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Friday, May 17, 2013

Ten Random Thoughts on Day of the Dead (1985)

Mood Disclaimer: Good mood, saw this at the Plaza as part of the Splatter Cinema series. A very nice sized crowd came out, much bigger than Event Horizon. Shocker!

1. I have seen this movie one million times. But never in a theater. I was nervous. What if it didn't hold up? What if I am just too fried now to enjoy the obsessions of my childhood? Thank god this movie still "does it for me".

2. I always ranked this one right behind Night '68. Nothing can topple Night. It's a monster and iconic and the bottle that launched a million ships. It is impossible to imagine life with out NOTLD. But Day was always second. Now, having seen it big, maybe Dawn is better. Just because it has more boom bang. But I don't know, this movie still effects me in ways Dawn doesn't. Dawn is scarier. Day is just a freakish little story that gets under my skin.

3. MoFo Joe Pilato as Captain Rhodes is one of those force of nature performances that cranks this movie up all the way and blows out the windows. He is a tsunami of rage and frustration and maybe the single most electrifying performance in all the Dead movies. Take every John Wayne, Elvis Presley,  Eisenhower Military Industrial Complex stereo type and throw in some Baptist Fundamental Preacher and bake in a meth lab for 100 years and you have Captain Rhodes.

4. They knew they had no money on this one, so all the bing bang pow isn't from big action set pieces with lots of coverage and a cast of thousands, that stuff takes time and money. It's the performances that create the spectacle here. We are talking a cast of Jack Nicholsons from the last 20 minutes of The Shining. It all is pretty broad, like a really amped up vulgar cartoon. So that maybe why this one was more accessible for me growing up. Who knows, maybe when I'm old and grey I may like Survival of the Dead (haha).

5. Zombies are just people, the masses. They must be controlled and governed or eliminated. The scenes where the scientists and military are sitting around talking about what to do about us, um, I mean the zombies, well, I bet it happens all the time. Maybe we can gas them so they'll be nice to us and let us do what we want! Romero often says that zombies are the new order taking over. They are benign, not really evil or anything. I love how if it wasn't for the insane remnants of the old society, everything would be peace and love on planet earth. Zombies just want to hang out. They leave a zero environmental footprint. Romero is such a dirty hippy.

6. People complain that there is no one to root for in this one. And the problem is that Romero is a dirty hippy that sees society as broken, the old structures and bureaucracies as pointless, so sure, he's not going to make people representing that world very likable. If you are going to root for someone, root for Bub. Bub is the hero of this movie. He's the only one that goes through any kind of change. Bub is like an adorable innocent corpse who takes down the establishment. Dirty Hippy. At the screening, the audience poured love on Bub. The scene where he finds his dead dad was great on TV, but with an empathetic theater audience it was the best scene in the movie. Howard Sherman should have won an Oscar. The Dead movies are never on the side of the humans. It's like 2001, where by the end of the movie the only relateable character is a computer.

7. So what struck me this time seeing it, no longer being 13 and staying up until 2am to catch it, was how much I saw this as being about conflicting parenting styles. On one side you have the bully Captain Rhodes who wants to intimidate people into doing his will. And I get it, I've looked at my kids with that same manic frustration, felt that blood boil when they've knocked down my house of cards and won't conform to my dogma. I've had my Rhodes days certainly.

8. One the other side you have the calm, patient, intellectual Dr. Logan. He is so good with Bub. He has some of those new "fancy parenting ideas" where you talk to kids like their adults and reason with them and give them little treats when they put on their shoes when you ask them. Of coarse Rhodes sees Logan as being nuts. Replace "zombies" with "kids" and you will see the same shrill conversations going on right now on parenting message boards.Permissible parenting is going bring down the world vs spanking is for neanderthals. I don't think Romero is a spanker judging from this movie.

9. The other stand out performance is Tim Deleo as Miguel, the shattered dude who is not keeping it together. This freak is the love interest for our heroine?  Wha? That shows you how this movie doesn't play by the rules. The relationships are as dysfunctional and as poisonous as everything else the humans do. Try to find a positive portrait of a couple in these dead movies. Well, there is Tom and Judy in NOTLD. Yeah, that worked out pretty well for them didn't it.

10. This is the last independent movie Romero made in Pittsburgh. After this he has the half movie Two Evil Eyes, and then it was studio funding with Monkey Shines and Dark Half. After that he was snarled up in Hollywood politics for almost a decade. When there is no more room in development hell, the dead will go to Canada. And that is what happened. It's sad, but Romero could no longer get funding for movies here in the states. It became too expensive to shoot in Pittsburgh, so starting in 2000 with Bruiser, he has been doing all his stuff in the Great White North. It's a shame. At least he is independent again.

BONUS - I never noticed the Uzis on the gun rack in the little trailer home, that made me laugh.

SHOWSTOPPER - Rhodes, everytime he is on screen this movie goes into overdrive. His little marionette dance at the end is cinematic gold.


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