Day of the Dead (1985 film): Wikis


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Day of the Dead
Directed by George A. Romero
Produced by Richard P. Rubinstein
Written by George A. Romero
Starring Lori Cardille
Terry Alexander
Joe Pilato
Jarlath Conroy
Anthony Dileo Jr.
Richard Liberty
Sherman Howard
Music by John Harrison
Jim Blazer
Sputzy Sparacino
Studio Dead Films Inc.
Laurel Entertainment Inc.
Laurel-Day Inc.
Distributed by United Film Distribution Company
Release date(s) July 19, 1985
Running time 102 minutes
Country  United States
Language English
Budget $3,500,000
Gross revenue $34,000,000[1]
Preceded by Dawn of the Dead
Followed by Land of the Dead

Day of the Dead (also known as George A. Romero's Day of the Dead) is a 1985 horror film by director George A. Romero, the third of Romero's Dead Series of zombie horror films. It is preceded by Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead. Director George A. Romero describes the film as a "tragedy about how a lack of human communication causes chaos and collapse even in this small little pie slice of society".



Taking place some time after the events of Dawn of the Dead, the film opens with a woman named Sarah sitting in an empty room, staring across at a calendar mounted on the opposite wall. As she gets up and touches the calendar, hundreds of decomposing hands break through the wall and grab at her. Sarah then awakens inside a helicopter, realizing it was just a bad dream. She and her other companions—John, Bill and Miguel—land their helicopter in the deserted streets of Fort Myers, Florida and begin searching for other potential survivors. Finding only hordes of zombies, the group returns to their base, an underground army bunker near the Everglades. The group is revealed to be part of a military-supported scientific team assigned by the remnants of the government to study the zombie phenomenon in the hopes of finding a way of stopping or reversing the zombification process. To this end, they conduct experiments on captured zombies, which they store in a large corral in a section of the caves connected to the facility.

It is soon revealed, however, that tensions within the group—dwindling supplies, loss of communication with other survivor enclaves, and an apparent lack of progress in the experiments—are causing it to lose cohesion. Miguel, on the verge of a mental breakdown due to stress and fatigue, is accosted by his fellow soldiers after another soldier is nearly killed during a specimen-wrangling mission due to his inability to focus. Later, during a group meeting, Sarah's request that Miguel, her current boyfriend, be pulled off active duty is denied by Captain Rhodes, the fascistic commander of the military detachment. Rhodes also denies Sarah's coworker, Dr. Fisher's request for new equipment for their experiments, and further threatens to cut off the science team's resources completely unless they begin showing him results.

After the meeting, Sarah heads to the lab of Dr. Logan, the head scientist on the project, nicknamed "Dr. Frankenstein" by the other team members, to check on the progress of his work. There, Logan demonstrates to her that the zombies operate on primitive instinct alone, gaining no nutrition from the flesh they consume, and explains his theory that the zombies can eventually be domesticated. When Sarah discovers discarded Army fatigues laying on the lab's floor, Logan admits that he has been using the corpses of recently-deceased soldiers in his experiments. Sarah leaves the lab, disgusted.

Later, at the team's dinner meeting, Rhodes once again threatens to shut the science operation down, claiming that their experiments aren't worth the resource cost and the lives of his men. The meeting soon devolves into bickering between the soldiers and the scientists, culminating in Rhodes threatening to have Sarah shot for insubordination when she attempts to leave. Then tension is broken by Logan's arrival, who reiterates his theory of zombie domestication to Rhodes and promises to show him results soon. Momentarily placated, Rhodes adjourns the meeting.

Later that night, after having nightmares involving Logan's dismembered specimens and getting into an argument with Miguel, Sarah leaves the facility and heads out to an old commercial storage facility in the caves, where John and Bill have set up a camp for themselves in a trailer, which they have named "The Ritz". While conversing over drinks, John explains to Sarah that both he and Bill believe the science team's efforts to discover a cause or cure for the zombie phenomenon are fruitless, and believe that they should instead focus on building a new society rather than trying to recapture the old one lost in the zombie apocalypse.

The next day, Dr. Logan shows Sarah and Fisher his prize specimen—"Bub", an apparently docile zombie who seems to possess limited memories of his past existence, recognizing items such as toothbrushes, razors, books and a telephone. When Logan shows Bub to Rhodes, however, Rhodes is unimpressed, dismissing Logan's work as, "teaching [the zombies] tricks." During a demonstration involving an unloaded handgun, Bub attempts to shoot Rhodes. Angered, Rhodes pulls his own sidearm on Bub, but Logan puts himself between them. Rhodes angrily storms out of the lab, convinced the science project is going nowhere.

