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.
There are few people in the world who make an impact so great, the depth of what they’ve left behind is nearly impossible to calculate. Unfortunately, a couple of weeks ago we lost one of those bright, shining souls. George Romero passed on July 16th at age 77. According to a statement given to The Times by Romero’s longtime producing partner, Peter Grunwald, the legendary filmmaker passed in his sleep after a, “brief but aggressive battle with lung cancer.” The statement went on to say that Romero was at peace, listening to the soundtrack from his one of his favorite films, The Quiet Man, with his wife and daughter at his side.
To say we’re all floored at the news is an understatement. None of us at the ZSC would be here doing all things undead without Romero’s Night of the Living Dead. Not a one. What he did with that film, not just the outrageous notion to take zombies from their origin and give them somewhere new to come from, but the social commentary woven throughout, created a new form of horror film. It gave the creators who favor the dark side of fantasy the okay to send a message in what would otherwise just be a bunch of dead bodies shuffling toward their next meal. When I said we cannot calculate the differences Romero made in the film world, I mean it. So many directors currently shaping the entertainment world have spent the last few days expounding on how much they treasured what Romero started and how he stuck to his guns throughout his long career. But no matter how long it was, it’ll never feel like enough time with a man who just seemed to get it, to understand the impact a silly zombie film could really have on social constructs. That he did it with grace, dignity, and kindness just makes it that much harder to say goodbye. It’ll be a long time before I stop wondering when the maestro will drop a new film. It’ll be even longer before the tears stop coming every time his films pop on TV or someone sneaks Night of the Living Dead into their film in homage.
Everyone has that one favorite Romero film they go to time and time again. I have two, because it was just too difficult to pick one. Hell, whittling it down to two was a herculean task. However, I cannot overstate how Bub changed the way I approach acting and writing creature characters, and that’s what finally made Day of the Dead my top Romero flick. The other? The Dark Half. It’s just so spot-on for a Stephen King film, yet so few list it when they ramble off the usual suspects. Romero gifted us with a treasure-trove of films like that, ones which speak to a certain group and give them what they need to hear—but with a lot of gore because that’s fun to work with.
There aren’t enough words to thank him for not just his films, but the care he showed his fellow man. Nor are there enough to fully comprehend the loss. Our thoughts are with his family and friends.
“The living dead will be staggering through Cambridge city centre.
But it won’t be the end of a particularly heavy freshers’ pub crawl, rather a wave of fancy dressers paying homage to the zombie film genre.
The second Zombiegeddon walk, which could see more than 100 people in gory make-up weave through the city, was born last year when a group of friends on a fancy dress night out wanted to extend the fun.
Tyler Mortimer, one of the organisers, said it was about “poking fun” at the genre, while raising money for charity – and confusing shoppers.”
From the mobile unit of ZSC Commander-in-Chief, Juliette Terzieff, with special guest Gary Streiner:
When we think of iconic horror movie moments it isn’t long before visions of Bill Hinzman lurching through the Evans City Cemetery towards unsuspecting siblings Barbra and Johnny in the 1968 classic Night of the Living Dead float to the top. Like the gruesome murder of Janet Leigh in the infamous Psycho shower scene, or Linda Blair’s impossible head gymnastics in The Exorcist, the image of that first modern-era zombie seeking out a meal remains a favorite of horror fans around the globe.
George Romero’s black and white masterpiece is legend. A singular piece of filmmaking that has inspired generations of writers, artists, musicians, actors and filmmakers to probe through decaying flesh in search of the monster inside us all.
Night of the Living Dead fans and members of the movie’s production crew have joined forces in a labor of love to save the chapel featured in the movie’s opening sequence—which happens to be the last original building from the movie that still stands. The Evans City Chapel hasn’t been in use for decades, except as a storage shed, and is facing the wrecking ball.
Over the last year my guest today, Gary Streiner, NOTLD’s sound engineer and brother of Russ Streiner who played Johnny, has been helping drive a campaign to save the chapel. In that time Fix the Chapel has raised almost $50,000, inspired videos and given birth to an anthology Stories from the Chapel.
But the battle is not won yet. Even if the campaign successfully raises the fund’s required by the cemetery association to prevent a demolition, campaigners will be in place to help oversee the repairs.
It is with a sad and heavy heart that we bid good-bye to the most iconic zombie of our time—Bill Hinzman. The first zombie to make an appearance in George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead, Bill continued his career as an actor, writer, cinematographer, director, and editor and most times he stood in front of the camera he donned zombie makeup.
Bill loved to go to conventions and pose with fans while in zombie makeup. In fact, that was how we first met Bill—when he tried to take a bite out of the chief. But her prowess at screaming and running in circles paid off, she was able to escape his grasp and then talk him into being a friend of the Zombie Survival Crew.
Born Samuel William Hinzman, October, 24 1936, Bill passed away February 4, 2012 at the age of 75 from that insidious beast—cancer. To see his accomplishments, check out his IMDB page. Perhaps the tweet from Shaun of the Dead’s Simon Pegg puts it best:
Sad to hear Bill Hinzman, George Romero’s first zombie in NotLD passed away today. Even zombies die, legends however, do not. RIP Bill.
Rest in Peace, Bill. We, the Zombie Survival Crew, give you a 21—Crossbow salute!!