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As legendary zombie film maker George A. Romero continues his undead series with varying degrees of success, the time is ripe to revisit the third and final entry of his original trilogy. “Day of the Dead” has in the past been met with somewhat of a mixed, muted reaction, having never quite enjoyed the classic status of either “Night of the Living Dead” or the cross over, pop culture appeal of “Dawn of the Dead”. However, despite its scaled down feel, with Romero having not being able to realise his full vision for the film, it has slowly been gaining approval, with its unflinching bleakness and iconic gore scenes having stood the test of time and having improved in the estimation of many.
Arrow Video are offering fans the perfect chance to decide for themselves with their new 25th Anniversary Blu Ray release of “Day of the Dead”, a two disc special edition that features a new restored version of the film and its soundtrack. The package is certainly impressive, including commentaries from the likes of Greg Nicotero and Howard Berger, along with all manner of documentaries and collections of related behind the scenes footage and materials. As usual, Arrow have put a lot of work into the presentation of the release, which features specially commissioned artwork, along with a poster, collector’s booklet, and even a new comic following zombie fan favourite Bub, “Day of the Dead: Desertion”.
Without wishing to rehash the film’s well known plot, it’s fair to say that whereas “Dawn” took an expansive approach, with its huge shopping mall and open locales, “Day” is a far more claustrophobic affair, taking place almost entirely in a grim underground bunker and its labyrinth network of tunnels. The narrative echoes this rather depressing set up, as a group of survivors made up of military types and scientists bicker and argue over what’s to be done, whilst a particularly lunatic doctor carries out bizarre behavioural experiments on the living dead.
Although Romero had grander schemes for the film, most famously including a mass zombie battle royale conclusion, there is still a great deal of meat here to chew upon. Whilst “Dawn” has always been noted for its social commentary, “Day” is arguably its equal in this respect, offering a bleak, though horribly believable depiction of humanity at its worst. The film has an air of genuine hopelessness which makes it incredibly engaging, with its characters acting as a microcosm for the human race in its death throes. In terms of gore, the film is undoubtedly the strongest of the original trilogy, with some amazing effects work and wonderfully gruesome scenes as flesh is devoured and innards pour from bodies in bloody torrents.
It’s fair to say that the obvious amount of work which has gone into this newly restored version has been more than worth it. Given that most of the film takes place underground, and during its latter stages in dark tunnels, the enhanced clarity makes a very noticeable difference to the image, and works well to bring out the best in some of Romero’s striking uses of colour and to make the grey bunker itself even more oppressive. Whilst it may have faced budgetary restrictions during its production, the film certainly looks amazing, and indeed arguably much better and more professional than the more recent entries in his ongoing “Dead” series. The new hi-def soundtrack is similarly impressive, including the original uncensored dialogue, and this too makes a real difference, especially for viewers used to the muted zombie moans of older DVD or video releases.
Certainly, this new release of “Day of the Dead” is no mere upgrade or one of the never ending blu ray double dips, and it stands as a must have release for fans, or for those who have yet to experience its gruesome, depressing delights. If nothing else, it offers the fantastic chance to revisit one of the modern horror genre’s most beloved classic scenes in glorious hi def, as Joe Pilato’s monstrous Captain Rhodes howls “Choke on ‘em! Choke… on… ‘em!” at the zombies as they tear into his guts.
George A. Romero (director) / George A. Romero (screenplay)
CAST: Lori Cardille … Sarah
Terry Alexander … John
Joseph Pilato … Capt. Rhodes (as Joe Pilato)
Jarlath Conroy … William McDermott
Anthony Dileo Jr. … Pvt. Miguel Salazar (as Antonè DiLeo)
Richard Liberty … Logan
Sherman Howard … Bub (as Howard Sherman)
Gary Howard Klar … Pvt. Steel (as G. Howard Klar)
Ralph Marrero … Pvt. Rickles
John Amplas … Dr. Ted Fisher