Monday, October 6, 2008

DAY 325--DAY OF THE DEAD (2008)

When Zack Snyder's remake of DAWN OF THE DEAD proved to be a hit (not to mention a pretty good movie), nobody was too surprised to find that DAY OF THE DEAD was getting the redux treatment as well. Nobody was too excited either, especially when uber-hack Steve Miner (known for fair-to-middling genre fare like LAKE PLACID and HALLOWEEN: H20) was announced as director, but Hollywood has a tendency to carry on despite the outcry of fans. We just have to suck it up and pray it's not too disastrous.

The verdict? Thanks to the lowest expectations imaginable, it wasn't too heinous, yet the 2008 incarnation still manages to stumble over itself once the living dead start popping up (this film should settle the fast-vs.-slow zombie debate once and for all). It's at least better than DAY OF THE DEAD 2: CONTAGIUM, though a shattered testicle would be preferable to that cinematic atrocity.

Opting to remain an in-name-only remake, Miner's DAY centers on a tiny Colorado town hit by a zombie epidemic, and the paramilitary squad that leads the quarantine. Ultimately it leads to two parallel trapped-in-a-box scenarios as the various survivors (which include Mr. Mariah Carey Nick Cannon, scream queen Christa Campbell, and a what-the-hell's-she-doing-here star turn from Mena Suvari) try to keep the plague from spreading. Thanks to Miner's not-bad-but-not-great directorial hand it's actually fairly entertaining, but a reliance of hyper-fast zombies (exactly why/how do they crawl spider-like on the ceiling?) and BOURNE-inspired hand-held camerawork keeps it well within the bounds of mediocrity.

There are a couple of novel touches (such as zombies who continue to feed on a body stuck in an electrified fence) and Ving Rhames, in a bullshit ploy to establish continuity to Snyder's DAWN, elevates the proceedings with his extended cameo (yes, he is the best thing about this movie). The plethora of gore should please grue fans, though I really would like to see less CGI splatter--I realize it's cost-effective, but it looks like shit and leaves me cold. Suvari makes for a surprisingly capable action babe, though she's the only actor, aside from Rhames, who imbues any sense of humanity to their character, and even then it's strictly the B-movie bare minimum. I could at least tolerate the human members of the cast; I can't same for the vegetarian zombie "Bud" (puh-leeze!), who I found pretty goddamn stupid.

It doesn't make a lick of sense, but the 2008 DAY OF THE DEAD fares better than most of recent zombie films/horror retreads. Hampered with heavy exposition and wrong-headed action that sinks its third act, as well as a stupid ending, it'll never be mistaken for a genre classic. The highly undiscriminating or very merciful might find this works in a pinch; it helps not to think of this as anything remotely related to Romero.

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