Director: George A. Romero
Cast: Lori Cardille, Terry Alexander, Joseph Pilato, Jarleth Conroy, Antone DiLeo, Jr.
Length: 101 min
Label: Shout! Factory
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD Master Stereo
Considered by many to be a master of his craft, George A. Romero burst onto the horror scene in 1968, with Night Of The Living Dead. The film was groundbreaking for its time, employing cutting edge make-up effects and strong socio-political commentary. It is also most notable for having an African American, Duane Jones play the lead character, Ben. Romero continued to make films, but none ever reached the critical or commercial success of Night Of The Living Dead. Flash forward to 1978, Romero returns to the zombie genre with Dawn Of The Dead. The film achieved cult status, delving heavily into satire on American culture and offbeat humor. His third entry into the “Dead Series”, Day Of The Dead (1985) is set months after Dawn and focuses on a group of scientists and soldiers trapped in an underground silo. This claustrophobic, slow burning thriller will soon be available in a Collector’s Edition Blu-Ray via SHOUT! Factory on September 17th!
Day Of The Dead follows Sarah (Lori Cardille), a scientist who with other scientists and military personal, struggle to survive in an underground bunker, where up above the world is overrun with zombies. The scientists try to find a way to stop or reverse the reanimation process, while the remaining soldiers grow weary and feel it’s futile. This leads to tense confrontations between Captain Rhodes (Joseph Pilato) and the scientists, resulting in the group’s downfall.
The film was to be George Romero’s magnum opus of horror, his “Gone With The Wind” of zombie films, with a budget of $7 million. Budget and rating disputes led the studio to cut the budget in half, to $3.5 million. According to various sources, this forced Romero to scale back his story and adjust it to fit the smaller budget. Special effects mastermind Tom Savini shines with gruesome depictions of reanimated corpses; he clearly used his portion of the budget to the best of his ability. The story, while suffering from cuts and re-writes, manages to still build tension with a slow burn.
This “slow burn” may turn some people off, namely gorephiles, who revel in the sight of blood and guts, but the main theme of Romero’s work has always been the socio-political undercurrents attached to the time period (the ending is full of a satiable amount of gore and guts). The acting, while not the best, is serviceable. People under duress often act hysterical and have questionable behavior. At times though, the hysteria in Day of the Dead seems a bit overacted.
SHOUT! Factory has done a brand new HD transfer for this film and the results are mostly impressive, despite the image sometimes being plagued with light noise and some instances of soft focus. One scene that comes to mind is when Rhodes shoots Doctor Logan. There is a medium shot of Rhodes firing his weapon and the image is just completely marred: scratches, hairs and noise bombard the screen. Other than that instance, the overall quality of the image is quite good, with fine detail informing the many shots of Savini’s gory FX. Natural film grain is present, but not intrusive. The often grungy, earthy colors look pleasingly natural, (the gore looks believably red), and the image overall retains a nice, organic feel. As with other recent blu-ray releases from SHOUT!, Day of the Dead gives the impression of “real film” as apposed to a slick but textureless image that results from excessive DNR filtering.
The DTS-HD Master Audio fares even better than the video. Sound effects and dialogue are crisp and clean, with no signs of hissing, popping or skipping. The soundtrack blares on in all its 80’s synth-inspired glory.
There’s a wealth of extras on this Shout! Blu-ray release. A new documentary, entitled World’s End: The Legacy of “Day Of The Dead” and Underground: A Look Into The “Day Of The Dead” Mines. There are two Audio Commentary Tracks, one with writer/director George A. Romero, Special Make-up Effects artist Tom Savini, Production Designer Cletus Anderson and actress Lori Cardille; the other with filmmaker Roger Avery. There’s Behind-The-Scenes Footage from Special Make-up Effects Creator Tom Savini’s archives, as well as Photo Galleries, Theatrical Trailers and TV Spots.
Day Of The Dead features great special effects that still hold up today—a testament to the craftsmanship of Tom Savini! The story, while not the strongest at times, still manages to produce a claustrophobic, nerve-racking experience. Despite some minor flaws in the transfer and the acting, this is a solid release from SHOUT! Factory. Be sure to pick up this cult classic when it’s released on September 17th!
~ By Robert Vaughn