One of my all time favourite zombie films is George Romero’s original Day of the Dead. Amongst its many positives it has believable characters, real human drama, great gore effects and an interesting twist on the idea of zombies in the form of Bub, the zombie that can remember aspects of his old life.
Which means this 2008 remake/reimagining needed to do a lot to impress me.
Ving Rhames is Captain Rhodes, taking on the role after he’d enjoyed making the Dawn of the Dead remake in 2004. At the time of this being announced, and having only that Dawn remake to refer to, I was cautiously optimistic about the results. I mean, that film was pretty good and arguably as good as Romero’s original in many respects.
Instead Rhodes is barely in it, a quick appearance, a couple of scenes and then he’s out the door. The focus instead is on Mena Suvari’s Corporal Sarah Bowman (or Cross, it looks like a production mistake), a local girl who ran off to join the military. And, to a lesser extent, it’s about her brother Trevor (Michael Welch). It’s as far from the original as it’s possible to go, although they do spend a bit of time in an underground bunker. So er… that’s nice.
Instead the plot is adapted to suit the zombie market circa mid noughties. That is, there are teenagers involved, running zombies that can also leap great heights, and a great big fat radio DJ. He manages to escape the zombie carnage despite his physical condition suggesting the opposite should be the case. Or so it seems at least.
It’s not entirely bad – just mostly. Mena Suvari is pretty good in the central role. It’s a different sort of role for somebody who is better known for teen comedies like American Pie and Oscar bait like American Beauty. Aside from Suvari, the only other genuine positive point is the way that people turn and become zombies. It isn’t original but it’s presented well. It could have done with a bigger build in the opening with more people slowly turning, but what we have is fine as it is.
And Bub… poor Bub. Rechristened as Bud, he’s a young soldier who gets bitten and turns. But it’s okay everyone, because Bud is a vegetarian and so the thought of eating human flesh doesn’t cross his mind. That they even managed to mess up this a clear indication that the 2008 edition of Day of the Dead is a mess.
It just feels like a colossal waste of time. They would have been better off calling it something else. At least then it could be considered a turkey without having any impact on Romero’s far better film. Gone are all the socio-political allegories, or the notion of a group of people slowly going mad in an underground bunker complex.
It’s vacuous remake gubbins and little else. It would have been far better if they’d positioned this as a direct remake to Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead remake and tweaked the script accordingly. At least then it might have stood half a chance.