Day of the Dead – 1985

Tropical Storm Irene ate both my access to electricity and any hope of internet service, so instead of one of the other reviews I was working on, you get another zombie movie. Sorry about that.

Please note: This review contains a great deal of vulgarity and occasional bad language.

Day of the Dead was released in 1985, seven years after Dawn of the Dead and seventeen years after Night of the Living Dead. It didn’t do very well in the theaters and, truthfully, it is not one of my favorite movies. Romero’s social commentary is a bit more heavy-handed than previously and while I thought about resurrecting the Bearded Bloke for my commentary, he would have been more to aid in the retention of my sense of humor than to illustrate the point.

It’s a very good zombie movie, but I feel it suffers when held up in comparison to the 1978 Dawn of the Dead. The review took a very long time because I had to keep walking away from the movie before I gave into temptation, reached through the screen and tried to slap some sense into most of the characters.

That having been said, on to the gore and the shambling!

We open in a cinder block room that is mostly notable for being white. Not just white, mind you, but ‘creepy-like-a-padded-cell-only-without-actual-padding’ white.

In this remarkably uninteresting and bunker-like room, there are only two items of interest. One is the person sort of folded over at one end, elbows on knees and head bowed, and the calendar opposite them. At least we’ll hope the calendar is relevant. If it’s not, that’s a lot of ominous music and camera angles wasted.

The folded over person unfolds, revealing herself to be our heroine. This time a darker blonde, but blonde all the same. Something of a theme here, methinks. It’s almost a light brown… maybe Land of the Dead will have a young lady with hair that’s actually almost brunette! But I digress.

With far too much eyeliner and a look of grim determination, she walks across the room to stare meaningfully at the calendar – which tells us that it’s October… or the end of October. She seems to lighten up a little as she stares at the pretty picture of some random person in a pumpkin patch. Smiling, she rests her fingers on the picture, and nostalgia reigns.

About three seconds later, countless arms rip through the whitewashed cinder blocks and grasp at her, sending her reeling backward… to wake up in a helicopter.

Tricky bastard, that George Romero. Plus he’s upped the stakes. This time we have undead at one minute and seven seconds. A tough record to beat.

Our Stoic Heroine is sharing this helicopter with a slightly unkempt man who appears to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder and is muttering into a handful of religious medallions and the radioman – who reminds me so strongly of Rowan Atkinson that we’re going to call him Not Mr. Bean. The fourth is the pilot, a somber looking man who has nothing yet to add.

To review: Our Stoic Heroine, PTSD Guy, Not Mr. Bean and Somber Dude.

They are flying over the Florida coast and apparently can’t get radio contact with anyone so they are going to land in the large city below them. I mean, it’s a zombie movie. Let’s land somewhere that’s sure to be crawling shambling with undead and then, get this, pull out a bullhorn and start shouting to attract their attention.

I’d think if there were any living people, the sound of the helicopter would alert them without any need for further shouting and carrying on.

Somber Dude isn’t terribly happy about landing his helicopter here and, sensibly, tells everyone that if they’re not onboard when he decides to leave, that’s just their tough luck. He sets down and Our Stoic Heroine and PTSD Guy go charging off down dramatically deserted streets, strewn about with dead palm fronds, random papers and abandoned cars as the opening credits roll.

Because we all know that heading deep into a dead city possibly infested with zombies is the smart thing to do. Perhaps their loud-hailer will protect them?

At least they’re armed.

While PTSD Guy shouts, “Hello, hello, is anyone there,” over and over, we are treated to a series of dramatic and creepy shots of the deserted city. Among them, a picked over corpse crawling with crabs, an alligator in a doorway, and a strategically placed newspaper with the headline, ‘The Dead Walk’!

Guys, it’s more of a shamble, really by this time – or a sort of impaired stagger. Trust me.

At four minutes and thirty seven seconds, we have our first actual zombie and it’s a real winner. Nose gone, lips and chin mostly peeled away, it really looks like someone tried to rip its face off and mostly succeeded. It’s the most gruesome thing that I think I’ve ever seen and I’m not exaggerating in the slightest. As half of its chin falls off, we are treated to the title in bold white letters.

After that, the zombies are everywhere, clawing their way out of movie theater ticket booths, nearly tripping over the alligator, and literally filling the streets as they shamble toward the sound. As they shamble ever closer, PTSD Guy bolts, leaving Stoic Heroine to grimly stare down the horde in a pointlessly melodramatic way. Back at the helicopter, Not Mr. Bean is still trying to get a response on the radio. Somber Dude informs him somberly (can I pick ’em or what?) to give it up. “It’s a dead place, just like all the others.”

We cut to the helicopter soaring into a beaten up little airfield with some scruffy soldier types in attendance on the ground. The airfield is surrounded by a wire fence which has, predictably, a group of zombies clinging to it and moaning piteously. The average IQ of these guys has dropped considerably since the first movie, if you judge by the crowd here. Anyone with even a rotted brain should be able to figure that if they all pressed against it at once, you might get a little pile of zombie spaghetti as a few were forced through the wire, but the combined weight should push it over. Or, as it’s only about 7-9 feet high, they could just go over the top. What’s a little barbed wire to a zombie? Not that there’s any obvious barbed wire in the shot.

The scruffy soldier fellas ask Somber Dude if the group found anything, and he responds (in the thickest accent outside the ‘Welcome to Jamaica, mon, have a nice day’ joke) that all they found was “A bunch of real estate for sale at close-out prices, man.”

Somber Dude and Stoic Heroine have an argument about whether or not to gas up the helicopter because the zombies can see them and Stoic Heroine doesn’t want them ‘riled up’. Somber Dude points out, with some asperity, that having a helicopter with no gas is a damn fool idea, but Stoic Heroine is firm. She doesn’t want to excite the zombies.

While that line cries out for exploitation, I’m just not going there.

By virtue of being loud and the heroine, she over-rules the very sensible suggestion of Somber Dude and tells them to come out and fuel up ‘after dark’ because then the zombies won’t see them. At the somewhat caustic reminder that the zombies already know that they’re in here and that more are arriving every day, she tells them to go shoot a few if the numbers keep going up.

Myself, I’d take a little of that fuel, make myself a Molotov cocktail and watch that tightly packed group of shamblers burn to ash.

