Day of the Dead (1985 film)

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Day of the Dead
Day of the Dead (film) poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by George A. Romero
Produced by Richard P. Rubinstein
Written by George A. Romero
Starring Lori Cardille
Joseph Pilato
Terry Alexander
Richard Liberty
Music by John Harrison
Jim Blazer
(uncredited)
Sputzy Sparacino
(uncredited)
Production
  company
Dead Films Inc.
Laurel Entertainment Inc.
Laurel-Day Inc.
Distributed by United Film Distribution Company
Release date(s)
  • July 19, 1985 (1985-07-19)
Running time 100 min.
Country United States
Language English
Budget $3.5 million[1]
Box office $34,004,262[1]

Day of the Dead is a 1985 American horror film written and directed by George A. Romero and the third film in Romero's Dead Series, being preceded by Night of the Living Dead (1968) and Dawn of the Dead (1978).[2]

Romero describes the film as a "tragedy about how a lack of human communication causes chaos and collapse even in this small little pie slice of society"[citation needed].

This film features Sherman Howard in an early appearance as Bub, and make-up artist Gregory Nicotero playing Pvt. Johnson and assisting Tom Savini with the make-up effects.

Plot[edit]

The movie opens with a young woman getting up to mark a day on a wall calendar with a red X (the calendar already having a number of days marked this way). As she reaches the calendar, dead hands punch through the brick wall and reach for her. She awakens in fright, zombies have overrun the entire world. The remaining fragments of the U.S. government and military hide out in fortified colonies, attempting to find both survivors and a solution to the zombie outbreak. Survivors Dr. Sarah Bowman (the woman from the first scene), US Army Private Miguel Salazar, and helicopter radio operator William "Bill" McDermott, and Helicopter pilot John arrive in Fort Myers, Florida, in an attempt to locate survivors. They encounter a large horde of the undead, and escape to an underground Army base in the Everglades, where a small group of scientists search for a way to stop or reverse the re-animation process, assisted by a skeleton crew of soldiers. Dr. Logan, the lead scientist – also known as "Frankenstein" due to his experiments – believes that zombies can be trained to become docile, and accordingly has amassed a collection of test subjects, over the objection of base-commander Catain Henry Rhodes. The tension between soldiers and scientists is worsened by dwindling supplies, loss of communication with other survivors, and a lack of progress in research. During a zombie wrangling mission, two of the soldiers, Miller and Johnson, are killed after a zombie escapes its harness; whereupon Miguel attempts to kill the creature, but is bitten on the arm, which Sarah amputates to stop the spreading infection. Rhodes then calls off the experiment and demands all specimens to be destroyed.

Dr. Logan, meanwhile, continues his research, being especially proud of "Bub", a docile zombie who remembers some parts of his past life. Sarah is mortified when she learns that Logan has been using the bodies of dead soldiers to examine and experiment on secretly by replacing the buried soldiers with dead zombie specimens and using the real soldiers as food to condition and reward zombies for positive behavior, and devises a plan to escape the complex with John, Miguel, and McDermott. Their plans are thwarted by Capt. Rhodes, who discovers Logan's secret about slaughtering and feeding the zombies his dead soldiers. He kills Logan; locks Sarah and McDermott inside the zombie corral; murders Dr. Fisher, a fellow scientist; and attempts to force John, their helicopter pilot, to fly them away from the complex, which he refuses.

Bub, having escaped his chain, finds the corpse of Dr. Logan, and in a display of human emotion, becomes enraged, and finds a pistol discarded on the floor when Rhodes disarmed and took Sarah, McDermott and Fisher hostage. Miguel who has become suicidal, allows the zombies to enter the complex and is devoured by the horde in the process. While Pvt Steele and Pvt Rickles investigate, John overcomes Rhodes and Torrez, steals their weapons, and goes to find Sarah and McDermott. After being left for dead by Captain Rhodes, Pvt Torrez and Pvt Rickles are brutally torn apart by the horde. While trying to kill Bub, Pvt Steele is forced into a last stand, but gets bitten and chooses to kill himself. Rhodes attempts to escape, but is shot and wounded by Bub and violently torn in half by the undead while still alive. John reunites with Sarah and McDermott and they escape to the surface. Sarah boards the helicopter, only to be attacked by a zombie inside; but wakes to find that the final undead attack on the three was only a dream and they are now living on a tropical island without infection. Sarah observes John and McDermott on the beach, before crossing off another date on her calendar, this time marking days since their escape.