The tension between the group's factions soon comes to a head during another specimen-wrangling mission, when one of the zombies breaks free of its restraints and attacks the soldiers. Two of them are killed while Miguel is bitten on his left arm. Miguel comes completely unhinged and flees into the caves, while Sarah pursues and knocks him unconscious outside of The Ritz. Sarah, John and Bill quickly amputate Miguel's bitten arm and cauterize the wound in an effort to stop Miguel from becoming a zombie. Rhodes and his remaining soldiers arrive intent on killing Miguel, but are eventually dissuaded by Sarah and the others. Rhodes angrily declares that he is shutting the science operation down, and that all the zombie specimens are to be destroyed the next day.

That night, Sarah and Bill head to Logan's lab to find medication for Miguel, and discover the reanimated head of one of the soldiers killed during the botched specimen-wrangling earlier. Convinced that both Logan and Rhodes have lost their sanity, they decide that they and John should get topside and leave in the helicopter before someone else gets to it first. On their way back to the caves, they run across Dr. Logan, in the middle of another experiment with Bub. They witness Logan rewarding Bub's progress with a bucket of fresh meat, just as Rhodes and the other soldiers arrive and take them all prisoner. Inspecting a nearby freezer, they discover the dismembered bodies of the two dead soldiers from before, which Logan had been chopping up and feeding to Bub. Enraged, Rhodes kills Logan and orders Fisher captured as well. The soldiers then take the three of them back out to the Ritz.

Upon their arrival, Rhodes orders John, the only one in the group who knows how to fly the helicopter, to take him and his soldiers out of the base, leaving everyone else behind. John, unwilling to abandon his friends, refuses. Rhodes attempts to force John to cooperate by killing Fisher and forcing Sarah and Bill into the specimen corral. John attacks the soldiers while Sarah and Bill flee deeper into the caves to escape the advancing zombies. As Rhodes orders John beaten into obedience, everyone is distracted by the sound of the elevator klaxon. As Rhodes orders two of his men to check the elevator, John attacks again, knocking out the remaining soldiers, taking their weapons and following Sarah and Bill into the cave system. Rhodes and the other soldier quickly regain consciousness and head to the elevator to regroup with the others. There, they find the platform's control circuits have been torn out. With the only other controls on the surface, the soldiers realize they are trapped, and conclude that Miguel was responsible.

Above ground, Miguel makes his way to the front gate, where a massive crowd of zombies has gathered. He opens the gate and makes his way back to the platform, waiting until the zombies begin tearing him apart to lower the platform back down into the facility. When the soldiers below see the zombies gathered on the platform, they panic and flee. Rhodes retreats deeper into the facility, while the remaining soldiers are soon killed by the invading zombies.

Meanwhile, inside the facility, Bub manages to accidentally free himself from his restraints, and sets out in search of Dr. Logan. Upon finding Logan's dead body, he becomes enraged, picking up a discarded handgun and wandering the corridors in search of Rhodes, whom he remembers from before. Upon encountering Rhodes, Bub opens fire, hitting Rhodes several times and severely wounding him. When Rhodes attempts to flee into the caves, he runs right into a large group of zombies, who proceed to eat him alive as Bub mocks him with an ersatz salute. Watching the zombies eat his body parts before him, Rhodes' last words are "Choke on 'em!".

Back in the caves, Sarah, John and Bill manage to fight their way past the zombies and into a disused missile silo. After climbing back up to the surface through the silo, the group makes their way to the helicopter as zombies continue to advance onto the grounds through the open gate. As Sarah goes to open the helicopter doors, several zombie hands reach out from the cockpit and grab her. She suddenly awakens, finding herself lying on a beach next to the helicopter, with John and Bill fishing in the surf nearby. Realizing it was just another bad dream, she pulls out a homemade calendar and marks off another day.


1This person was also part of the special effects and make-up crew.



Romero originally intended the film to be his undead epic; "the Gone with the Wind of zombie films."[2] Following budget disputes and the artistic need to release the film unrated, the budget of the film was cut in half, dropping from $7 million to a scant $3.5 million.[2] This forced Romero to scale back his story, rewriting the script and adjusting his original vision to fit the smaller budget.

Filming took place in the fall of 1984 at locations in Pennsylvania and Florida. All above ground scenes were filmed at several locations around Florida, where Romero was living at the time. The opening scene was filmed in Fort Myers, Florida.[3] Underground scenes were filmed in a former mine shaft located near Wampum, Pennsylvania, which had been converted into a long-term storage facility for important documents. Though the mine maintained a constant temperature of about 50 F, its high humidity played havoc with the crew's equipment and props. Mechanical and electrical failures were a constant problem throughout filming, and caused several of special effects leader Tom Savini's props to fail during the filming of crucial scenes. The remote location also complicated the transportation of crew members and equipment. "Zombie" extras were recruited from among the citizens of Pittsburgh, with preference given to those who had worked on previous Romero films. Extras were paid $1.00 for their services, and given a hat that read "I was a Zombie in Day of the Dead".

