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How Good is the New Day of the Dead (2008)?

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Dawn of the Dead DVD CoverPoor Mena Suvari. The actress, fairly attractive and a decent actress, started off her career about as good as anyone who isn’t named Jennifer Hudson can do: not only did she have a major part in one of the last great teen classics, American Pie, but she was the title character in one of the best movies of all time, American Beauty. She was 20 at the time both of those movies were released, and if that’s how her career begun, just imagine what she’d be doing in eight years.

The direct-to-DVD remake of George A. Romero’s Day of the Dead. Wow.

The movie really isn’t a remake of the Romero original, as it bears little resemblance to that film. The original was a continuation of Romero’s two classics and featured a bunch of characters tucked away in an underground bunker. This new Day of the Dead is your standard zombie flick; what starts off looking like an epidemic of the flu turns out to be a cannibalistic nightmare. Several unsuspecting characters find themselves at the center of a shit storm, and you know the rest. Why this movie is actually allowed to be marketed as “based on the motion picture from George A. Romero” is a bit astounding. Other than being a zombie movie, the two movies are far removed.

As one might expect from a direct-to-DVD release, the movie isn’t anything you should rush out to buy, rent or see. This is no theatrical Dawn of the Dead remake, let me tell you. Hell, it’s not even Land of the Dead. It’s your run-of-the-mill zombie film, with so-so writing, quasi-cheap special effects and so on and so forth.

That being said, it is a step above other direct-to-DVD releases, and I have to wonder if with a little more budget and a little more attention to detail this movie could have gone to theaters. It was clearly made with the intention to go straight to DVD, as the makeup, film quality and script aren’t good enough to take the film to the next level. Still, if you like zombie movies, Day of the Dead is tolerable. It has a lot of action, a fair amount of gore and, for the type of movie it is, surprisingly decent acting.

Suvari holds her own and the rest of the cast do what they’re supposed to. Nick Cannon isn’t particularly good, though he was clearly written with the badass token black guy in mind. Ving Rhames even is in the movie, obviously homage to the Dawn of the Dead remake.

The movie suffers from some unnecessary visual effects; I’m not a big fan of zombies being able to jump long distances through the air, climb on ceilings and so on and so forth. The zombies also sound like dinosaurs, another unnecessary move. Ultimately, Steve Miner, who has directed such quality B-grade films as Halloween H20 and Lake Placid, was given a low budget and tasked with making a direct-to-DVD feature. There is nothing here to suggest otherwise.

Sadly, I just looked on IMDB I see that the budget for the movie is $18 million. That’s not a lot these days, but considering that Shaun of the Dead was made for only $4 million, it actually is surprising that the movie looks a lot better. The decision to go with special effects over quality makeup was clearly a bad one.

The new Dawn of the Dead isn’t as bad as I was expecting, and in fact is moderately entertaining, but a few major but doable tweaks could have gone a long way. Fans of the original will be disappointed.

By Erik Samdahl
Related categories: DVD Releases, Movie Reviews
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