But hey, I’m the sensible type – which is why you’ll never find me in one of these movies.

As the helicopter is secured, Stoic Heroine goes to soothe PTSD Guy in a very inept way, which he not only resents, he feels he has to rant about in a tired, deadened sort of way about how ‘strong’ Stoic Heroine is before stomping off in a way which argues that he’s going to snap at a crucial moment and bad, bad things will happen.

Ham-handed foreshadowing taken care of, we find that the scruffy soldiers and company live underground. As Stoic Heroine and Somber Dude move to join them at the entrance, we are treated to a view of a primitive burial ground and learn that the soldiers have been dying and that now there are only twelve of this group left.

This is a substantial upgrade in terms of primary cast members from the previous movies and, as I’ll be hard pressed to come up with clever nicknames for all the various characters, we’ll call the guys who met the helicopter Scruffy Soldiers 1 and 2. So we’ve already met half the cast and we’re about to go underground to see how they live. Tally ho.

Somber Dude lectures Stoic Heroine a bit and makes a strong case for flying away and finding a nice island to laze on the beach of while the rest of the world goes to hell. Sadly, Stoic Heroine is having none of it. It’s too bad, really. The previous two movies had heroes who acted as sensibly as possible. Stoic Heroine appears to be one of those horror movie heroines who has principles. Those are dangerous things to indulge in round these parts.

They meet Scruffy Soldier 3 at the bottom of the convenient freight-elevator which has automated doors that lie flush with the surface and, directly after, two more scruffy soldiers who I will call Thugs 1 and 2. They are zipping along in a little cart going out to pick up ‘two more’ and they want PTSD Guy to go along.

Stoic Heroine argues with them – something she does a great deal of, apparently. It turns out that PTSD Guy has been out for 24 hours and she wants them to take someone else. She’s informed bluntly that there is no one else. So, in an effort to protect PTSD Guy she pisses off Thugs 1 and 2 and tramples all over what’s left of PTSD Guy’s machismo and forces them to take her along as well.

I’m not sure if she was written as an antidote to the girl in Night of the Living Dead but, frankly, instead of coming off as strong and decisive, she comes off as an extremely pushy, interfering busybody. Everything she says is either an order or an accusation, which looks pretty strange as she orders all the soldiers around, despite not appearing to have any military status of her own.

At any rate, she and PTSD Guy pile on to the little cart and they all go careening down a long tunnel through what looks like the bottom levels of a parking garage/storage facility. It’s filled with boats and campers. Whooping and hollering, Thugs 1 and 2 eventually pull up to a barricade. Everyone is wearing stylish red miner’s helmets and is armed to the teeth as they approach the barricade which separates the tunnel from yet more tunnel.

Glancing at a clipboard mounted to the edge of the barricade, she finds something else to get upset about. Apparently the soldiers aren’t keeping track of the ‘ones’ they extract. Just as she really gets her impatience on with Thug 2, Thug 1 climbs up on the barricade and howls, attracting the zombies which are apparently infesting the tunnels.

It turns out that the zombies aren’t as eager to shamble over toward the promised food anymore and Thug 1 theorizes that they know what will happen when ‘Frankenstein’ gets his hands on them. It’s an appellation that I’ll keep for the character in question, as it fits. At any rate, Stoic Heroine gets all melodramatic, in a very 80s way, and proclaims darkly that this means that they’re learning. She even repeats it, just in case we didn’t fully appreciate the nuance and dark significance of her pronouncement the first time.

PTSD Guy skulks behind the barricade as Thug 1 and 2 get all vulgar and irritating and get into it with Stoic Heroine, who remains icy and angry and totally above it all. Thug 1 implies several times that Stoic Heroine is sleeping with PTSD Guy, which explains, to me at any rate, why he looks so defensive and miserable. She won’t let him get a word in edgeways and violently objects whenever he tries to do anything for himself.

Not exactly the way that most therapists recommend dealing with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder – or with relationships in general.

At any rate, PTSD Guy gets all jumpy and clumsy and Stoic Heroine leaps in to take over his job at the barricade. Thug 1 tells her off, starting with that she’s not strong enough for whatever it is that they’re doing, which she instantly takes offense at. She also talks over PTSD Guy as if he’s not even present. Remind me not to date her.

Apparently, Thug 1 and PTSD Guy will use poles to urge a zombie through an opening in the barricade and chain them up to collars around their necks and then cart them off to Frankenstein, who we still have not met. However, we aren’t allowed time to dwell on it, as PTSD guy drops the pole that they’re holding the zombie controlled by and stares off into space.

Thug 2 nearly gets chomped, by Stoic Heroine steps in and gets control of the zombie before handing it off to Thug 2. Thug 1 grabs PTSD Guy and shoves him backward over the edge of the barricade till he’s hanging just above the second zombie that’s still trapped in the barricade. As it claws upward at the back of PTSD Guy’s head and Thug 1 screams in PTSD Guy’s face about how he almost got Thug 2 killed.

Stoic Heroine, on the ground still, glares up at them and forcefully tells Thug 1 to let PTSD Guy go, although I doubt he could hear her over his own bellowing. So Stoic Heroine cocks her gun and tells him forcefully to let PTSD Guy go or, and I quote, “I’ll cut you in half.” This, despite the fact that her gun isn’t quite suited for that. Thug 1 throws PTSD Guy halfway across the room and snarls defiantly at Stoic Heroine.

Cut scene to Thugs 1 and 2 being verbally abusive to the two zombies as they chain them up to a wooden frame in a lab and bug out. Once alone, the zombies cower a bit. No explanation is given.

We find ourselves again in a whitewashed, cinder block room, although this one actually has more in it than our Stoic Heroine and a calendar. She’s setting up an injection for PTSD Guy, who grabs the hypodermic from her and hurls it across the room to smash against the wall.

That’s it, PTSD Guy! Do it for Nancy Regan!

Ah, and there’s the fatal calendar – so it wasn’t symbolic. At any rate, she goes back to put together another needle while PTSD Guy goes on about how she made him look like an asshole and a jerk in front of the thugs and, as she comes at him with a needle again, tells her to get away and slaps her… and then melts down, clinging to her and crying. She stabs him with the needle and leaves him to his misery.

She does look a bit sad when she leaves him all alone to pass out, but I’m afraid I feel little sympathy for her at this point.

