Because the original Dawn of the Dead became such a revered horror classic, it's easy to understand why fans were upset when hearing the movie would receive a remake. I should know; I was one of them, and my jaws hung in awe at the update being so good. Day of the Dead, the third in George Romero's zombie cycle, isn't held in such high regard, so the idea of a remake didn't seem that disturbing. It should have been easy to pull off, especially for a group of talented individuals who've worked in horror before. Instead, this remake is one of the biggest blunders the genre has ever seen.
The town of Leadville, Colorado, has been completely cordoned off by the military, in order to prevent the spread of a nasty, flu-like virus. But the virus soon reveals itself to cause more than a case of the sniffles, as those infected quickly start to turn into deformed monsters whot feast on the flesh of others. Caught in the middle of the bloody action is tough cookie Cpl. Cross (Mena Suvari), wisecracking soldier Salazar (Nick Cannon), and a scant few other members of the uninfected. As the zombies proceed to overrun the entire town, Cross and company find themselves in a tough spot, having to gather whatever weapons they can whip up on the fly, then try to find a means of escape and uncover the virus' origins.
Exactly how does Day of the Dead go so spectacularly wrong? Let's start with how it measures up to the original -- or, as is the case here, how it almost staunchly refuses to do so. It's not a big deal if a remake doesn't duplicate its predecessor to the letter; 2001's Ocean's Eleven survived just fine having formed the loosest of connections to the Rat Pack version. But it's different for something like Day of the Dead, which bases itself on the work of a man renowned for having virtually invented the modern zombie movie and proceeds to do next to no justice to his original vision. It's like having a five-year-old try to sculpt the Venus de Milo out of used chewing gum. Romero's Day of the Dead was a flawed film that nevertheless had stirring moments of satire which became a trademark to his zombie flicks. The new Day of the Dead, directed by Steve Miner (who successfully brought Michael Myers back to the big screen in Halloween: H20), borrows only a few character names plus the fact that there are zombies, thereby eliminating what made Romero's picture unique and rendering it practically no different than any other zombe movie.
Speaking of zombies, I'm not sure the ghouls inhabiting Day of the Dead even qualify as zombies. Sure, they look appropriately ghastly and snack on some poor sucker's innards, but they're not technically undead, having more in common with the disease-riddled creatures that 28 Days Later and I Am Legend unleashed. I'd comment on how this represents another step in the evolution of the modern zombie, but that would mean the film had brains enough to mull over such matters. Unfortunately, this movie simply doesn't know what it's doing. How else do you explain why the zombies bark hilariously, run like they just soiled themselves, crawl on the ceiling, and leap through the air like the world is their own private Chuck E. Cheese? As for the unlucky actors wrangled into this train wreck, Suvari passes through with a bearably mediocre performance, Cannon turns in a few cringe-worthy moments as the obligatory comic relief, and Ving Rhames...well, let's just say that he gets stuck with barking duties later on in the film.
At the end of it all, however, Day of the Dead emerges as one of those movies just bad enough to provide you with a good time making fun of it. Romero fanboys will be ticked off beyond belief, but anyone who loves to pretend they're on "Mystery Science Theater 3000" will have a ball with this Z-grade stinker.
MY RATING: * 1/2 (out of ****)
(Released by First Look Pictures and rated "R" for strong pervadive horror violence and gore, and language.)