A. Zombie Reviews: Day of the Dead: Bloodline (2018) By A. Zombie
Rated: R (Contains: bloody violence, gore, adult language, nudity, and sexual violence)
Cast: Johnathon Schaech, Sophie Skelton, Jeff Gum, Marcus Vanco, and Shari Watson
Let’s address the elephant in the underground bunker right off the bat. Yes, this movie has the same name and basic premise as the Romero movie. That’s pretty much all they have in common, though. When it comes to all these tired reimaginings of cult classics, this may very well be my least favorite. The writers took the bare minimum from the original, enough to call this mess an homage or whatever, and ran with their own bizarre plot dripping in misogyny.
The plot, at a glance:
The zombie apocalypse takes the world by surprise. Caught up in the chaos is Zoe, a young med school student with a focus on epidemiology. To make matters worse, when the dead rise, Zoe is in the middle of fighting off attempted rape from Max, a man with unique blood and a sick obsession. Fast-forward five years, Zoe survives and Max is long gone, but not forgotten. The bunker Zoe calls home serves as a military outpost and scientific research station. In other words, humanity’s last chance to find a cure. If a more mundane epidemic doesn’t take them out, first. A sick girl may be Patient Zero of a new infection. Luckily there’s still medication locked away at Zoe’s nearby medical school. Miguel, the jerk in charge, agrees to the trip. The scouting team recover the medication, and unfortunately, Max, as well. The rapist’s blood kept him in a half-zombie state after the attack. He tracks Zoe through the compound. Despite their history, she saves him to maybe create a cure. Through the testing phase, Max harasses Zoe. Stress and lack of time after Miguel finds out leads her to agree to an ill-considered plan to get fresh rotter blood to test against Max’s. Undead swarm the bunker. Max breaks free. Zoe has to choose between keeping Max alive for her tests or ending his murder spree. For the sake of humanity, she makes the right decision.
The rape sub plot is the most infuriating piece of screenwriting this year. How? How does one look at the Bub character and think, “You know what his backstory is missing, bro?” “Family and friends?” “Psht. Nah, man. A sweet young woman to rape.” Frankly, it’s an insult to the work put into creating that character. They’re only saved from Romero fans grabbing pitchforks because they changed the character’s name. The guy is still styled after Bub post-turning, so they’re not hiding it very well, either. In typical fashion, once the rape idea is introduced, Zoe then relives the moment countless times. Max speaks to her as a zombie, claiming her as his. At one point she has to draw his blood and calls herself his property in order to make him comply. In what universe does someone take a beloved, if flawed, movie and turn it into a story about how not even death can stop a rapist from getting what he wants? This one. This crappy universe wins the prize for being simply the worst.
Sometimes the acting saves a bad script, though nothing’s saving this one from what I mentioned above. In this case, the performances are not where they’ll find praise for the movie. Few of the actors deliver a steady performance the entire film. In a few scenes, they sound like they barely remember the script. As for the content of what the characters say? It’s some of the most Captain Obvious filler dialog taken straight from someone’s first-time horror script. “This is a thing you are seeing with you own eyes, let me repeat exactly what’s happening with no new information.” That’s what I hear, instead of what I’m sure someone thought was witty dialog.
Maybe the makeup stands apart from everything else this year and they can use that for bragging rights! Yeah. Not really. Max’s makeup is disturbing, but the mouth effect loses impact after about the millionth time he roars. We can’t ignore the jet-speed blood spatter effects. They’re beyond ridiculous. In the opening scene we’re expected to believe all these people are full of pressurized blood capable of shooting halfway across a football field. The one zombie which stuck in my mind is the first, and the makeup is subtly perfect. The rest blur together in a wash of blood. At least the fake blood itself was high quality and super believable.
Just face it, this was a bad idea. It’s one thing to want to make your own zombie film, tons of people have and I’ve enjoyed each for its own merit in the end. But to force this kind of garbage onto a known, respected franchise is absurd. Play in your own sand box, don’t crap in someone else’s, let alone that of a dead man. I’m giving this film one and a half desiccated eyeballs out of five. Pass on it and go take a walk in a park, instead.