Let me introduce you to the Earnest Scientist and the Asshole. The Earnest Scientist is arguing for more sanitary procedures and saying that the Major who died that morning promised him – only to be cut off by the Asshole with the customary, “I’m in command now” speech which has you hoping that he’s eaten by the next zombie down the pike.

At any rate, the Earnest Scientist is thwarted and is scowling darkly as Thug 1 plops down beside the Asshole, opening a can of beer and the Stoic Heroine stomps into the huge room they’re apparently using as a dining hall and across the giant stretch of empty space before the few, empty tables and the scattered personnel. Me? I would have put those tables about fifty yards closer to the door, but I suppose then we would have lost the dramatic impact of the shot.

As she arrives, the Asshole is telling the Earnest Scientist that he is going to expect results and the Earnest Scientist is shouting how that’s impossible under current working conditions. Stoic Heroine weighs right in, despite having just arrived for the last sentence, and tells the Asshole all about how impossible it is to do anything without proper working conditions.

‘Cause, you know, you can find ‘proper’ working conditions while cowering underground in what looks like a partially converted bunker with zombies in the garage and milling around above. Really.

“Can’t we just get along?” she concludes.

Asshole proves that he might have a point by angrily stating that he doesn’t really have a clue what the hell Frankenstein, the Earnest Scientist and Stoic Heroine are doing and what his men are risking their lives for.

Instead of offering an answer or something reasonable, which would make sense given her above comment, Stoic Heroine responds, “Well, maybe if there was more cooperation around here, your men wouldn’t have to risk their asses quite so often!”

Way to smooth over the troubled waters and foster that cooperation you were preaching earlier.

Thug 1 answers her comment by loudly cocking his rifle.

Stoic Heroine then launches directly into an order/plea for them to pull PTSD Guy off the active roster and is told that they can’t spare him and again with the snide comments about her sex-life and associations with PTSD Guy and it all deteriorates into a ‘who’s got the biggest dick’ contest between Asshole and Stoic Heroine.

It ends with Asshole throwing his weight around and Stoic Heroine prancing off, Earnest Scientist in tow. Again, Asshole has a bit of a point when he tells her off for drugging PTSD Guy without permission, although he’s more worried about his permission than that of PTSD Guy. A military man insisting on a point of protocol in a zombie flick. How novel.

The Stoic Heroine turns at the end of the loooong empty stretch of room and salutes him. “Yes, sir. Fuck you, sir!”

As a sympathetic character, this chick is a bust. Not that I hold any real affection for Asshole, either, but so far Somber Dude and Not Mr. Bean are holding steady as my two favorite characters. PTSD Guy and Earnest Scientist are clearly slated to be zombie chow, so there’s no point in getting attached, although the sneaking desire to buy a teddy bear for poor PTSD Guy persists.

Stoic Heroine’s credentials as an ass-kicking bitch having been firmly established, she stomps down the underground passageways (with more of that tasteful white cinder block look that’s so in vogue for underground military establishments) with Earnest Scientist still firmly in tow.

Earnest Scientist bitches about the Asshole and advises Stoic Heroine to watch her back, but she comes up all, “I can take care of myself.” Me, I want her to be eaten by the zombies, or at least be nicer to poor PTSD Guy. Stoic Heroine leaves him in the hallway, again preaching cooperation and tolerance. I’m tempted to rename her ‘Mood Swing Girl’ but we’ll stick with Stoic Heroine.

Venturing into Frankenstein’s lab, she observes the good doctor surrounded by gurneys with dissected zombies, muttering into a tape recorder. As she lurks in the shadowed corner, a zombie lunges at her out of nowhere!

She leaps away with a gasp that’s almost an undignified squeak, but not quite, only to realize that it’s actually chained to the wall by a collar. Let us pause here for a moment, shall we?

What in the name of all that’s holy can possibly be accomplished by chaining your star science experiment to a wall directly beside a door through which will walk colleagues that said experiment will regard as snacks? Well, unless you get a big kick out of watching people be eaten and/or have the living daylights frightened right out of them.

Frankenstein notices Stoic Heroine, finally, and gestures her over, burbling excitedly about how the brain is what drives the zombies and how they don’t need any blood flow or anything and just look at how he’s taken out all of this one’s vital organs, but when he dangles his hand right in front of its teeth, it still tries to eat him. Hee hee and whoopdy-doo!

We will pause here so that you can edge away from the good doctor, who is obviously a few cans short of a six pack… but so middle-aged and round and enthusiastic that you suspect if he weren’t doing this, he’d be running an ice cream shop someplace and slipping little kids free candy. It’s all very disturbing, frankly.

Then he adds to the fun and games by pointing out that the zombies are trying to eat things they can’t digest anyway because their stomachs don’t work and they’re all just going on instinct. Okay, my instincts never told ME to go around eating other people… and the zombies in this movie don’t seem interested in other wildlife – just humans.

We are then treated to a complete lecture on how the zombie ‘disease’ works, complete with wild gestures of blood-stained hands. We then get to look at his odd and gory experiments, where he’s taken everything off one zombies spinal column but the brain itself. As Frankenstein then goes on to burble cheerfully about how ‘they can be taught!’ to the background music of the moaning of his chained experiment by the door, Stoic Heroine breaks in to complain about the difficulty and complexities of these experiments and while the conclusions are nice and all… isn’t he supposed to be concentrating on something just a tad more practical?

… my opinion of her went up right then and there.

Stoic Heroine moves on to accuse him of wasting time proving theories that were old months ago and not following proper laboratory procedure anyway… until she discovers a dead one on the floor that Frankenstein had to put down because it was ‘unruly’, which temporarily derails her.

Not for long, however, and she moves on to lecture about how they’re losing the support of the few military men they have left and that he needs to show results.

… whose side is she on, anyway?

Frankenstein promises that she’ll get her results and, as she glances around the lab, her eyes light on a neatly folded uniform, complete with dog tags and bearing the name of the Major who died and was supposedly buried while they were away. Apparently the still twitching zombie with the exposed cerebral cortex and the surgical scissors left prodding at his brain stem was Major Cooper, once upon a time.

Launching into an impassioned speech about how he needed that particular corpse, Frankenstein looks even more basset-houndish, with sad, pleading eyes… disturbing, I tell you. Let’s go back to looking at the dismembered, twitching zombies. He finishes with the sad comment, “He’s doing more for us dead than he ever did alive.”

