Day of the Dead (1985)

day of the dead poster 1985 movie
6.0 Overall Score
Story: 7/10
Acting: 5/10
Visuals: 6/10

A continuation of the Dead saga

Bad and boring plot

Movie Info

Movie Name: Day of the Dead

Studio: Dead Films Inc.

Genre(s): Horror

Release Date(s): July 19, 1985

MPAA Rating: R

day of the dead dream sequence hands wall lori cardille

Still one of the most effective shots of the series…and more like an Italian horror scene

The zombie apocalypse has continued to grow and turning the tide seem impossible.  In a military bunker in Florida, a group of scientists find themselves at odds with the military ordered to protect them as tensions run high.  Dr. Sarah Bowman (Lori Cardille) questions if Dr. Mathew “Frankenstin” Logan (Richard Liberty) has humanity’s best interest in mind as he experiments with his star “pupil” Bub (Sherman Howard), but the rise of Captain Henry Rhodes (Joseph Pilato) as the military leader of the mission could mean death.

Written and directed by George A. Romero, Day of the Dead is the third entry of Romero’s “Dead” series.  Following Dawn of the Dead in 1978, the film was praised for special effects but performed poorly in comparison to the other films in the series.  Like many of Romero’s other films, it has gained a cult following over the years.

Night of the Living Dead was an edgy, innovative film that was horrifying with a low budget.  Dawn of the Dead brought a bigger budget and dove more into the philosophy of “the Dead” and what a zombie apocalypse would mean for humanity.  This film was meant to be kind of the coda (and demise) of humanity…but that doesn’t necessarily make for good entertainment.

day of the dead zombie bub gun sherman howard

You’re asking did I fire five or six bullets…do you feel lucky, punk?

The story is all over the place.  You have Dr. “Frankenstein” training Bub which could have been its own movie, you have the military vs. the scientists which could have been its own movie, and you have the last of humanity trapped in an underground bunker…which could have been its own movie.  It feels like none of the plots get their due diligence and are all under developed.  It is a shame since the films felt like they were really building and this really crashed the zombie franchise for years (along with the turn to humor in the superior The Return of the Living Dead released shortly after).

The acting is over-the-top.  The characters don’t seem fleshed out and are almost parodies of the clichés like Richard Liberty as the mad doctor, Joseph Pilato as the insane captain, and Gary Howard Klar as his loyal follower.  I don’t think Lori Cardille is too bad as the lead and I kind of like the combo of Terry Alexander and Jarlath Conroy as the characters with little stake in the situation.  The Anthony Dileo Jr. character of Salazar really feels out of place since the relationship between him and Cardille’s character doesn’t ever feel tangible (and he doesn’t necessarily come off as likeable in the story to make you care if he lives or dies.  I do like Sherman Howard as the zombie Bub who is a standout in the film.

day of the dead zombie kill ending

Guys, it’s just a flesh wound…help me!

The special effects for the film are great.  Though I have never been a big fan of the “blue” zombies of both Dawn of the Dead and Day of the Dead, their brutal killing of characters is insane.  This is combined with Frankenstein’s experiments on the zombies like disembodied heads and a zombie with just a brain on a corpse.  Keen visuals like the hands out of the wall also are memorable and ratchet up the tension.  It looks great, but the real mine setting of the film looks cheap and 1950s sci-fi.

Day of the Dead is a problematic sequel.  It is my least favorite film of the trilogy (like many), but it also ranks low in the overall “Dead” series.  It has a great soundtrack and a good look, but a story that crawls and meanders through interesting subjects which is the real tragedy of the film.  With an ending that matches the other film (aka some people live), it doesn’t feel like much of a conclusion, and I wish Romero had made a bigger splash for the end of the film.  With the film’s ho-hum reception, Romero didn’t return to the Dead series until Land of the Dead in 2005.

Related Links:

Night of the Living Dead (1968)

Dawn of the Dead (1978)

Land of the Dead (2005)

Diary of the Dead (2007)

Survival of the Dead (2009)

Day of the Dead (2008)

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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