Vern sees the DAY OF THE DEAD remake. But he's not a role model. Don't make the same mistake he did.
Published at: Jan. 28, 2008, 8:27 a.m. CST by merrick
Man, I try to be a nice guy. I try to be an optimist. I was ready to burn the DAWN OF THE DEAD remake at the stake, but then I saw it and it wasn't too bad. It's a hollow action movie version of the original, but it's a fun one, and it's pretty well executed. I'm not too much of a hardliner to admit that.
So if they already remade that and did okay I wasn't gonna be too up in arms about a DAY OF THE DEAD remake. And I was rooting for Steve Miner too. He's the director and I've seen people talk shit about him here, but I have a soft spot for him. He directed my two favorite FRIDAY THE 13THs (parts 2 and 3) which are fun and have a good energy to them. And he still had some of that spark when he did HALLOWEEN H20: H20 STANDS FOR HALLOWEEN TWENTY YEARS LATER. Nobody seems to like that movie, and to be honest the Michael Meyers mask looks terrible, but I think it's a pretty good movie. The ROCKY BALBOA of the HALLOWEEN series. And it has that great chase at the end, you gotta at least enjoy that. Ignore that bullshit in the next one about how Michael Meyers switched clothes with a paramedic. That's for conspiracy theorists. Anyway because of those three movies I figured if they had to do a fast running DAY OF THE DEAD then maybe Steve Miner wasn't a bad choice to do it.
Well, nope. I was wrong and the proof is called "DAY OF THE DEAD" and coming straight to DVD on a date which I will not specify because you should not watch it. And don't look it up, either. Just forget about it. The cover shows a zombie projectile vomiting a bunch of green slime and eyeballs into the air. This doesn't happen in the movie but is a good description of how you will feel watching the movie.
This movie has no good parts in it. It does not capture a single thing that's good about the original. It doesn't improve on a single weakness of the original. It doesn't add a single worthwhile new thing to the story or the genre. I'm not sure it even recycles anything good about the genre. I thought it was intended for theatrical release, but it's from DTV kings Millennium Films, and it doesn't look like many people on the set were fooling themselves. It feels DTV from beginning to end, complete with cheesy opening credits and plenty of avid farts. Every time it cuts to a new location they gotta FLASH and WHIZ and BANG and do that stupid metal-on-metal sound effect.
Listen to me: if you are a sound designer, and they ask you to do that shit, tell them to fuck off. Or quit. I know you have a family to feed, but somebody's gotta take a stand. We'll all send you some canned food. The fact is there is no circumstance where the WHOOOSH and the SSSSSHHHHHHHUNK is gonna be a cool way to go into the next scene. Somebody has got to stop this style, and you are on the front lines. Why would anybody do it? Don't you have pride in what you do? Are you an artist or are you a fucking button pusher? Are you trying to make a movie, or open a garage?
Thanks sound designers. Just my 2 cents.
The rest of you: This just isn't a good movie. It never clicks, it never pulls you in. An appreciation for the original DAY OF THE DEAD is not at all necessary to notice how much the remake fails. But it would be wrong not to acknowledge how bad these assholes blew it. Let's take a moment to remember some of the things that were great about the original, and then see how the remake, uh, re-imagines them.
A. THE OPENING. The original has a classic opening sort of like I AM LEGEND. The small band of heroes are scavenging in an abandoned city. There's an alligator crawling around. Money blows across the ground like garbage. Then they can hear an eerie moaning in the distance as a mob of zombies slowly approaches. So it immediately establishes a bleak, oppressive feeling of hopelessness, because it's a world that has been inherited by the zombies. They say there's a 400,000 to 1 ghoul-to-living ratio. It's their world, their era, that's why it's DAY OF THE DEAD. Civilization belongs to the dead. Humans are just a handful of survivors, scientists and soldiers hiding in an underground base, broadcasting messages on the CB but never getting a response.
The remake starts with teens fucking in a cabin. Because that topic really hasn't been explored enough. There's no underground base. The world is not overrun by zombies, it's an infection that is just starting to spread in this small town. So it's not the Day of the Dead. And the movie mostly takes place at night.
B. RHODES played by Joe Pilato. To me the thing that keeps the original from being as good as its predecessors is that you get sick of all these military assholes always yelling, and there is alot of overacting going on. But Joe Pilato is so good at playing a prick, maybe one of the most hatable characters I've ever seen in a film, and you still want to puke when you see the zombies tear him in half and eat his guts. ("Choke on 'em!") He's obnoxious but he's a memorable character.
In the remake "Rhodes" is Ving Rhames in a glorified cameo just to trick people into thinking this has some connection to the DAWN OF THE DEAD remake. The story never focuses on him and he dies right away and only gets one scene as a zombie. The only thing he offers to the movie at all is that he pulls out his own eye and eats it.