Stoic Heroine has a moment of apparent horror, staring at him and stating with appalled bewilderment, “B-but I saw the grave….”

Frankenstein tells her, with gentle benevolence, that what they actually buried was one of his experiments. This, to me, says that either some of the scruffy soldiers are in on it or he played musical caskets or shrouds or whatever. And just how did the Major turn into a zombie anyway, especially without anyone else noticing?

“Do you know what they’ll do to you if they find out? What they’ll do to all of us?”

Frankenstein blinks at her. “But they’ll never find out. It’s not as if he’s recognizable.”

At this vital moment of total miscommunication, the zombie who had his internal organs disconnected, breaks the restraint that holds him to the lab table and tries to sit up. In the process, he spills his vital organs everywhere and causes our Stoic Heroine to nearly lose her lunch. Frankenstein potters over with a little electric drill gadget that he promptly inserts into what looks to be a pre-drilled hole in the zombie’s head. The Experiment lurks by the door and looks unhappy, in a zombie-like way.

Let us trot back to the dining hall to look in on a meeting of our survivors, shall we?

We have three obvious groups. Asshole is sitting at a table arranged at one end of the room. At several tables to his right we have Thugs 1 and 2 and Soldiers 1-3. On his left, we have Stoic Heroine and the Earnest Scientist. Behind them and sort of excluded from the discussion, are Not Mr. Bean and Somber Dude.

Frankenstein and PTSD Guy are both absent – PTSD Guy because he’s drugged and Frankenstein because… well, probably because he has absent-minded professor syndrome and has spaced it all out in favor of teaching his Experiment to play mumblety-peg.

Not Mr. Bean is going on about being unable to contact anyone on the radio and an argument breaks out as to whether or not there’s anyone left out there. Thug 1, beer in hand, tells him to lay off the booze. More ‘my dick is bigger than yours’ stupidity breaks out and finally calms into a bitch fest which in turn is eventually is broken up by Stoic Heroine standing up and saying she’s got better things to do.

The ‘my dick is bigger than yours’ contest continues, only this time between Asshole and Stoic Heroine. He says that she hasn’t given him any information, she protests that she’s submitted the weekly reports and all, he comes back with a statement that makes him look like a total moron as he goes on about how her reports are incomprehensible, “…Full of Greek and equations and don’t mean a thing.”

Once again, things deteriorate into a discussion on Stoic Heroine’s sex life and an unfortunate comment by Thug 2 which implies that PTSD Guy is the only one here with a functioning dick – which I’m absolutely positive isn’t what the character or director meant to imply. Everything grinds to a halt in a chorus of male giggling.

Yes, giggling.

I think this movie was attempting to be edgy and shocking with these little asides. Mostly it manages to be coarse and trite. I’ve heard more cutting repartee and sexual jibes on elementary school playgrounds.

Stoic Heroine starts to stalk off and Asshole tells her to sit down or he’ll have her shot. This leads to another, rather more tense game of ‘my dick is better than yours’ and some very bad dialogue. Asshole orders Thug 1 to shoot Stoic Heroine, which occasions more male giggling, till Asshole draws on Thug 1 and snarls at him to shoot her.

Thug 1 looks shocked, and everyone goes for their guns. Somber Guy tells her to sit down and shut up before all hell breaks loose, and Asshole tells Thug 1 he has till a five count, or he’ll shoot Thug 1. As things get tenser, Stoic Heroine goes back to her seat and Asshole totally lives up to his name.

… complete with a lecture on how “This is war!”

As Asshole goes on about how the military has lost five men to the scientist’s one and yet another argument breaks out as to whether this is a military operation or not (despite the fact that one side is more heavily armed), as Frankenstein arrives, jovially lecturing as he walks across that huuuuuge empty space at one end of the make-shift dining hall.

I swear, it was left there just so people could make dramatic declamations as they walked and not run out of room before they were finished with their soliloquy.

Asshole then goes on to bitch out Frankenstein and throws a temper-tantrum worthy of your average four year old, save for the vulgarity – complete with yet another chorus of deranged male giggling from the soldiers.

Frankenstein is calm and perky in the face of further giggling and vulgarity as the resemblance to a elementary school playground increases with every minute. His theory is that they should be able to control the zombies instead of having to kill them. I’m thinking it’d take a big bag of zombie treats and a lot more than a rolled-up newspaper to get an army of shambling undead in line.

Asshole loses his shit over the revelation that, not only does Not Mr. Bean have outdated radio gear, the scientists apparently are also working with old equipment. Stoic Heroine attempts to point out that the entire operation was put together in a matter of days, and he talks right over her with yet more threats.

I’m starting to feel sympathy for Stoic Heroine. If this is the sort of shit she’s had to put up with whenever she’s not surrounded by shambling undead, no wonder she’s a bit of a bitch. Myself, I’m seriously surprised no one’s put a bullet in Asshole for drawing on his own men.

Asshole keeps going on about shutting things down and leaving, and Frankenstein keeps pointing out, “Where are you going to go?”

Stoic Heroine goes on at some length about how there MUST still be people in DC, because they have more sophisticated shelters there and that, with no radio contact, surely someone will come looking.

We will pause to shake our heads at her delightful naivete.

Asshole finally agrees to give them more time, but won’t tell them how long, and also states loudly that if anyone tries to “fuck with my command”, he’ll court-martial them and execute them. Which rather amuses me, as he’s just suborned a civilian project and it’s hard to court-martial civilians, not to mention execute them for going against orders he’s not supposed to be giving.

Then again, he has more guns than they do.

After the meeting, Stoic Heroine is feeling all cocky, because she’s sure Asshole isn’t ‘inhuman’ enough to shoot them. Somber Dude points out softly and casually that Asshole won’t shoot Not Mr. Bean, because no one else knows how to use the antiquated radio. He won’t shoot Somber Dude, because he’s the only pilot. He won’t shoot Frankenstein, because he’s the brains of the outfit… but that Earnest Scientist and Stoic Heroine are disposable.

As Somber Dude and Not Mr. Bean wander off, she responds somewhat tartly that maybe if they all cooperated, none of this would be happening!

I’m seriously thinking she has ‘Zombie Movie’ confused with ‘Episode of Sesame Street’.

