With its oppressive atmosphere and often abrasive characters, Day of the Dead is a hard movie to love - as opposed to the rollicking Dawn of the Dead (1978) or the classic chills of Night of the Living Dead (1968). Day is, by design, a harsh, difficult to approach movie.
In the summer of '85, it sure didn't have what fans were looking for in the final chapter in the Dead trilogy. For myself, walking out of a screening of it that summer, I must've looked more than a little dazed. Day was one gnarly zombie flick. Savini's FX had never been better or ghastlier. To me, it's the pinnacle of splatter in the '80s. Add to that the volatile atmosphere and murderous tensions within the film's underground caverns and you've got a pretty grim picture.
Looking at it today, it's still grim - time hasn't softened the movie at all - but in an odd way it seems more and more like comfort food to me. The old-school ingenuity of Savini's effects, the scenery-chewing performances of Joe Pilato (Captain Rhodes) and Richard Liberty (Dr. Logan), the endearing Howard Sherman as Bub, Terry Alexander's wonderfully cheesy Jamaican accent, and John Harrison's synthesizer score - all of it instantly takes me back to that summer of '85.
To read my full Summer Shocks review of Day of the Dead, click here.