Two months into 2018 and we’re getting our second remake of a classic horror film. First, we got the insipid re-telling of French horror film Inside. Now Lionsgate Films has released another remake of George A. Romero’s Day of the Dead. Romero’s original ‘Dead’ trilogy has proven to be a treasure chest for studios looking to churn out new zombie films. But zombies may be running out of steam. Even The Walking Dead is contending with dwindling television ratings. Timing is everything, and this remake may have missed the zombie renaissance. In this edition of Re-Animated, I take a look at the two visions of Day of the Dead to see if Bloodline has some new ideas to inject into the ‘Dead’ franchise.
Romero’s Day of the Dead Underrated
Romero’s two original ‘dead films, Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead, are critically revered genre films. In contrast, Romero’s third movie in the trilogy, Day of the Dead, while well-received has garnered less critical attention. Admittedly Day of the Dead is the weaker of the three ‘Dead’ films. Nevertheless, it still represents a significant achievement in Romero’s filmography.
The feelings of claustrophobia, isolation, and loneliness that permeated Dawn are all present.
Even without returning characters or links to prior movies, Day feels like a spiritual sequel in ambiance and tone. The feelings of claustrophobia, isolation, and loneliness that permeated Dawn are all present. With no recognizable actors in the cast, it’a remarkable how Romero gets just the right performances from his actors. No character in Day feels superfluous to the story, and the tensions that steadily mount between the characters feels palpable.
Romero Continued To Use the ‘Dead’ For Biting Social Commentary
Like his previous “Dead” films, Romero injected a healthy dose of relevant social commentary. This time around the horror master explored real-world tensions during that era about America’s growing military-industrial complex. Specifically, the movie’s central conflict between its isolated scientists and dwindling soldiers paralleled real-world anxieties in the 1980’s.
… Day’s climax falls just short of the gory lunacy of Dawn’s ending.
Joe Pilato’s Colonel Rhodes was a brilliant antagonist. Rhodes was the best of the original ‘Dead’ trilogy’s villains, living or dead. To be honest, he’s only rivaled by Dennis Hopper’s turn in the later Land of the Dead. Not surprisingly, Tom Savini’s special effects are once again a standout. In fact, Day’s climax falls just short of the gory lunacy of Dawn’s ending. Similar to the ending of Dawn, Romero even offers his audience an ambiguous glimmer of hope. After over thirty years, Day of the Dead may be one the best horror films of the 1980’s.
Day of the Dead: Bloodline (2018)
To date, Romero’s original ‘Dead’ trilogy films have all been remade at least once. Night of the Living Dead, for example, has three remakes and counting. Fanboys launch a lot of derision at Zack Snyder for his Watchmen and Batman vs. Superman work. Nonetheless, his Dawn of the Dead remake remains one of the better reboots produced. To date, Day of the Dead has already been re-imagined once with the dreadful 2008 Day of the Dead.
To their credit, director Hector Hernandez Vicens and writers Mark Tonderai and Lars Jacobson more closely follow Romero’s blueprint. Like the original, the remake is set in a military compound. Similarly, tensions abound between soldiers and doctors over how to confront the ‘living dead’ epidemic. Whether this remake attempt is a step up from the 2008 effort is open to debate. But on its own merits, the 2018 version is more lifeless and listless than its zombies.
Bloodline Has Nothing New to Say
Romero’s zombie films have always offered insightful political subtext running beneath the blood, gore, and spilled entrails. Bloodline’s creators set up a similar premise, but they’re clearly out of ideas. Nothing in Bloodline builds off of or re-interprets Romero’s original ideas. Moreover, Bloodline makes no effort to contextualize its story in any present-day concerns. From a narrative perspective, the remake is a hollow retread with nothing new to offer audiences.
Its lack of biting political commentary is exacerbated by logical inconsistencies and convoluted storytelling.
In addition, its lack of biting political commentary is exacerbated by logical inconsistencies and convoluted storytelling. The remake has its own ‘Bub’, a spin-off of the ‘intelligent’ or ‘domesticated’ zombie, named ‘Max’. But there’s nothing sympathetic about Max, a depraved stalker in life. What the Bloodline creators were trying to say with ‘Max’ is pretty unclear.
Ultimately, the character feels like a way to keep the remake spiritually connected to its source material. Oddly, Jonathan Schaech’s performance as the ‘dead’ ‘Max’ is the best performance in the movie. All the remaining performances range from stiff to outright terrible. Special kudos go to the military brothers (played by Jeff Gum and Marcus Vanco, respectively) who are particularly awful.
At least the gore effects in Bloodline may satisfy some horror fans. There is enough blood-spurting and intestine-spilling action in the film to carry it through its run time. On one hand, the special effects won’t make you forget Tom Savini’s legendary work. Still, Bloodline’s gore and viscera is remarkably better than what you’ll find in most low-budget movies.
Bloodline Should Have Stayed Dead
Arguably, most remakes struggle to justify their existence. Occasionally, a remake offers something new thematically or visually for its audience. Sadly, little connects Day of the Dead: Bloodline to the Romero’s original work. Even worse, the remake covers no new ground and has little to say. As the zombie wanes in popularity, Bloodline may struggle to find an audience. On its own merits, Bloodline has little to recommend.