Back in the stylish, white cinderblock room, Stoic Heroine watches PTSD Guy sleep. He opens his eyes, turns over, reaches for her… and his guts fall out allll over the place. She screams and wakes up to find him sitting on the cot where she left him to pass out, curled up against the corner of the wall, playing with his religious medallions again.

“You are afraid, aren’t you – just as afraid as I am. Why don’t you take a sedative, Sarah, so you can sleep? You’re full of shit, Sarah, you know that? You’re really full of shit. I’m through with you.”

Kudos to PTSD Guy for objecting to the way she’s been treating him by pointing out the unmitigated hypocrisy of it all.

So her response is to totally lose her temper and throw him out. Out he goes, and she slams the door behind him in a fit of temper strangely reminiscent of the Asshole. Grabbing her own gun, she stops off down the corridors herself, stopping to grab something from a wall-mounted first aid kit and taking it.

The noise of growling and thrashing attracts her attention as she passes the lab, but she lets it go and goes on to nearly be bowled over by some of the soldiers coming flying out of a door where they proceed to fall over on the floor and knock up against the wall and beat on each other for no readily apparent reason. Not Mr. Bean happens to be passing, having apparently been out and about to refill his hip flask, and he drags her out of the way and, once they’re out of range, offers her a drink.

After an initial protest, she slugs it down and wanders off with him. They grab a pair of stylish mining helmets and venture away from cinder-block land into the rock tunnels to a trailer labeled ‘The Ritz’. Not Mr. Bean remarks that they don’t get many visitors out here, and that they like it that way. As she glances around a place with cute little signs and dried flower arrangements, a gun rack and candles, smiling in disbelief, he shows her ‘out the back’. There’s a lovely little patio with a huge backdrop of a faux beach, complete with pink lawn flamingos in the background, and Somber Dude is lounging, literally, with a book.

Somber Dude, who actually is quite chipper in a zen sort of way, talks to Stoic Heroine about the bunker that they’re hiding in. He gently mocks all the information stored here, comparing it to the epitaph that no one will ever read in the fourteen mile long tombstone they’re hiding beneath. He asks what she’s going to do with all the information she and Frankenstein are accumulating other than leave it here with the rest of the ‘relics of what once was’

“What you’re doing is a waste of time, Sarah, and time is all we got left.”

To the tune of the occasional mournful howl of the restless dead, he makes an emotional pitch for them to fly somewhere else, start over, raise a few children and teach them never, ever to come back here looking for this well-buried garbage.

“You want to put some explanation down here before you leave? Here’s one as good as any you’re going to find. We’ve been punished by the creator. He visited a curse on us, so we might get a look at what hell was like.”

It’s a beautifully dramatic little speech and does not translate well to text.

We’ll leave them there, in thoughtful silence, and saunter back to Frankenstein’s lab.

Stoic Heroine is trying to draw little notes on a cross-section of brain and play with machines and experiments. Having thus established her scientific credentials, she gives it up and goes trotting off down the hallway to the medicine cabinet in order to self-medicate. We don’t get to see what she’s taking but as I doubt the first aid kits in a fourteen-mile bunker stock valium in the amounts she’d need to get through the day, we’ll charitably assume that it’s aspirin.

Her attention is attracted by Earnest Scientist swearing and carrying on because a captive zombie that he’s got chained to the wall of his lab won’t eat the canned ‘Beef Treats’ that he’s trying to feed it.

Frankenstein arrives and begins a disturbing dissertation on how the zombies are ‘just like us’. “They can be tricked into being good little girls and boys,” his own voice dropping a bit, “just as we were tricked into it.” Talking about rewarding good behavior and sternly chiding the zombie for not being nice and letting it sit in the dark to think about what it’s done (and I’m not kidding) Frankenstein leads Stoic Heroine and Earnest Scientist to his own lab where he still has Experiment chained to the wall.

They view Experiment through one-way glass as Frankenstein confides to them that he calls it “Bub. That’s what they used to call my father.”

I’ll pause here so y’all can go ‘ewwwww’. That is, by far, the most psychologically creepy thing about this entire movie. Frankenstein has named his dead experiment, undead experiment, after his dear old dad – who he then rambles about a bit, just to make it more disturbing. *twitch*

As Stoic Heroine and Earnest Scientist watch from behind the glass, Frankenstein gives Experiment a razor and a toothbrush and a copy of Salem’s Lot. Experiment throws the toothbrush, but starts to play with the razor, looking at his reflection in the mirror he tries to shave himself a bit. He discards the razor, and reaches for the book – which to me would just be ASKING for trouble.

Let’s teach the zombies about sneaking around and mass murder, shall we?

Experiment picks up the book and manages to open it, flipping through the pages as Frankenstein dances back into the lab to congratulate him.

Earnest Scientist is not impressed, citing other things he’s seen zombies do. Stoic Heroine points out that it’s not the parlor tricks that are important, but the fact that the zombie doesn’t seem to want to eat Frankenstein.

As they’re giggling in a macabre fashion over this, who should come stomping in, but Asshole and Thug 1. Asshole produces a melodramatic look of mingled horror and huffiness and asks, somewhat rhetorically, just what Frankenstein is doing.

He’s keeping a zombie chained to a wall and crooning soothingly to it. What does it look like he’s doing?

Asshole marches in with a gun in hand, and Frankenstein rather jovially invites them all in. Experiment is still playing with Salem’s Lot, so Frankenstein offers him a telephone. Frankenstein gets him to repeat a simple phrase and the Asshole drops something. Attention bought by the noise, Experiment looks at him… and draws himself to attention with a sharp salute.

Frankenstein encourages Asshole to return the salute, so that they can see Experiment’s reaction. Asshole reverts to type, complete with grade-school level insults, much to the amusement of Thug 1. Frankenstein’s response to this is worth noting, “Your ignorance is exceeded only by your charm, Captain.”

The Experiment gets its salute returned by Frankenstein in the end, and the crazed doctor gets an empty firearm and gives it to Experiment… who promptly cocks it and points it at Asshole. Hey, even the zombie knows who really needs to die. It gets even better as Experiment stares at the gun in puzzlement and disgust as it doesn’t actually go off, turning it to look for the magazine, which is missing.

Asshole moves to shoot Experiment, but Frankenstein gets in the way.

