DVD Review HTF Review: Day Of The Dead

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Michael Osadciw, Oct 12, 2003.

  1. Michael Osadciw

    Michael Osadciw Screenwriter

    Jun 24, 2003
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    Michael Osadciw

    Day of the Dead

    Studio: Anchor Bay
    Year: 1985
    Rated: R
    Film Length: 101min.
    Aspect Ratio: 16X9 Enhanced Widescreen (1.85:1)
    Subtitles: none

    Release Date: August 19, 2003

    If you haven’t gone out to buy Anchor Bay’s Day of the Dead 2-disc special edition DVD yet – do it! With the success and popularity of both Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead (both very different films and fan base), Day of the Dead was one of the most eagerly awaited horror movies of the 1980s that came to the big screen and was greeted with a phenomenal opening weekend by fans and others looking for a night of blood, guts, and well, more guts. In August, Anchor Bay has done everyone a favour again and released a great title with respect to its presentation. While both critics and fans were mixed on how they thought about the film, it does satisfy the close the Dead series.

    The story is pretty basic: a remaining group of people live in an underground missile silo/science lab to avoid the rampaging zombies that eat human flesh. Sometimes these people, who are mainly loud and obnoxious soldiers (and one female {Lori Cardille} – to make lots of babies?) go beyond their fenced-in borders by helicopter to search for other survivors and they are unsuccessful of course – the zombies already ate through most of the city.

    Inside the compound two scientists seek to understand why the zombies do what they do by experimenting on zombies the soldiers are able to round up like cattle. They think that if they can find out answers, they will be able to tame the walking dead not to eat the people alive…to live with them…to tolerate them…that is one ambitious projects that may take days, months, or years…do they have the time to find out the answers? Or do they believe they are taking the right path? Or will the group turn on itself because of the desperate situation they are in?

    I am a fan of gore…yes I like to see blood spilled and guts all over the floor. So I felt I was in for a treat with this film. When I first popped the movie-only disc in my player I expected to see some gore right off the bat. We are treated with some dead people lying around in the streets and some zombies walking. As our protagonists take a quick flight back to their underground liar we are aware of the danger that exists. The catcher is that the viewer has to sit through about 45 minutes of constant arguments and expletives between the few underground human survivors before any real gore starts happening. But when the gore is on screen it is stunning and realistic – much thanks to the groundbreaking effects by Tom Savini. I sat there wondering “how they hell did they do that??!!” because the effects were so good! It will sure please all fans of gore.

    The story though, was a lot less stunning and was slower than it should have been. I know there were many re-writes of this film and I’d love to read the original vision and how different it is from the final version (the original first draft of the screenplay is accessible via DVD-ROM feature in .PDF on this disc and I have yet to read through it, but will make it a bedtime reading adventure soon). Thus I felt the first half of the film was a little weak. I concluded that some characters’ personalities would be rather unlikely in reality and were more the result of poor character development in the writing of the screenplay (and a little bad acting) that it became rather irritating to me as I watched what was happening on screen.

    I found that the most interesting aspect of this picture is the relationship between Dr. Logan (Richard Liberty) and “Bub”, one of the scientist’s zombie experiment patients. During Night of the Living Dead and with Dawn of the Dead, the zombies are portrayed as ruthless killers eating live flesh until there is none left to eat – traditional and pure horror! Yum. Day of the Dead adds a new dimension to the ‘resurrected’ – a personality. Watching the interaction between Dr. Logan and Bub may lead you to sympathise with the zombie. Do the zombies have feelings? Can they be conditioned and controlled? Do we want to sympathise with them, condition them and control them? Heck, if I were one of those people I wouldn’t have the balls to do that. In retrospect, to me that is like playing with an unpredictable ‘tamed’ tiger that seems friendly one moment and then dragging you off by the neck the next. Although it is an interesting concept that may be these people’s only chance of survival if they were to continue to live where they are and re-instate society somehow…someday.


    The 1.85:1 widescreen enhanced picture is free from distracting noise and presents a pleasing image. Outdoor scenes have brilliant contrast, and so do some interior scenes that make up the majority of the film. In the darker areas of the picture, the image can be plugged up and lacking definition of distant objects, people, and zombies. Colours are muted throughout the length of the film that probably has to do with the type of film used at the time. Film grain and artefacts can be noticed on occasion but will not distract from the viewing experience. While definitely not one of the most vibrant looking ‘80s films I’ve seen, this transfer - using the Anchor Bay DIVIMAX HD process, gives the image a polished look that probably looks better now than it did in 1985.


