kept as the Judge saw that Romero had two movies "Dawn/Day of The Dead" without the "Living" title within them. Romero wanted nothing to do with "Return" - but a year later on after Romero saw "Return" - he stated that he quite enjoyed the movie!
Category:1985 films Category:American films Category:English-language films Category:Films directed by George A. Romero Category:Independent films Day of the Dead Category:Pittsburgh in film and television