Let me note right now that the ominous drum rolls and occasional loud crescendos make it very hard to take some of the melodrama seriously. Adding the potty mouths of the soldiers (whose vulgarity is more boring than edgy) and you really have a recipe for disaster.

Asshole rounds everyone up for a fast round of ‘screaming at the underlings’. Frankenstein begins calmly and coherently explaining his view, but starts twitching and looking a bit wild about the eyes there near the end.

We don’t get to find out what conclusion is drawn, but the next scene is the soldiers at the barricades with Stoic Heroine, catching more zombies. PTSD Guy is there and doing his damndest, but he just should’ve stayed in bed. The collar on the zombie he is trying to control breaks and it lunges to tear a chunk out of the nearest soldier’s throat. Soldier 1’s gun goes off as he writhes and dies and tears Soldier 2 in half.

… and then there were ten….

Stoic Heroine draws her sidearm and blows the zombie’s head off. Unfortunately, they had a second zombie… which is also now loose. PTSD Guy loses his shit, screaming how he didn’t do it and taking his zombie controlling pole beating the loose zombie around the head and shoulders with it. The zombie, despite being dead, still has better control than PTSD Guy, and takes a chunk out of PTSD Guy’s arm. Thug 1 leaps off the barricade and kills the zombie, freeing PTSD Guy to run off down the tunnels with Stoic Heroine in hot pursuit.

… and then there were nine…

Because we allll know what happens to people who get bitten by zombies.

Back at the barricade, the Soldier 1 is raving, somewhat hoarsely, about how he doesn’t wanna be a zombie and begging Thug 1 to shoot him. Looking actually broken up about it, Thug 1 does so, proving that he might be a human being under there after all.

But don’t count on it.

The manic screaming of PTSD Guy precedes him as he goes racing toward the trailer shared by Somber Dude and Not Mr. Bean, Stoic Heroine in hot pursuit. Somber Dude goes racing out and tackles him and Stoic Heroine beats PTSD Guy over the head with a rock until he falls over. Yanking out a machete (from whence, there is no clear indication) she proceeds to somewhat ineptly chop/saw PTSD Guy’s arm off. Somber Dude gets a tourniquet and Not Mr. Bean helps her start a torch and they proceed to cauterize his arm.

Unfortunately, PTSD Guy wakes up about halfway through the cauterization and starts screaming again, understandably.

Thug 1 arrives, heavily armed, as Somber Dude and Not Mr. Bean lunge for their trailer and their own weapons. Stoic Heroine, looking about as sane as you might expect with a possibly zombie-infected ex-lover lying behind her in a pool of his own blood and smelling of charred flesh, brandishes her torch and stands bravely between Thug 1 and PTSD Guy.

Thug 1 is followed closely by Asshole and Thug 2.

Thug 1 loses his shit about Stoic Heroine protecting PTSD Guy instead of just shooting him. He goes on raving for a bit, blaming the debacle at the barricade on PTSD Guy. Which really isn’t fair, but hey, he just shot a comrade in the head himself, so he’s allowed to be a bit on edge. Stoic Heroine says that she thinks she got the arm chopped off in time, but the wild-eyed look and borderline raving on her part really argues against anyone trusting her to off PTSD Guy if he starts to go zombie, despite her promises to do so.

Weapons are drawn on both sides and the stand-off commences. Things remain tense and vulgar and racial epithet-laden and more than a little unhinged. Somber Dude offers to shelter PTSD Guy until they know whether or not he’s a zombie. Asshole agrees to that, but tells them that they get no more supplies from the military guys and that he’s taking his men and slaughtering all the captive zombies. Thug 1 has to be dragged away, making threats.

Somber Dude looks a bit uncertain as to whether he’s made the right decision and cautiously disarms Stoic Heroine as she freaks out. I am definitely in sympathy with her by this time. Somber Dude holds her as she finally melts down.

Not Mr. Bean and Stoic Heroine decide to go back into the main complex to find morphine for PTSD Guy, and Stoic Heroine apologizes to both men for calling them names earlier for not doing enough and all is warm fuzzies over the twitching, glassy-eyed PTSD Guy. Stoic Heroine assures Somber Dude that they’ll be back in half an hour, but Somber Dude obviously doesn’t believe it and tells them that they have half an hour before he comes after them. When he says it, you believe it.

Not Mr. Bean and Stoic Heroine invade Frankenstein’s chamber of horrors (so to speak) and poke around. They find a tape recorder that consists mostly of Frankenstein ranting disturbingly and crooning to Experiment. As if that’s not enough, to the tune of the ranting, they discover Soldier 2’s head, wired up and alive. Stoic Heroine freaks again and smashes the recorder, moving to blow a hole in Soldier 2’s head. Not Mr. Bean stops her, pointing out that they don’t want to attract the soldiers.

A very sensible suggestion is made by Not Mr. Bean that they should pinch the helicopter and run before someone else does.

As they head down the corridors, sneaking back to the trailer, they hear a noise and take cover. Who is it but Frankenstein, with a bucket in one hand, puttering down to where he keeps Experiment.

This being a zombie movie, I’m sure we can all tell where this is headed.

Frankenstein burbles happily to Experiment, who is wearing headphones for some reason. Experiment is very calm, but as Frankenstein reaches to adjust his headphones, he grabs his bloodstained arm. He eventually lets go, and Frankenstein turns the tape recorder attached to the headphones on and Experiment grooves down a bit to the Halleluiah chorus.

With much gesturing and demonstration, Frankenstein teaches Experiment how to turn the recorder on and off. Frankenstein has been rewarding Experiment for his good behavior by bringing him a bucket with bits of human in it for munchies.

Again with the seeing it coming bit.

Not Mr. Bean and Stoic Heroine freak out… and are discovered by Asshole and Thugs 1 and 2 as they watch through the one way glass. Asshole intercepts Frankenstein on his way out of the main lab and things get ugly.

He leads them to a cooler wherein there is the body of one of the soldiers. Whether it’s one of the previously dead ones or one that he killed is unclear. Asshole blows him in half. Attracted by the gunfire, Earnest Scientist arrives and is subdued. Asshole disarms everyone, raving.

That leaves us with eight survivors. (No, I’m not counting PTSD Guy, even if he does still have a pulse.)

