The are some fantastic zombie films that have elevated the genre to stratospheric heights, and there are others so spectacular in their badness that they plunge it to such depths that you’d need a bathysphere to reach. It’s safe to say that “Day of the Dead 2: Contagium” falls squarely in the latter category. Having nothing at all to do with any of the “Living Dead” films directed by the genre’s master, George Romero as the “2” in the title might suggest, this cinematic abortion is best left to fade into obscurity and never be spoken out loud again.
The film takes us to Pittsburgh , PA , circa 1968, where a captured Russian pilot is taken to a military hospital. Discovered on the pilot are several vials of a deadly virus, which naturally are opened, and turn everyone exposed into the walking dead. Soldiers arrive to contain the outbreak, but not before someone tries to smuggle one of the vials out of quarantine, only to lose it in a nearby ravine.
Flash forward to the present day, where the hospital has since been converted into a mental institution for the nutty set. The past and present clash when patients on work release discover the same vial lost many decades ago and brings it back to their ward because, why not? The vial eventually gets opened (again), setting the virus loose once more to transform patients and hospital employees alike into zombies. The survivors, besides having to fend off flesh-craving creatures that used to be their buddies and co-workers, must now keep it from spreading into nearby towns cause, well, that would be bad, right?
Originally titled just “Contagium”, “Day of the Dead 2: Contagium” was retitled when the producers realized they had a bad film of cosmic proportions on their hands. Their great idea was to try to pass the film off as a sequel to George Romero’s 1985 zombie classic “Day of the Dead”. It’s not, just in case you were wondering.
It’s bad enough that the film’s producers insult the audience’s intelligence with this pathetic ruse, but to add insult to injury, they can’t even spell the title correctly. You would think that with a budget of $9 million, somebody at Taurus Entertainment would have invested in a spellchecker and discovered that it’s not “contagium”, it’s “contagion”. Not that this is a major flaw that, if corrected, might have helped the film. Oh no, that would be like curing acne on a leper. He’s got bigger problems to worry about.
The script by Ana Clavell and James Glenn Dudelson is an illogical and boring mess, consisting of cardboard characters, overused cliché and predictable scares. A major problem is the lack of the living dead, who are not really around for most of the film, which is a problem if you’re trying to fool the audience into thinking your movie is associated with Romero’s “Living Dead” films.
The only interesting idea “Contagium” manages to come up with by itself is the concept of zombies developing psychic abilities that allows them to be both telepathic and empathic. You’d think the writers would have expanded on this concept, since it’s a clever idea and adds a new dimension to zombie lore. But the filmmakers never get that smart, and the idea falls by the wayside as a result. There’s also mention of an antidote, but that also gets left behind, as if anything creative was looked upon as an anathema and must be avoided at all costs. Good for them, because they’ve done a stellar job in this department.
“Contagium” is also plagued by continuity problems, the most obvious being the nature of the virus itself. It quickly turns the living into zombies in 1968, but seems to take its sweet time in the year 2005. Worse yet is the dialogue, which is so bad you wonder if the writers had, on a whim, let the paperboy perform brain surgery on them. Unfortunately the writers are as talented as the directors, and since they’re the same people — well, you get the idea.
Matters aren’t helped by the film’s pacing, which can’t even give glacial migration a run for its money. Not that there’s anything interesting to watch, because there’s nothing even remotely attractive about the film to keep an eye open for. The whole thing is visually stunted, with seemingly no thought put into camera angles or even lighting. The cast is no one you’ve heard of, which is just as well since a high school drama club could have performed better. No offense to high school drama clubs around America .
Gorehounds might be slightly satisfied with the amount of bloody effects onscreen. They might not look realistic, but there’s enough to go around, especially near the end when, predictably, all hell breaks loose. It might be inspiring to think that the filmmakers didn’t let an obstacle like a general lack of talent prevent them from completing “Contagium”; that is, until you actually have to sit through the movie. Then you realize “Contagium” is not only an exercise in incompetence, but also a blatant attempt at false advertising. As the saying goes, never trust a DVD by its cover.
Ana Clavell, James Glenn Dudelson (director) / Ana Clavell (screenplay)
CAST: John Freedom Henry …. Jackie
Joseph Marino …. Marshall
Jackeline Olivier …. Vicky
Andrew Allen …. Thomas
Laurie Baranyay …. Emma
Christopher Stanley Burton …. Liberty
Simon Burzynski …. Rubinsky