Cast[edit]

Production[edit]

Development[edit]

Romero originally intended the film to be "the Gone with the Wind of zombie films".[3] Following budget disputes and the artistic need to release the film unrated, the budget of the film was cut in half, dropping from $7 million to a scant $3.5 million.[3] This forced Romero to scale back his story, rewriting the script and adjusting his original vision to fit the smaller budget.

Filming took place in the fall of 1984 at locations in Pennsylvania and Florida. All above-ground scenes were filmed at several locations around Florida, where Romero was living at the time. The opening scene was filmed in Fort Myers, Florida.[4] Underground scenes were filmed in a former mine shaft located near Wampum, Pennsylvania, converted into a long-term storage facility for important documents. Though the mine maintained a constant temperature of about 50 degrees Fahrenheit, its high humidity played havoc with the crew's equipment and props. Mechanical and electrical failures were a constant problem throughout filming, and caused several of special effects leader Tom Savini's props to fail during the filming. Despite these failures, Savini was nominated and won the 1985 Saturn Award for best makeup effects. The remote location also complicated the transportation of crew members and equipment. Cast and crew would often sleep in the mine overnight to avoid the time-consuming travel to and from the shooting location. "Zombie" extras were recruited from among the citizens of Pittsburgh, with preference given to those who had worked on previous Romero films. Extras were paid $1.00 for their services, and given a hat that read "I was a Zombie in Day of the Dead".

The film was given a very limited release.[3] This is chronicled in the documentary "The Many Days of Day of the Dead" on the two-disc Anchor Bay special edition DVD of the film.[3] Some of the original concepts and characters remain, but the film differs greatly from Romero's original script,[5] as stated by actress Lori Cardille:

He could've made me this sexy little twit bouncing around with a gun:- much more the sexual element. But he made her intelligent and strong. In fact, whenever I would try and make her a little more emotional, he would not allow me to do that.[3]

Casting[edit]

Joseph Pilato was cast as Rhodes, the film's antagonist. As stated by Pilato "He pretty much just gave it to me. I don't know if he auditioned other people, but it was very quick. I came in and it was like, "You got it!."[6] Pilato had acted in two prior films directed by Romero, the first being Pilato's debut Dawn of the Dead and the second being Knightriders, in between those films he played his first lead role in a film entitled Effects.[6] In an interview Pilato was asked if Romero "had him in mind", Pilato stated that one of the reasons why he got the role was because of the budget being scaled down from 7 to 3.5 million.[6]

Release and reception[edit]

Subsequent to its theatrical release, the film has grossed over 30 million dollars worldwide.[7] Day of the Dead would earn most of its gross revenue when the film was released internationally on VHS format, and later DVD and Blu-ray. This is in contrast to the film's poor box-office reception when it was released in domestic cinema.[8]

Ken Foree and David Emge from Dawn of the Dead and Joseph Pilato from Day of the Dead at a living dead convention.

Based on 34 reviews collected by Rotten Tomatoes, Day of the Dead had a high approval rating, with 28 critics rating it "fresh" and only 6 rating it "rotten." Overall, as of December 2013 it has received an 84 percent approval rating.[9] Even so, that rating is the lowest of the initial 3 films in Romero's Dead series[10][11] with Night of the Living Dead having a 96 percent approval rating and Dawn of the Dead with a 94 percent approval rating.[10][11]

