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Day Of The Dead – Collector’s Edition (Blu-ray Review)

Day-Of-The-DeadGeorge A. Romero’s underrated Day Of The Dead gets its second run on Blu-ray courtesy of the almighty Scream Factory.  This time around we are also treated to a feature-length documentary chronicling the entire production, its release and the legacy which the film has had in its 28 years.  I won’t hold anything back for those antsy to know; this is definitely an upgrade over the previous Anchor Bay release.  From the packaging to the extras to the presentation, Scream Factory has brought us not only the Day Of The Dead release we’ve always wanted, but the THE release of any of the Romero “Dead” films we’ve always wanted.

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Film 

The zombie outbreak that began in Night of the Living Dead has escalated in further.  Below a city somewhere in Florida live the last 12 survivors in an underground military facility.  Amongst the group is only one woman.  The struggle to find a balance between scientific research and policing the zombie situation begins to take its toll when the maniacal Colonel Rhodes comes into power.  Will the zombies take over, or will the humans take care of each other themselves?

Day Of The Dead has certainly been a film that benefited with age.  For a long time the film was viewed as a disappointment and the weakest of the original 3 Romero Dead films.  While the first two films in the series were both groundbreaking and taking horror to new levels, Day really had nothing to do but be another zombie film, this time with a more intense look on how humanity itself can implode upon itself and becoming more destructive than the zombies.

There’s a line between being waged between being extremely cautious in protection your territory and how much is too much in terms of scientific research.  On one hand we have a hotheaded dictator blowing his fuse with the slightest twitch (in a gloriously over the top performance by Joseph Pilato, one of the film’s absolute highlights) and the other a calm collective scientist making morally disturbing choices to further his research into discovering the workings of the undead.  This all of course comes to a head in the film’s finale bringing death and destruction to what is left of the underground facility.

The effects are the very best of the entire series, as Tom Savini claims it has his personal “masterpiece”.  Its probably the lightest on frequent zombie carnage being present throughout the rutime, but it is busy focusing on the human drama and battle which is something you do want from these zombie films.  But when it’s time to let loose, the film does not hold back.  Its incredibly messy, gory as hell and flaunts it.  The finale of the film is a violent, intense chase to the finish.  This sequence is definitely overlooked as its probably the best final “action sequence” of the entire series (including Land).  It hasn’t been dated at all (c’mon, admit it, the end of Dawn is great, but gets a little silly with those bikers), delivering gasps and crowd pleaser moments.

Something else worth mentioning, the film actually features what may not be the most popular, but one of the strongest leads in the entire series in Sarah.  Lori Cardille gives a highly underrated, very grounded performance as a woman caught between two sides that she can’t even get fully on board with either.  You can really gravitate toward her and her problems with the situation unlike a lot of the other characters we’ve followed in Romero’s zombie epics.

Day definitely holds its own quite well and should be praised amongst its predecessors.  I believe that tide has turned in the last few years.  And I think even before that, it’s definitely inspired many other zombie films.  There were a lot of story points used in The Walking Dead that seem to have originated from here.  This film is finally starting to get the recognition it’s so deserves.  Maybe people will finally come around on the very fun Land Of The Dead sometime soon, too?

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Video 

As was hoped for, the 1080p MPEG-4 AVC transfer of Scream Factory’s Day Of The Dead release is a marked improvement over Anchor Bay’s.  The latter’s was littered with tampering and looked overall kind of smudgy.  This one contains Scream Factory’s typical “hands off approach” or not being able to trace any sort of post work with the picture.  The 1:78.1 frame is sharp as its ever looked and the detail takes much better shape.  The definition of all the gooey guts and blood is nice and organic.  The highlights definitely come in the end escape as the tunnels and their lighting are nice and clean and look very stylistic and inventive.

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Audio 

The flesh popping teeth gnashing fills your living room in the DTS-HD MA 5.1 track.  The track is enough to do the trick but could have been a little more.  There are some hisses about pops for the duration during a lot of the pronunciation of the letter “s” in the film.  This could however be an issue with the source the track came from.  For those looking for something closer to the original feel of the film, a DTS-HD MA 2.0 track is provided.  This one is a little louder and crisper and might be the preference track on this release.  Scream Factory continues to be one of the few distributors with enough care to provide lossless options for mono and stereo tracks.

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Extras 

All Day Of The Dead extras are featured in 1080p MPEG-4 AVC with a Dolby Digital 2.0 audio.  The packaging contains a reverse cover that displays the original theatrical poster art.

Audio Commentary

  • Commentary With Writer/Director George A. Romero, Special Make-up Effects Artist Tom Savini, Production Designer Cletus Anderson and Actrees Lori Cardille – This commentary is ported over from the previous Anchor Bay releases of Day Of The Dead.
  • Commentary With Filmmaker Roger Avary – Another ported over commentary, this one with early years Tarantino collaborator Roger Avary.

Featurettes

  • World’s End: The Legacy Of Day Of The Dead (1:25:26) – This is the biggest retro doc that Scream Factory has produced.  It’s not only feature length, but gathers most everyone living that was involved in the production.  While lengthy, it moves really at a really great pace.  This documentary alone is worth the purchase, even moreso than the feature itself.
  • Behind The Scenes Footage: From Special Makeup Effects Creator Tom Savini’s Archives (30:42) – VHS tape footage of testing and shooting the special effects for the film.  It’s a nice look at some of them in their uncut form.
  • Wam Pump Mine Promotional Video (8:12) – A vintage promo video displaying the function and benefits of the mine from Day Of The Dead.
  • Underground: A Look Into The Day Of The Dead Mines (7:37) – A visit to the present day version of the mines used in Day Of The Dead. Includes a heartfelt farewell from one of the mine’s longtime employees who also worked on the film.

Theatrical Trailers (5:55) – 4 theatrical trailers

TV Spots (1:35) – 3 television trailers

Still Galleries

  • Behind The Scenes (225)
  • Day Of The Dead Locations (50)
  • Posters And Lobby Cards (108)
  • Miscellaneous (126)

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Summary 

We all knew Scream Factory was doing horror better than Anchor Bay, but if you are needing definitive proof, its right here.  They have gone head to head with a title and clearly won the battle no contest.  I wish every Romero zombie film could get a release like this (maybe they will).  There is an absolute love and care taken into account with the making of this release that glows all over it and reassures us that the people putting these together are just as big of fans as we are.  I think this might be a sleeper title or an under the radar one for Scream Factory as people might not be going right after it since the fans probably already have the Anchor Bay rendition.  Well, take that one down to your local Buy/Sell/Trade place to get a couple bucks to throw at this release please.  The picture quality on this blu-ray, coupled with the documentary on the extras, make this the definitive release of George A. Romero’s criminally underrated classic.


Day-Of-The-Dead-Blu-ray

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

1 Response to “Day Of The Dead – Collector’s Edition (Blu-ray Review)”


  1. Aaron Neuwirth

    Awesome review. I’m a fan of the first 4 Romero “Dead” films and while I put “Day” at 3rd, it does have awesome makeup effects and some really interesting ideas. I find it plagued by some sloppy pacing and poor characters that aren’t Cardille or Pilato (though some fit pretty well), but it still offers the goods in the zombie department for sure. Excited to pick this one up!