Back at the trailer, Somber Dude notes that the half hour is up. He takes one last look at PTSD Guy, who seems calm if a bit glassy-eyed, and darts off to the rescue of Stoic Heroine and Not Mr. Bean. As he disappears, PTSD Guy pulls the cool cloth off his head and goes back to playing with his religious medallions.

As Somber Dude races through the tunnels, submachine gun in hand, he comes across the rest of the cast, the soldiers rather forcibly escorting their captives along. He steps forward, heroically, only to be informed by Asshole, who is holding a gun to Earnest Scientist’s head, that Frankenstein is dead and that the Earnest Scientist will die if Somber Dude doesn’t hand over his gun.

Asshole calls him Flyboy, which, in the context of the last movie, amuses me greatly.

The deal is that Somber Dude will fly out Asshole and his soldiers. Somber Dude informs Asshole that he’ll never do that, and Asshole blows Earnest Scientist’s head off.

Stoic Heroine completely loses her shit and has to be dragged, kicking and screaming, down the tunnel. She and Not Mr. Bean are crammed into the little holding pen in the barricade while the soldiers call for the zombies. Somber Dude tells Asshole that if he’ll let them go, Somber Dude will do whatever he wants. There is much dignified pleading.

Asshole opens the gate anyway.

Somber Dude tells him that, if he carries through, Somber Dude won’t fly. Asshole just cocks his gun and throws his manly weight around, or tries to. Frankly, even with tears in his eyes, begging, Somber Dude has about fifty times the dignity and presence of that loser. Asshole has obviously joined the unlamented Frankenstein in the ranks of those who are obviously a few sandwiches short of a picnic.

Meanwhile, backs against the barricade, faced by a tunnel full of zombies, Stoic Heroine pulls herself together as Not Mr. Bean takes a healthy swig from his hip flask and the two of them try to think of a way out.

Somber Dude looks for a moment as if he’s about to obey Asshole’s order, and lunges for Soldier 3’s rifle. Note to the viewing audience: Standing within a foot or two of someone you’re trying to order around with a rifle is a really, really dumb idea. As they wrestle for the weapon, Asshole shouts, “Don’t shoot him! We need his ass!”

I will leave you to ponder why they’d need his ass, as he certainly can’t fly the helicopter with it, and move along.

Soldier 3 gets his sidearm out at last and goes down anyway. Somber Dude is eventually held at bay and Asshole tells Thug 1 to mess Somber Dude up a bit to teach him a lesson. Thug 1 is delighted to oblige and there are further racial epithets and violence.

As the soldiers are thus distracted, Not Mr. Bean sneaks his hand up and drags a piece of lumber out of the barricade. Brandishing his 2×4, he thwacks the zombies as he and Stoic Heroine make a break for it. Asshole shouts demeaning, third-grade insults after them as Thug 1 goes after Somber Dude. The following bit of abuse is not only badly done, it’s idiotic. You don’t use head shots on someone you want to be together enough to fly a plane.

Then again, I don’t think that Asshole or either of his two Thugs got where they are today by being deep thinkers.

Asshole tells Somber Dude that Stoic Heroine and Not Mr. Bean are gone and that he’s going to fly them out. Somber Dude is defiant and as things might have actually gotten ugly, a klaxon sounds. Apparently, someone is opening the door that leads down into the shelter. You know, the one by the helicopter, with the flat elevator and the flimsy fence and the horde of shambling undead, thirsting for human blood, etc?

Asshole and his Thugs panic and the Thugs go racing away, leaving Somber Dude slumped against a pile of old supplies with Asshole.

A change of scene shows us PTSD Guy, looking unwell and shambling a bit himself, standing on the platform elevator as it rises toward the surface. It’s not immediately obvious what he’s up to, but he’s not only suffering mentally and emotionally, he’s been spending far too much time kissing and mumbling to his religious medallions for my peace of mind.

As PTSD Guy rises out of sight, we will trot back through the underground tunnels to Frankenstein’s lab, where Experiment is also mumbling to himself and chewing on the chain that stretches between his collar and the wall. Fiddling around, he manages to unhook himself from the fairly basic bolt. Looking a little surprised, or as much as his undead face will allow, he stares at the chain.

Back to Not Mr. Bean and our Stoic Heroine, alone in the dark tunnels with the zombies and their mining helmets. Racing away, they come to a landslide and are stymied. As they decide to try to find a way around, they are attacked by zombies, lose their mining helmets and manage to arm themselves with a shovel.

As they free themselves and race down the darkened tunnels, we are left with the somewhat disturbing image of the head that Not Mr. Bean took the top half off of, upside down and blinking after them.

In the meantime, Somber Dude is still not having a good day. Beaten a bit, halfway on the ground, he looks up at Asshole, who is kicking at the downed Soldier 3 and telling him to get up. Somber Dude lunges and the Asshole apparently wasn’t paying attention to my earlier note. Somber Dude knocks him out and lingers for a moment, struggling with the thought of just blowing the man’s head off and looking over at the abandoned corpse of Earnest Scientist.

His intrinsic zen-like nature takes over, however, and he lets the bastard live.

Thug 1 and Thug 2 reach the elevator and panic. PTSD Guy has destroyed the low end controls and the Thugs have to deal with the realization that they are fucked.

Back at the barricade, Asshole and Soldier 3 regain consciousness at about the same time. Asshole fumbles for his weapons and realizes that Somber Dude and his zenness have a very mean streak.

Somber Dude is racing down the tunnels, calling for Stoic Heroine and Not Mr. Bean, who are looking for a way around the cave in when they hear him calling. Zombies to the right, zombies to the left, the echoes of gunshots… and Somber Dude absolutely kicks ass.

Above, PTSD Guy has walked up to the gate. He looks at the zombies for a minute, and then opens it. He staggers back to the doors and the elevator, crosses himself and, as the zombies close in, lies down, clutching the control to the elevator.

More racial epithets and third-grade insults below as Soldier 3 and Asshole catch up with Thugs 1 and 2. Asshole curses PTSD Guy for being a coward and running… when that’s exactly what he was in the middle of doing.

Above, the zombies feast on PTSD Guy, who finally can’t take it any more and triggers the elevator. Below, everyone stares upward as the klaxons sound again, and the elevator begins to drop.

Oh, look! The flat-platform elevator is absolutely crammed with as many zombies as PTSD Guy could tempt onto it with himself as bait. I think he was, perhaps, a little tired of you guys and the way you were treating him, hmmm?

