Now just to clarify, I'm not talking about Lucio Fulci's masterpiece, in which a zombie fought a shark. That was spectacular. No, I'm thinking more about Fonzie on waterskis here. Because it seems to me that zombie movies have finally hit the wall, and the culprit is Steve Miner's direct-to-DVD remake of Day of the Dead, set to come out next month.
To be fair, I should begin by saying it's not as god-awful as I was led to believe by all the preliminary reactions. Actually, I've seen far worse, especially in the direct-to-DVD category. I would even submit that if you forget that it's called Day of the Dead, and put George Romero's films completely out of your mind as if they never existed, it might be possible to derive a small amount of fleeting enjoyment from the picture.
Of course, that begs the question: Why did they bother calling it Day of the Dead? Especially when it bears almost no resemblance to the 1985 original, besides having some characters who happen to have the same names. Certainly, the fan backlash would have been minimized had they just dropped the pretense of remaking Day of the Dead. Well, the reason is simple: the name Day of the Dead is a draw, it gets people to watch the movie based on the reputation of the original. That was definitely the case with me, so I'd have to say that to a certain degree, the strategy worked.
If fast-moving zombies send you into paroxysms of rage, then avoid this movie at all costs. Because these zombies are good enough to join Cirque du Soliel. But again, as I said before, if you put these kind of pre-expectations out of your mind, you might be able to get through it. A scene in which Suvari flees for her life in a ventilation shaft is the film's suspense-filled highlight. And I will say that the gore is some of the most intense I've seen in just about any zombie film made this decade, almost a throwback to the original wave 30 years ago.
Mena Suvari stars as Sarah, and although she's a competent actress, she isn't really given much to do--it's a one-note performance. The overrated Ving Rhames is Capt. Rhodes in name only, and his appearance in the movie is short and forgettable. Nick Cannon as Salazar is a joke--when are studios going to realize that these types of stereotypical "black" roles are almost as bad as the Steppinfetchits of old? And then there's Stark Sands as Bud--that's right, it's not Bub, it's Bud. He starts out human, then becomes a zombie later, but other than his being one of the "good guys", there is almost none of what made that character such an icon. I should mention, however, the one moment which seemed to me to be the movie's most effective tribute to the original, in which Bud, a soldier in life, still responds appropriately to military commands, in a very Bub-like fashion.
Steve Miner, director of Friday the 13th Parts II & III as well as Halloween: H20, does a passable job of putting together a by-the-numbers zombie movie here, but all in all, it's a pretty disposable affair. I'd recommend it for hardcore zombie-lovers only, and maybe those who get a kick out of schlocky direct-to-video releases. But I have to stress--put Romero out of your mind completely. That's the only way to watch this without kicking in your TV screen. This remake is a clear example of how this subgenre has devolved since Uncle George pioneered it all those decades ago. And I, for one, think it's time to give it a rest.