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Day of the Dead

Year: 1985
Director: George A Romero
Writer: George A Romero
After seeing Romero's latest instalment in his Dead franchise, I went back to Day after a single fractured viewing years ago to see what I really thought of it.

It's in fact a contender for the best of the series. Whether Romero has mellowed in his old age or pressure from the studio resulted in a much less gory Land, Day captures the grubby aesthetic much more effectively, staying faithful to the independent, low budget splatter film roots of Dawn.

In hindsight (and compared to Day), Land was a little too slick, a little too action-oriented and a little too much like the 'zombie' flicks the current horror resurgence has given rise to. There's little left in the genre that pays homage to the cult video nasty days, it's all hosed down to assure profit-friendly ratings and too full of explosions and action.

Day had the same sort of splatter mindset as Dawn, as did some of the scenes (stuff that'd never make it to a movie screen nowadays, like Rhodes being pulled in half and the entire final zombie feast). It's as good as Dawn in that respect and better in that Romero had technology six years better than he'd worked with before and presumably more money.

Once again taking the small view of a group of survivors cut off from whatever else is left of America, Romero introduces us to a small band of soldiers and scientists whose mission appears to have been to study the undead and find a way of controlling or stopping them.

It's a very tenuous alliance, the scientists battling with substandard equipment and conditions, the soldiers resentful about putting their lives at risk to collect specimens for the scientists' research while no results appear to be forthcoming.

While a very human story of hatred and mistrust plays out in the underground bunker that's home to the small crew, the terror builds in small attacks and outbreaks until the inevitable final explosion of bloodshed.

Subplots like Dr Logan and Bub, the zombie he's slowly but successfully training, are put skilfully into the mix, and Romero handles more characters, deeper characterisation and the higher emotion of an atmosphere that's the opposite of the camaraderie seen in Dawn with flair.

When the time comes, he doesn't scrimp on the effects, both Tom Savini and Greg Nicotero pulling out all stops with foam latex, real animal guts and bucketloads of blood to tell the distinctly Romero story.

Also present, which was mostly missing from Land - to me the most important element - is the brooding fear slowly closing around you, of being trapped when you know there's no way out, a horrible death getting closer with every undead step.

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