Day of the Dead was given a limited release on July 3, 1985 and a wide release on July 19, 1985.[12] It opened to generally mixed reviews, with some critics complaining that the film was too dark, depressing, and slow. Roger Ebert, who reacted favorably to other films of Romero's Dead Series,[13][14][15] gave Day of the Dead one and a half stars.[16] BBC reviewer Almar Haflidason stated "It benefits from a far larger budget than its predecessors, but suffers from a story as malnourished as the zombies that are chewing it up," Haflidason would go on to give the film three out of five stars.[17] As noted by the New York Times reviewer Janet Maslin "Yes, there are enough spilled guts and severed limbs to satisfy the bloodthirstiest fan. But these moments tend to be clustered together, and a lot of the film is devoted to windy argument."[18] Allmovie reviewer Keith Phipps stated that: "The last, to date at least, of George Romero's living dead films is in many respects the least interesting, although it's not for a lack of ambition."[19] Variety wrote that the film was the most unsatisfying of the original three films and that "The acting here is generally unimpressive and in the case of Sarah's romantic partner, Miguel (Antone DiLeo Jr), unintentionally risible."[20]

Day of the Dead would peak at 23 on the Billboard chart Top VHS Sales in 1986 a year after its initial release.[21]

The film grossed $5.8 million domestically.[3] It fared much better internationally, grossing $28.2 million outside of the United States.[7] Day of the Dead's total gross is a little over $34 million.[7] The film is also noted for its special effects work, notably Tom Savini's make-up, he was honored with his second Saturn Award in 1985 for Best Make-Up, the first time being with Dawn of the Dead in 1980.[22] Romero himself cites Day of the Dead as his personal favorite of his original trilogy of zombie films.[23] On May 9, 2012 headlines the 12 Hour Film Festival Hudson Horror Show V.[24]

Home video[edit]

The film was released on DVD on November 24, 1998 in the United States and on March 5, 2001 in the United Kingdom.[17][25] Both the theatrical and an unrated director's cut were released as a special editions containing identical bonus features, the DVD was released in the United Kingdom in a region 2 DVD.[17] The Blu-ray version of Day of the Dead was released October 2, 2007.[26] This edition includes many special features, including two audio commentary tracks with writer-director George A. Romero, Tom Savini, production designer Cletus Anderson, and lead actress Lori Cardille.[26] There is also a second commentary with fellow filmmaker and self-proclaimed Romero fan, Roger Avary.[26] It also includes two documentaries, the first one is entitled The Many Days of 'Day of the Dead', which focuses on the original script and the budget, it also included information about shooting in the Gateway Commerce Center.[26] What is also mentioned is the casting details. The second documentary entitled Day of the Dead: Behind the Scenes, focuses mostly on make-up effects.[26] On March 29, 2010 Arrow Video released a 25th Anniversary Edition on Blu-ray exclusive to the UK.[27]

Shout Factory! released the film under its Scream Factory label on September 17 2013. The release is Collector's Edition Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack with all-new artwork and special features.

Popular culture[edit]

Near the end of Resident Evil, the protagonist Alice walks outside of her quarantine into a ravaged city street jammed with traffic. The camera pans past a newspaper blowing in the wind stating "The Dead Walk!", a direct homage to George Romero's work on Day of the Dead. Another homage is one episode of Stroker & Hoop featured the characters battling zombies using guns made by Double-Wide. They turn out to fire only sunlight, which he claims is because of zombies' vulnerability to sunlight, hinted at by the film being called Night of the Dead and not Day of the Dead. Coroner Rick yells at him "That was the sequel!"

The song "M1 A1", from the self-titled 2001 Gorillaz album samples the pulsing synthesizers and cries of "Hello! Is anyone there?" from the opening of the film.[28] The song "Hip Albatross", also by Gorillaz, features a clip of Terry Alexander's dialogue.[29] Furthermore, the artwork for the song "November has Come" off of the Gorillaz' 2005 album Demon Days has a picture of a calendar pinned to a brick wall set to the month of October with all the dates marked off in red Xs (reminiscent of the opening scene in Day of the Dead).[28]

The song "Battlefield", from the This Is My Battlefield 2004 Panzer AG album samples Captain Rhodes asking Sarah in reference to Miguel's zombie bite: "You think he wants to walk around after he's dead? You think he wants to be one of these things?"

