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Monday, October 1, 2018

Day of the Dead: Bloodlines (2017)

Another Day of the Dead remake? Why? I’ve already reviewed one of them for the blog and now I have to watch and review another? Why do they keep doing this? More importantly why do I keep watching them? Well I suppose it could turn out to be good like the Night of the Living Dead remake… But you damn well know that it won’t!

Pay close attention because the timeline will jump around a bit here. Shit has gone bad as the movie opens to zombies tearing people apart all while we watch a young lady with her shirt ripped open running away from them. We find out later that this will be our main character Zoe. The movie then moves us to a few hours earlier before the outbreak. She is a medical student that is an overachiever of sorts. We know this because she is doing extra lab work that includes drawing blood from a super creepy stalker who has an immune system that is kicked into overdrive. I’m sure that will play into things later. Anyhow he tries to rape her, thus the torn shirt, and is killed by a zombie. So that catches us up to her running down the street.

Five years later, yes yet another jump in time, Zoe is the doctor taking care of a small group of survivors. There is a little girl sick with a highly contagious ailment, so they have to go back to the hospital she worked at for a supply run. The creepy stalker dude, Max, is still there only now he is a zombie. But his super blood has allowed him to retain some of his intelligence and all of his creepy vibe. He catches a ride back with them and sneaks his way onto the base. After some stalking he ends up chained to a wall because Zoe thinks he can be the source of an immunization to the zombie virus. If they can succeed it won’t be “one bite one bullet” anymore. Of course, there is a pissed off military guy running the “monkey farm” who doesn’t like this one bit. Also, Max gets loose and zombies get into the facility mucking things up.

I have this internal debate when I’m reviewing a remake and I always come to the same conclusion. Do I judge the movie and let it succeed or fail on its own? Or do I allow myself to compare it to the original using the classic as the benchmark for success? I always end up looking down at the cover of the DVD and see not only the title but in the case of this movie the tagline, “A Bold New Reimagining of the George A. Romero Classic.” Okay movie your funeral.

The original Day of the Dead has an increasingly desperate group of survivors that end up turning on each other and causing their own demise. Ironically the character of Bub is more human than many, if not most, of the non-zombie characters in the movie. This is the interesting look at humanity or society that we tended to get in a Romero directed and written movie. It is more than just zombies munching down on the locals.

Aw zombie kisses... Screw you movie!
In this “bold” reimagining the filmmakers decide to do some odd things. First while the military leader of the base is an ass he isn’t crazy nor dangerous. He gets pissed off when people risk the lives of those that he is supposed to protect, which seems reasonable. The only person he shoots is infected with his justification being again he needs to protect the civilians in the base. Then we have the zombie that instead of being childlike and remembering his life is transformed into a stalker who still wants to possess Zoe. Not only is there no conflict, but there isn’t that outsider to reflect back towards the human characters how inhuman they have become. We get none of the social commentary that makes Romero’s Day of the Dead special.

I realize that for many the stellar special effects of Tom Savini is what made the original Day of the Dead special. Here I can be a bit kinder to Bloodlines. We do get quite a few effects with latex and other old school techniques. Throats are ripped out and there is a bit of guts on set getting munched. Nothing close to Savini’s work, but for a new movie it was okay. Still we do get CGI blood which is such a lazy thing to do. Is it that expensive to toss some of the red stuff out of a bucket? Ugh and there is even a zombie rat. Seriously either cut the scene or get a rat that is trained to run from point A to point B. The zombie design is decent, with our main dead fella Max looking creepy as hell. Though at times he does look like the joker with an oversized mouth that appears to be in a perpetual grimace. But that is what people dig these days, so I’ll cut them some slack.

Look kids the Joker... I mean Max the zombie stalker.
Some other observations I’d like to make involve the plot or rather plot holes. When Max first shows up he is caught after biting a couple of people. But somehow the zombies don’t show up in the small base until it is convenient for the plot. Also, the stealth zombies that tend to leap out from areas that they shouldn’t have reached yet are odd. Doors open, and the zombies enter the base thru an enclosed area, so how did they get behind them? I went back and watched the sequence twice just to make sure. Finally, this is more of a pet peeve, but the movie has an unlikely happy ending. We see the civilians get overrun by zombies, but then at the end the kids are playing in a field. And does not turning into a zombie when you get scratched really help when most of the planet is covered in undead that want to completely kill and consume you? So maybe you don’t turn, but you are still on the menu!

I’m going to be one hundred percent honest here. If this were Hospital Creeper Zombie Max the movie I’d probably be okay with it. It isn’t a great movie, but they did some good kills and the zombie design is decent. But they chose to call this Day of the Dead and then doubled down with the God Damn tagline. You invoke Romero’s name and you had better bring your “A” game. It isn’t my fault that I’m comparing this movie to the original. Day of the Dead: Bloodlines isn’t a very good movie and has no business using the title or mentioning Romero’s name in the tagline. Ignore this lame attempt to cash in and go watch the original Day of the Dead instead!

© Copyright 2018 John Shatzer

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