    There are three audio options available – a Dolby 2.0 Surround version and a re-purposing effort encoded in both Dolby Digital 5.1 EX and DTS-ES 6.1 Discrete. The multi-channel rendition of the original audio is satisfactory at best. The opening sequence caught my attention because the use of all channels heightened the suspense on screen. Aside from that scene I was disappointed in the re-purposing of this soundtrack because I felt there was more potential for the sound to enhance the viewing experience. Very little multi-channel spread was offered when the film needed it. Most sounds emanated from the centre-channel with little to no support from the front or three rear channels for space integration. The music score (and a very ‘80s sounding one it is!) is the only thing that seems to benefit as it gets stereo treatment.

    The quality of the audio is bright and hard sounding that made it uncomfortable to listen to at louder levels. Dialogue and music is thin and treble-aggressive, and most sound effects are dated. Bass can be heard at times, but this is more of a midrange-to-treble biased recording. I guess engaging a re-equalization feature might benefit one’s ears from bleeding, but I chose to listen to the soundtrack in a ‘source direct’ mode that bypasses any post-processing. I do that will all films I listen to so I can hear it as unaltered as possible and have my component’s resolution being the only real limitation to my experience. The differences between the Dolby Digital and DTS soundtracks were small, with DTS providing a subtle improvement in spaciousness.


    There are many features that populate this DVD that require a few hours of dedication to plough through. Most of the Day of the Dead special features gets a disc of its own and aims to satisfy all of its fans.

    On the film’s disc there is audio commentary with writer/director George A. Romero, special make-up effects artist Tom Savini, production designer Cletus Anderson, and actress Lori Cardille. A second commentary track features filmmaker Roger Avary. On disc two, the first feature The Many Days of the Dead (38m40s) is presented in enhanced-widescreen 1.78:1 and Dolby Digital 2.0. If you are new to the film (like I was), make sure you watch the film first because this feature is full of spoilers (I did watch the film first). It documents how the film was started as a big idea to the end result and because of the big budget granted to them (for a horror film) Romero was to avoid an unrated film because (as we know) theatres just won’t play films unrated. An interesting piece of information learned was that rating systems are voluntarily followed by both film studios and theatres…there is no mandatory rule that one must follow during release. Thus Romero had to cut the film down, in script – and because of other meddling fingers, it was really cut down more and more…such a shame…

    The next feature is in 4:3 and 2.0 and titled Day of the Dead: Behind the Scenes (30m.50s), much of it showing the painful job of an extra having latex put on and removed…but very inspiring for a Hallowe’en project of mine.

    The underground tunnels used in this movie were filmed in storage centres of Gateway Commerce Center, and we are treated to their Promo Video (8m12s) if you’d like to sit through the video and think you are in a boardroom watching a VHS advertisement mailed to your company. Apparently Hollywood stores some of their archives in one of these centres amongst other important documents and goodies people would love to get their hands on.

    Other special features include an audio interview with Richard Liberty. This is an older interview conducted in 2000. Three T.V. Spots are also presented in their original mono sound and 4:3 ratio (and nicely presented in enhanced widescreen). The production stills also follow suit (and seem to use an in-player widescreen mode). These production stills cover Behind the Scenes (Parts 1 & 2), Poster and Advertising, Memorabilia, Zombie Make-Up,and Continuity Stills. I don’t know exactly how many stills there are, but there are enough to make you become a zombie in front of your television for the length of time you will be there stepping through them.

    Lastly there is a George A. Romero Bio and the DVD-ROM feature of the screenplay in its first draft (in .PDF). I can’t wait to pop that in my laptop! Additional features such as interviews and production notes are also available in DVD-ROM as well as a website link and a 16-page Collector’s Booklet that I found rather entertaining.

    Despite the challenges Romero had to bringing this well-anticipated film to the big screen, it does provide a satisfactory close to the ‘Dead’ trilogy. Anchor Bay has done a terrific job at restoring this film to DVD, and while its multi-channel mix didn’t quite live up to my expectations, I appreciated the work that was done over the original stereo soundtrack. I know there has been some discussion regarding audio dubs over other dialogue. Since I don’t know this film as well as die-hard fans, I couldn’t tell where the so-called ‘incorrect’ dialogue was thus it never detracted from my enjoyment of this film. If the voice overs were recorded they were for a reason. Which version is correct is up for grabs but in no way should this prevent you from purchasing and enjoying this excellent DVD release. All in all, I am happy with this release and the extra features (not to mention the really cool foldout case!). So pick a day to pick up the dead!

    Michael Osadciw
  2. Lyle_JP

    Lyle_JP Screenwriter

    Oct 5, 2000
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    Am I the only one who thinks that the DTS track on this disc is just slightly out of sync? Shades of "Die Another Day" here. I wonder if a couple of faulty DTS encoders went out to some of the authoring houses.

    -Lyle J.P.
  3. Christ Reynolds

    Christ Reynolds Producer

    May 6, 2002
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  4. Chris Tedesco

    Chris Tedesco Second Unit

    Aug 26, 2002
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    I think I need this one in my collection

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