Rated: Not Rated (Contains extreme violence, strong adult language) Language: English
Starring: Lori Cardille, Terry Alexander, Joseph Pilato, Richard Liberty, Jarlath Conroy, and Sherman Howard
In tribute to the man who brought us all to this weird zombie life, I snagged Day of the Dead for a re-watch . . . and realized I’d never covered the film for this website. Well, that’s just wrong. We’re going to remedy the problem right now.
Sarah and her band of scientists are perhaps the last to continue research work during the zombie apocalypse. They’re aided by thuggish army personnel who’ve just about had their limit of hunkering down in an abandoned missile silo while the man they call Frankenstein carries out gruesome experiments. The team’s goal is to find any way to lessen the zombie impact in an earth overrun by the undead. Sarah wants a cure. Her blood-coated coworker, Dr. Logan, thinks he can tame zombies using positive reinforcement and their own latent human traits. It works. Somewhat. There’s one zombie who’s not like the others: Bub. But their progress with Bub isn’t enough for Rhodes, the military man in charge. He snaps and all their hard work hits the fan.
Now, admittedly, Day of the Dead isn’t many people’s favorite Dead film. The language is beyond foul. The racism makes any sane person’s blood boil. The way the men treat the only woman is abhorrent, and while there’s no sexual violence, it sure is threatened a lot. We’re meant to be disgusted by these men. The best shortcut was to make them outrageously racist, misogynistic, and flat out a-holes of the highest caliber. They’ve existed in an echo chamber of hatred while stuck underground. Basically, this is Romero saying that if you put a bunch of awful white men in a jar, they’ll become even more hateful before turning on each other just to have someone to fight other than their own thoughts. Unfortunately, they weren’t alone and those caught in the crossfire are people who don’t deserve to be treated so badly. Almost everyone pays with their lives because Rhodes is, deep down, a frightened little boy who requires a death grip on everything he can possibly control since the world above is absolutely insane.
The ethical questions raised by Dr. Logan’s experiments lead to some of the best conversations Romero’s ever brought to the table, on-screen and off. At what point do the undead stop being human? For Logan, it is never, ever clear. He has no qualms about using the military men as fresh zombies to operate on while he searches for what makes them tick. On the other hand, he treats Bub as an adoptive son, is painfully patient with him, and goes to great lengths to ensure the zombie’s well-being. This is night and day compared to the way Logan talks to the scientific team and the military men. With humans he speaks from a place of deep entitlement, never bothering to hide that he believes himself to be far superior to them because he’s so dang smart. He gets away with it, for the most part. However when Sarah snaps and puts Rhodes or his men in their place, she’s nearly shot. Logan made himself important, far more important than his peer, and forced Rhodes to see her as disposable. Frankenstein was never in the silo to help humanity. He was there to help himself by gathering knowledge about the one thing no one else had access to, and did it in a way he knew Sarah wouldn’t replicate so she could never be on the pedestal he built for himself.
There’s so much going on with the dead in this film. This is where Romero drove home the notion that they’re not much different from us, only they have something primal driving them instead of the complex rules humans live by every day. They’ve got more freedom than the humans. Even Bub and the others imprisoned in the silo for experimentation are at liberty to do what they want because there’s no social rules for the undead. Their only restriction is placed on them by another species. They just are whoever they are and nothing can change that. Bub already possessed the reasoning capabilities Logan exploits in the film. How do we know that? Land of the Dead. In that film, the dead communicate, have returned to a human-less life where they repeat the tasks ingrained in their minds from their living days, and eventually band together to seek something which is missing from their lives. If Bub were taught how to reason, future generations of zombies wouldn’t have been able to accomplish their great trek to Fiddler’s Green. We owe a lot to Bub.
The makeup FX are some of the best . . . for 1985. Except for a few background actors in full masks who accidentally shuffled too close to camera, the zombies are a collection of what everyone considers a stereotypical zombie. Go look at your local zombie pub crawl. Most of what’s there can also be found in the final act of Day of the Dead. There’s even a clown, for heaven’s sake. Romero did it all back in a decade when zombies weren’t the cool thing to produce. That influence echoes throughout anything dealing with the undead to this day.
Day of the Dead signaled a change in the way the undead would be presented for decades. For that reason, and so many more, I’m giving it four oozing eyeballs out of five.