The band Through the Eyes of the Dead sampled a clip at the beginning of the song "Between the Gardens that Bathe in Blood", released on the Scars of Ages EP.

The Ministry song "Burning Inside" (from the album The Mind Is a Terrible Thing To Taste) features an audio sample of the military station's warning horn and a few notes of composer John Harrison's synthesized score.

The song "Confessions Of A Knife (theme part 2)," from the album Confessions of a Knife... 1990 by My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult samples dialogue between Sarah and Captain Rhodes: Captain Rhodes: "I'll have you shot." Sarah: "Are you out of your mind?" Captain Rhodes: "No, ma'am. Are you?" Along with dialogue from private Steele and laughter from private Rickles that repeats later throughout the song. Steele: "Bang! You're dead!" followed by Rickles' laughter.

The song "The Only Good God Is A Dead God," from the album Psychological Warfare Technology Systems (1989/1992) by Terror Against Terror samples Captain Rhodes' final screams "Choke on them... choke on them," with the sounds of the zombies eating him.

America punk band The Misfits recorded a song about the film entitled "Day of The Dead" from their album American Psycho.

Bub the Zombie makes a cameo appearance in The Walking Dead season 4 episode "Us", as one of the walkers encountered by the characters Glenn and Tara in a railroad tunnel, an homage to not only the character but also to the underground setting of "Day of the Dead".

Soundtrack[edit]

Day of the Dead
Soundtrack album by John Harrison
Released 1985
2002
Recorded 1984-1985
Genre Rock, film score

The soundtrack was released on LP and cassette in the same year as the film (1985) by Saturn Records; it contained 6 tracks, all of which was composed and performed by John Harrison.[30] The vocals came from Sputzy Sparacino who is the lead singer of Modern Man and Delilah on the tracks "If Tomorrow Comes" and "The World Inside Your Eyes".[30] The album was re-issued in 2002 by Numenorean Records as a limited edition CD. The new edition was limited to 3000 copies and contained the original album plus five additional tracks from the music and effects reel (the only surviving recording of the film score). It also included a 12 page booklet with information from Harrison and Romero regarding the score.[30]

No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. "The Dead Suite"   Harrison 19:41
2. "Breakdown"   Harrison/Blazer/Sparacino 3:52
3. "Escape Invasion"   Harrison/Blazer/Sparacino 3:58
4. "The Dead Walk"   Harrison/Blazer/Sparacino 4:54
5. "If Tomorrow Comes"   Harrison/Blazer/Sparacino 3:39
6. "The World Inside Your Eyes"   Harrison/Blazer/Sparacino/Pearsall 3:31
7. "Deadly Beginnings"   Harrison/Blazer/Sparacino 3:31
8. "Diner of the Living Dead"   Harrison/Blazer/Sparacino 3:44
9. "Dead Calm"   Harrison/Blazer/Sparacino 6:54
10. "Bub's 9th"   Beethoven/Harrison/Blazer/Sparacino 5:59
11. "Dead End"   Harrison/Blazer/Sparacino 3:34

Sequels and remakes[edit]

A half prequel, half sequel was released in 2005, entitled Day of the Dead 2: Contagium. Although it is, by definition, an official sequel as Taurus Entertainment Company hold the rights to the original film, no one from the original Day of the Dead had any involvement in the film.[31]

A loose remake of the film, Day of the Dead, was released straight to DVD on April 8, 2008.[32] Little of the original plot exists, with only a few basic elements remaining; notably the underground army base near the end of the movie, and some of the characters names.[33][33] This marks the second time that Ving Rhames makes an appearance in a remake of a George A. Romero zombie film, following Dawn of the Dead.