Asshole catches on first, and runs like a mad thing that runs really fast, abandoning Soldier 3 and Thugs 1 and 2 to their fate – which is likely to be dinner. We finally get our first really good look at the elevator and I’m estimating that there were about 120-150 zombies crammed on there. Asshole gets to the little golf-carty things first and takes off, leaving Thugs 1 and 2 and Soldier 3 to scream after him.

Unfortunately for Asshole, the barricade was left open by Somber Dude and there are zombies all over the place at the other end. He gets through, however, and lunges back into the familiar comfort of white cinderblocks.

Meanwhile, Experiment has been wandering the halls and has found the open cooler with the bodies in it, Frankenstein’s sprawled tragically on top. Experiment (who is, by the way, a strapping zombie of about 6’6” or so) holds up the end of his chain and burbles something before realizing that the nice man who used to bring him such tasty yummies and show him how to do stuff isn’t going to tell him what a good boy he is.

There’s just something veeeeery disturbing about all of that, particularly when taken in context with Frankenstein’s demented ramblings on those tapes. Guys, be nice to your kids, or they’ll grow up to have strange, quasi-parental relationships with dead things.

… undead things. Whatever.

Experiment looks all tragic for a bit and then starts whacking things with his chain and sniffling. Apparently recovering from his temper fit, he looks around and discovers the weapons that Asshole forced Stoic Heroine and company to discard.

Ahhh. Poetic justice is a bitch, ain’t it?

We’ll leave Experiment to, presumably, arm himself and glance over the rest of the complex. It is crawling, excuse me, shambling with zombies. Lots of zombies. Zombies to the left, zombies to the right, into the tunnels of DOOM, shamble the…

Well, you get the idea.

Soldier 3 makes a break for it and is messily devoured. There is much screaming as they rip his head off.

Thug 2 makes it a little further. He still has a rifle and, as he pauses to shoot somewhat pointlessly at the zombies feasting on the body of Earnest Scientist, it jams. He draws his pistol, freaks out a lot and is, naturally, eaten. There is hysterical laughter this time, which eventually degenerates into screams.

Thug 1 has made it all the way back to the door into the familiar, white cinderblock area… only to discover that Asshole has locked the door behind him. He wastes a few precious minutes shouting and beating on the door, before turning and simply blowing holes in it till it opened. Thug 1 tears down the corridor… unfortunately having to leave the door open behind him.

The zombie horde shambles hungrily and somewhat vacant-eyed in his wake.

I’d like to note that the zombie clown disturbs me.

Thug 1 stops to reload and comes face to face with Experiment, who takes a shot at him. Thug 1 dives for cover and pulls a handgun. He lies in wait for Experiment, mumbling… and is attacked from behind. Cornered in the area where Frankenstein used to keep his other experiments, he is bitten, and blows his own brains out.

Apparently, freshly dead is just as good as living and the zombies close in.

Back in the darkened rock tunnels, lit only dimly by the occasional red safety light, Not Mr. Bean, Stoic Heroine and their assortment of blunt objects (pummeling zombies, for the use of) come face to face with a crowd of zombies. Somber Dude chooses that moment to arrive, guns blazing.

He has brought heavy artillery and Not Mr. Bean and Stoic Heroine arm themselves quickly and blow the zombies away. All three of them go racing down the corridors to find their way back into the main complex through the back, presumably. There’s an out-of-service elevator, but they find a ladder and use that instead. Somber Dude is still kick ass and Not Mr. Bean promptly demonstrates that he doesn’t hang with Somber Dude just to work the radio. Much shooting and escaping takes place and a good time is had by most.

Experiment is still shambling down those cinderblock corridors and Asshole makes a wrong turn, relatively speaking, and ends up in the same hallway. There is a stand-off. Experiment still trailing his chain as he shambles somewhat dramatically after Asshole. Experiment manages to shoot Asshole in the shoulder as the man makes run for it. Swearing and running, Asshole tries to get away, but Experiment is persistent and shambles along after him, showing very good aim for a zombie.

Asshole is shot twice more and is reduced to crawling and staggering, screaming and exhorting the Experiment to follow him as he tries all the doors, only to open the last one into a hallway full of zombies. Experiment shoots him again, unfortunately for Asshole not in the head, and shoots him a sarcastic salute as he is dragged back and eaten.

Apparently zombies can also have a sense of irony, who knew.

Asshole’s demise is appropriately gruesome.

There are zombies eating entrails all over the complex now. One actually looks disgusted as she has to spit out a set of dog tags. Gore abounds as do grotesque slurping noises. There is much moaning and shambling and gouts of blood.

Above, we have our three survivors. They have surfaced outside the fence from the opposite side and have a clear view of the helicopter… and the horde of zombies closing in from the other side. Somber Dude makes an acid comment to Stoic Heroine as she struggles with the lock on the gate that he hopes the soldiers actually managed to remember to go up during the night and refuel it.

They race for the helicopter as the zombies close in and Stoic Heroine wrenches the door open only to be grabbed by a zombie that was already inside.

A seagull screams and her eyes fly open and we find her sleeping beside the helicopter on a sunny beach while Somber Dude engages in surf fishing and Not Mr. Bean is throwing snacks to the circling sea gulls.

She reaches into her pack and pulls out a *gasp* calendar. Ooooh the irony.

Whereas the first dream was October 31, it is now apparently November 4.

Quite a busy week, overall.

Fade to black and we can assume that they lived happily ever after – or at least until Land of the Dead.

– Truth

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About Popcorn Mice

Hi. We're the Urban Amazon and her sidekick, Truth. This blog is dedicated to recap and commentary of various movies in a hopefully humorous fashion. Said movies are mostly of the horror/action/adventure/science fiction and fantasy genres, as that's where our interests lie. Our efforts will, hopefully, amuse and entertain.
This entry was posted in 1985, Hot Serial, It's the Apocalpyse, and I Brought Zombies!, The Shambling Undead, Things Man was not Meant to Tamper with - but Did Anyway. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Day of the Dead – 1985

  1. Hello there! This blog post couldn’t be written any better!
    Going through this post reminds me of my previous roommate!
    He constantly kept talking about this. I most certainly will send
    this information to him. Fairly certain he will have a good read.
    I appreciate you for sharing!

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