When first thought up by Romero, Day of the Dead was intended to be the “Gone with the Wind of zombie films.” What I believe Romero meant by that is he imagined the film being as big and epic as a zombie film had even been. Unfortunately due to budget cuts, the idea was scaled down and something completely different made it to film. What I believe Romero intended later became Land of the Dead.
Day of the Dead is a great film. I can certainly say it has a sense of life that few series do by the time the third installment is released. I’ve read that Romero says this is his favorite of the Dead trilogy which I find somewhat insane since the previous two are perfect, iconic and influenced so much of the horror that came afterwards while Day of the Dead is fun like any other cult classic from the 1980s, a decade Romero seems to really embrace in this film. Day of the Dead has quick jump scares unlike the other Dead films and some of the military guys feel straight out of a Troma film, referring to their cocks as “The biggest meat in the cave.”
Joseph Pilato plays the villainous Captain Rhodes and I personally felt he gave a great performance as a horrible despicable human being. His performance is so good it saddens me that the only other performance in his career that is somewhat notable is as a Dean Martin impersonator in the iconic 50s diner from Pulp Fiction.
And of course there’s Sherman Howard as Bub. This character is so memorable it’s somewhat disappointing how little time we spend with him, although his moments towards the end of the film make up for little screen time. What’s disappointing most of all regarding Romero’s films is that years later in Land of the Dead it’s another fully aware zombie leading the resistance and not Bub.
Day of the Dead is a great entry in the Dead trilogy. This one more than the previous two seem to really focus on the danger of humans when the world as they know it is gone. The experiments that Dr. Logan aka Frankenstein conducts on the zombies is quite horrific in a Nazi experimental way and the loss of compassion from Captain Rhodes and the men working under him is the true horror, so much that when the zombies raid the place and kill them it’s a relief because the real monsters are dead.
This film might have been more with Romero’s original intention but Day of the Dead is a great zombie film and a great watch for those who admire cult classic horror from the 80s.