On July 10, 2013 it was announced that there would be another remake of Day of the Dead. Christa Campbell and Lati Grobman, two of the producers behind Texas Chainsaw 3D have obtained the rights. Campbell, who had a small role in the first remake said "We want to keep it as close to the Romero version as possible. To make sure that his fans are happy. These are not going to be zombies climbing walls and doing back flips like in World War Z." Campbell and Grobman are currently holding meetings with possible writers to figure out the best way to adapt the story.[34]

Comic[edit]

Stef Hutchinson wrote the 24-page comic Day of the Dead: Desertion, which was exclusively released to celebrate the movie's 25th anniversary and shows the origins of Bub, before becoming a Zombie.[35]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "Box Office Information for Day of the Dead". The Numbers. Retrieved December 8, 2012. 
  2. ^ J.C. Maçek III (2012-06-15). "The Zombification Family Tree: Series of the Living Dead". PopMatters. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f "Home of the Dead: Day of the Dead - The Filming". homepageofthedead. Retrieved 2008-01-03. 
  4. ^ Day of the Dead Locations - Fort Myers, Florida
  5. ^ "Romero's original Day of the Dead script". horrorlair.com. Retrieved 2008-01-05. 
  6. ^ a b c "Interview with Josef Pilato". homepageofthedead. Retrieved 2008-01-03. 
  7. ^ a b c "Box Office History for George A. Romero's Dead Series Movies". the-numbers.com. Retrieved 2008-01-04. 
  8. ^ "Day of the Dead". Pop Matters. Retrieved 2008-01-03. 
  9. ^ "Day of the Dead". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2008-12-31. 
  10. ^ a b "Night of the Living Dead". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2008-12-31. 
  11. ^ a b "Dawn of the Dead". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2008-12-31. 
  12. ^ "Day of the Dead release info at IMDb". Retrieved 2008-07-15. 
  13. ^ Night of the Living Dead (1968) Review Roger Ebert, January 5, 1967
  14. ^ Dawn of the Dead (1978) Review Roger Ebert, May 4, 1979
  15. ^ "Land of the Dead". Chicago Sun-Times. 2005-06-23. Retrieved 2007-10-07. 
  16. ^ Day of the Dead (1985) Review Roger Ebert, August 30, 1985
  17. ^ a b c "Day of the Dead". BBC. Retrieved 2009-01-01. 
  18. ^ Maslin, Janet (1985-07-03). "Film: Day of the Dead". New York Times. Retrieved 2009-01-03. 
  19. ^ "Day of the Dead". VH1. Retrieved 2009-01-03. 
  20. ^ Variety (January 25, 2012). "Day of the Dead". Variety. Retrieved July 3, 2010. 
  21. ^ "Top VHS Sales - Day of the Dead". Billboard. Retrieved 2009-01-04. [dead link]
  22. ^ "Saturn Awards Archive". Saturn Awards. Retrieved 2009-01-03. 
  23. ^ George A. Romero interview, The Many Days of Day of the Dead, on Day of the Dead "Divimax special edition" (DVD. Anchor Bay Entertainment, 2003)
  24. ^ "Romero's Day of the Dead to Headline Hudson Horror Show V". DreadCentral. 
  25. ^ "Day of the Dead: DVD Release". VH1. Retrieved 2009-01-03. 
  26. ^ a b c d e "Day of the Dead". Blu-ray.com. Retrieved 2008-01-01. 
  27. ^ "Day of the Dead 25th Anniversary Edition Coming to UK Blu-ray". DreadCentral. 
  28. ^ a b Kermode, Mark. "The Year of the Monkey". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 2008-01-05. 
  29. ^ "Gorillaz". leechvideo.com. Retrieved 2008-01-05. [dead link]
  30. ^ a b c "SoundtrackCollector: Soundtrack details: Day Of The Dead". Retrieved 2008-01-03. 
  31. ^ "George A. Romero". horro-movies.ca. Retrieved 2008-12-31. 
  32. ^ "Day of the Dead Remake: DOA". About.com. Retrieved 2009-01-03. 
  33. ^ a b "Day of the Dead - Jeffrey Reddick interview". ugo.com. Retrieved 2009-01-03. 
  34. ^ Horn, John (July 10, 2013). "'Chainsaw' producers to remake Romero's 'Day of the Dead'". Los Angeles Times. 
  35. ^ "Day of the Dead Comic Preview". 

External links[edit]