3. ADULTS. Remember when movies were allowed to have adults in them? I guess we live in the Day of the Twentysomethings. The original was for and about adults. The remake stars AMERICAN PIE's Mena Suvari, Nickelodeon's Nick Cannon, a guy named Stark Sands who looks like a teenager and a guy playing Mena's little brother. I know Mena Suvari is almost 30, but in the movie she still lives with her mom. She's the lead and she makes a good effort, carrying herself well, but she's much too dainty and baby-faced to come off as a Ripley. And it's hard to be tough when you always gotta make sure your bangs are covering your giant forehead.
IV. BUB. Okay, you probaly heard about this one already, but it requires as much scorn as available. Anybody who's seen DAY OF THE DEAD loves Bub, played by a guy named Howard Sherman. Bub is a zombified soldier captured and experimented on by Dr. "Frankenstein" Logan. Through some combination of training and memory he has been somewhat domesticated. He's in a collar, chained to a wall, he remembers how to salute, how to hold a book (but upside down), and how to listen to a walkman. He can pick up a gun but not correctly, he looks at it like it's a rock or a stick. The makeup and the performance are incredible, easily the best and most believable zombie character ever. He seems more like a gorilla than a man, a guy who is obviously a living being but you can't tell how conscious he is. If the eyes are the window to the soul, his windows are filthy. But he represents a faint hope for humanity because he is evidence to support the doctor's theory that the zombies can be pacified.
In the remake they have none of that. They have "Bud" (Sands) who's one of the main characters, but then he gets turned into a zombie, but he's a vegetarian so he doesn't want to eat people, so they keep him on a leash in the back of the car and don't kill him. You can't call it retarded, because the mentally disabled are innocent, they wouldn't do that shit either.
4b. Speaking of DR. LOGAN, he was a great character in the original. He actually was crazy, and his zombie experiments did seem pretty depraved and REANIMATORish. On the other hand, he was brilliant, and maybe right, and definitely one of the few making an effort to find a solution to the zombie problem instead of just giving up on civilization and getting started building a Thunderdome.
In the remake "Dr. Logan" is just the name of some prick who claims to be a doctor. He seems modelled after the asshole yuppie character in DAWN OF THE DEAD REMAKE. Yeah, great, don't emulate the movie you're supposed to be remaking - emulate the worst character in somebody else's remake. Good idea, schmucks.
FIVE. ZOMBIE CATTLE. Since the scientists are experimenting on the zombies, trying to find a solution to the problem, they go out and corral them into a big mine. It's a great idea both because of how it further dehumanizes these things that used to be people and because of the threat it creates if the zombies were to escape or if the survivors had to travel through the mine (which of course they do). And it creates conflict as the good people are disgusted watching the assholes get off on tormenting the captive zombies.
The remake has none of that. Ironically, Romero's movie was hugely scaled down from his original script because he just didn't have the budget to pull off the armies of trained zombies he had planned. Now we have this remake that's on a much smaller scale than the scaled down original.
F. THE BEST ZOMBIE EFFECTS OF ALL TIME. I mean, Greg Nicotero and friends have done some cool stuff in the newer Romero movies, and I always love the blue face paint of DAWN OF THE DEAD, and lets not forget how cool those maggot-infested fuckers were in the Fulci ZOMBI series. But I don't think it's a stretch to say that Tom Savini's work on the original DAY OF THE DEAD is the best ever. So many great looking zombies and so many disgustingly realistic gore scenes. Those things really can munch on some guts. And since they used real cow guts for alot of that stuff it's even grosser after you find out how they did it.
The makeup and effects in the remake - well, no. I mean, you've seen worse, but nobody's gonna be high-fiving each other.
To be fair, this may not be the worst Romero remake so far. I was gonna try to review that NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD 3-D a while back, but after watching a little bit I realized it just wasn't worth it. I didn't get much further than the "COMING 4 U BARB" text message before I bailed. And I figured nobody's gonna watch that shitty home video anyway, because that type of 3-D is crap and who wants to watch "NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD 3-D: THE 2-D VERSION" (sold separately)?
But this stuff does kind of matter, because Romero's movies have longevity, they stick around, and have been introduced to multiple generations. And we don't want to have to explain this shit to innocent kids who are just trying to catch up on the classics. "Okay, NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD is great, but be sure not to get the 30th Anniversary edition, or the 3-D one, or the colorized one. The remake that's in color is okay, you can watch that, but only after you watch the original a bunch of times. DAWN OF THE DEAD go ahead and get any of the cuts, I like the theatrical but they're all good. The remake is fun but the original is required viewing. DAY OF THE DEAD, be sure not to get the one with the puking on the cover..." I mean, do we really have to further complicate this situation?
I'd have a hard time trying to think of something nice to say about this movie. I think there might've been one or two funny zombie gags. I did like when some of them were just running and crashing into a wall over and over again. Literally bouncing off the walls. But the footage was obviously sped up so it was a little zombie and a little Benny Hill. Kind of a problem.
But the main problem with this movie is that everything is bad and nothing is good. There's no scale, no originality, no good characters, no well constructed scenes, not even a good chase. Maybe it wasn't Michael Meyers who switched places with that paramedic, maybe it was Steve Miner. If that's true then the paramedic has alot to answer for. This movie is too fucking bad. Remake it - fine. But not like this.