Romero remakes abound. Some are better than others (Zack Snyder's 2004 Dawn of the Dead rocked, while the 1990 remake of the seminal 60s classic, Night of the Living Dead, was a flat out joke), and some simply are what they are. That is what the latest in the flesh-eating franchise, directed by Steve Miner (Lake Placid) and scripted by Jeffrey Reddick (Final Destination, Tamara), is. It's not really a direct remake so much as a nod and a by-your-leave. It's its own undead animal.
This direct-to-DVD CG-and-gore fest boasts that it stars Ving Rhames (who reprises his role from the Snyder reboot) and Mena Suvari (Edmond). That's half-true. Rhames deigns to make an appearance, but this really is Suvari's show. She plays Sarah, a petite but perfectly badass rifle-toting military babe who finds herself deemed the world's only hope when a virulent disease turns everyone around her into flesh-eating zombies.
Make that almost everyone: her mild-mannered vegan subordinate, Bud (Stark Crain), eschews meat even after being consumed by the virus. Along for the rotting ride are Sarah's snarky younger brother Trevor (Michael Welch), his hot squeeze (Annalynne McCord), another beleaguered soldier (the sarcastic, trigger-happy Salazar, played by Nick Cannon), plus a few innocent bystanders (a radio DJ portrayed with humor by Ian McNiece; and the lovely Christa Campbell cast against type as a wife and mom).
While it is pretty much a remake in name-only, this low-budget comedy/actioner is actually a entertaining if you're not a Romero or zombie-mythos purist. For one thing, the chase scenes and many moments of chaotic carnage are a blast. There's gore galore, and repeated brain explosions abound amid various dismemberments.
The characters are admittedly stereotypical and their quips aren't terribly realistic, but that's Day of the Dead's charm: you go in expecting mindless zaniness in this cheesy monster mash, and that is exactly what you get. (Forget the sociopolitical commentary and the mall-as-society's-walls allegory.) The acting is indeed uneven, but that's mainly because some of the most inexperienced (or just plain jaded) players aren't quite up to the arch dialogue. The CGI is pretty poor but that's actually not annoying in this case, because you should go in to this flick (just look at the DVD cover for your first clue) knowing that it's hardly going to be your Industrial Light & Magic experience.
While mostly frenetically fast-paced (thank goodness, these are zombies of the zippy genus), this fright flick does just start to wear out its welcome by the time the end-credits roll. However, what it lacks in suspense and tension, Day of the Dead more than makes up for in sheer zombie mayhem. It's a fun bargain-bin buy, or a recommended right-now rental.
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Reviewed by Staci Layne Wilson
Don't forget to check out Horror.com's exclusive interview with George A. Romero on his own latest entry in the series, Diary of the Dead