Day of the Dead has so far received a 2008 remake, a 2018 remake titled Bloodline, and a 2005 “sequel” Contagium. How do the four films compare?
There have been three Day Of The Dead follow-up movies produced since horror legend George A Romero’s 1985 original, but how do these remake/sequel/re-imaginings rank in comparison to each other? Released in 1985, the original Day of the Dead was the third movie in iconic helmer George A Romero’s Night of the Living Dead series. Less hopeless than the brutal 1968 original Night of the Living Dead, Day of the Dead was also not as fast-paced and satirically charged as the second movie, 1978’s Dawn of the Dead.
Day of the Dead’s plot centered around a group of survivors in a subterranean shelter in the Florida everglades. The dysfunctional group soon proves as dangerous to each other as the hordes outside, with Romero’s movie depicting even this microcosm of society as unstable and bound for doom. However, as the group splinters, one zombie “Bub” begins to display a surprising intelligence and calls into question the morality of the entire franchise.
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This twist set up the action of Romero’s next zombie horror, which arrived in cinemas two decades later. 2005’s Land of the Dead was critically divisive, but nowhere near as disliked as the same year’s Day of the Dead 2: Contagium. An in-name-only sequel, Contagium was the first of three reworkings of Day of the Dead. After Army of the Dead director, Zack Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead remake proved a huge success in 2004, Day was remade by horror veteran Steve Miner as a 2008 straight-to-DVD release. Ten years later, it was loosely remade again, this time as 2018’s Bloodline. So, how do the quartet of Day of the Dead movies compare to each other, and more importantly, can any of the later outings hold a candle to Romero’s original?
Day of the Dead 2: Contagium (2005)
Easily the worst of the four Day of the Dead movies, 2005’s Contagium boasts the regrettable achievement of being the outing with the least direct connection to the 1985 original. Marketed as a sequel, this scare-free effort is really (if anything) a loose follow up to Romero’s first foray into zombie horror, Night of the Living Dead. The predictable and somewhat tasteless plot depicts an asylum’s day trip going lethally awry when a patient accidentally unleashes the virus that led to the original Romero zombie outbreak from Night. The low-budget horror that follows bears no direct connection to the Romero movies outside of this tenuous link, with the flesh-eating bacteria creating a plague of undead monsters to attack the forgettable heroes. Grim, cheap, and fatally unscary, Day of the Dead 2: Contagium is a supposed sequel that even the most thorough series completist would do well to avoid, like the similarly disappointing third Creepshow, another instance of a George A Romero franchise receiving an unofficial, and deeply flawed, outing.
Day of the Dead: Bloodline (2018)
Released in 2018, Day of the Dead: Bloodline was the second attempt to remake the Romero film, and unfortunately, it is a far weaker attempt than 2008’s comparatively harmless re-do. This interminably slow story does hold onto more details of the original than the first remake, but the potentially intriguing tale of a scientist trying to isolate a cure for the outbreak eventually descends into inevitable chases and frustratingly dumb characters making unlikely decisions to set up forgettable deaths. Credit where it’s due, Bloodline is not as cheap or amateurish in its production as Contagium, but it is a flat and boring zombie horror that would have gone unnoticed were it not for its vague connection to Romero’s series. Where the later Army of the Dead proved zombie horror franchises could still feel fresh, this flat reimagining was unfortunately dead on arrival.
Day of the Dead (2008)
2008’s Day of the Dead was the third instance of a filmmaker reimagining one of George Romero’s original zombie horrors, and this STV effort takes way more creative liberties than Tom Savini’s faithful Night of the Living Dead redo or Snyder’s more kinetic Dawn of the Dead. 2008’s Day of the Dead is an action-oriented affair that opens with the chaos and terror of the initial outbreak, instead of being set years after the zombie apocalypse depicted in Romero’s original. Despite boasting the pedigree of horror director Steve Miner – who helmed the underrated Lake Placid and one of the better Friday the 13th franchise installments – Day doesn’t do much to stand out from the crowd as a zombie film, a fate made worse by the fact that it was released at the height of the craze. It is a serviceable action-heavy story and star Mena Suvari makes for a somewhat compelling lead, but Nick Cannon’s comic relief character is grating at best and the plot doesn’t offer much in the way of originality.
Day of the Dead (1985)
As is often the case, the original Day of the Dead remains a stronger horror than both of its remakes, and stands head and shoulder above its so-called 2005 “sequel”. George Romero’s movie may be slower and even more downbeat than its predecessors, but it’s a rewarding watch that deepens the lore of the series and features some memorable character work. Major Rhodes is the franchise’s best villain and Bub’s character arc manages to inject a zombie with personality. It’s no A Nightmare On Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors, as few would call Day of the Dead the most memorable or strongest outing in the franchise.
However, while it may not have the vicious impact of the original Night of the Living Dead or the sharp satirical verve of Dawn of the Dead, Day offers a thoughtful portrait of society after the apocalypse that critiques the military and American culture while still offering plenty of tension, scares and stomach-churning gore. Neither of the movie’s remakes can boast the same inventive approach to the recurring themes of the zombie horror subgenre, while the so-called Day of the Dead sequel is an outright dud with no redeeming attempts to stand out from the crowd.
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