The film was given a very limited release.[2] This is chronicled in the documentary "The Many Days of Day of the Dead" on the 2-disc Anchor Bay special edition DVD of the film.[2] Some of the original concepts and characters remain, but the film differs greatly from Romero's original script,[4] as stated by actress Lori Cardille:

"He could've made me this sexy little twit bouncing around with a gun:- much more the sexual element. But he made her intelligent and strong. Infact [sic], whenever I would try and make her a little more emotional, he would not allow me to do that."[2]


Joe Pilato was cast as "Rhodes", a sadistic and fascistic U.S. Army Captain who wants to declare militaristic rule over the others. As stated by Pilato "He pretty much just gave it to me. I don't know if he auditioned other people, but it was very quick. I came in and it was like, "You got it!."[5] Pilato had acted in two prior films directed by Romero, the first being Pilato's debut Dawn of the Dead and the second being Knightriders, in between those films he played his first lead role in a film entitled Effects.[5] In an interview Pilato was asked if Romero "had him in mind", Pilato stated that one of the reasons why he got the role was because of the budget being scaled down from 7 to 3.5 million.[5]

Release and reception

The film was widely criticized upon release, though in recent years it has become a cult classic. Fans of the previous films were disappointed as the plot is less sweeping in nature and the film sported a much darker tone. The characters were also portrayed as unsympathetic and unpleasant. The film has gone on and grossed over 30 million dollars worldwide.[1] Day of the Dead would gross most of its gross revenue when the film was released internationally on VHS format, and later DVD and Blu-ray. This was in lieu of the film flopping when it was released to domestic cinema.[6]

Ken Foree and David Emge from Dawn of the Dead and Joseph Pilato from Day of the Dead at a living dead convention.

Based on 28 reviews collected by Rotten Tomatoes, Day of the Dead had a high approval rating, with 22 critics rating it "fresh" and only 6 rating it "rotten." Overall, it received a 79% approval rating.[7] Even so, that rating is the lowest of the initial 3 films in Romero's Dead series.[8][9] Both Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead have received a 95% approval rating.[8][9]

Day of the Dead was given a limited release on July 3, 1985 and a wide release on July 19, 1985.[10] It opened to mixed reviews, with some critics complaining that the film was too depressing and slow. Roger Ebert, who reacted favorably to other films of Romero's Dead Series[11][12][13], gave Day of the Dead one and a half stars.[14] BBC reviewer Almar Haflidason stated "It benefits from a far larger budget than its predecessors, but suffers from a story as malnourished as the zombies that are chewing it up," Haflidason would go on to give the film three out of five stars.[15] As noted by the New York Times reviewer Janet Maslin "Yes, there are enough spilled guts and severed limbs to satisfy the bloodthirstiest fan. But these moments tend to be clustered together, and a lot of the film is devoted to windy argument. "[16] Allmovie reviewer Keith Phipps stated that: "The last, to date at least, of George Romero's living dead films is in many respects the least interesting, although it's not for a lack of ambition."[17] Day of the Dead would peak at 23 on the Billboard chart Top VHS Sales in 1986 a year after its initial release.[18]

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Office for Film and Broadcasting declared the movie morally offensive, stating: "Director-writer George Romero's third low-budget zombie chiller provides a loathsome and unimaginative mix of violence, blood, gore and some sexual references demeaning to women."[19]

The film grossed $5.8 million domestically.[2] It fared much better internationally, grossing $28.2 million outside of the United States.[1] Day of the Dead's total gross is a little over $34 million.[1] The film is also noted for its special effects work, notably Tom Savini's make-up, he was honored his second time in 1985 with a Saturn Award for Best Make-Up, the first time being with Dawn of the Dead in 1980.[20] Romero himself cites Day of the Dead as his personal favorite of his original trilogy of zombie films.[21]

Home video

The film was released on DVD on November 24, 1998 in the United States and on March 5, 2001 in the United Kingdom.[15][22] Both the theatrical and an unrated director's cut were released as a special editions containing identical bonus features, the DVD was released in the United Kingdom in a region 2 DVD.[15] According to the Blu-ray version of Day of the Dead was released october 2, 2007.[23] The Blu-ray edition included many special features, including two audio commentary tracks with writer-director George A. Romero, Tom Savini, production designer Cletus Anderson, and lead actress Lori Cardille.[23] There is also a interview with fellow filmmaker and self-proclaimed Romero fan, Roger Avary.[23] It also includes two documentaries, the first one is en-titled The Many Days of 'Day of the Dead, which focuses on the original script and the budget, it also included information about shooting in the Gateway Commerce Center.[23] What is also mentioned is the casting details. The second documentary entitled Day of the Dead: Behind the Scenes, focuses mostly on make-up effects.[23]

Popular culture

In 28 Days Later, the British military is keeping an "infected" in captivity for testing.

Near the end of Resident Evil, the protagonist Alice walks outside of her quarantine into a ravaged city street jammed with traffic. The camera pans past a newspaper blowing in the wind stating "The Dead Walk!", a direct homage to George Romero's work on Day of the Dead. Another homage is one episode of Stroker & Hoop featured the characters battling zombies using guns made by Double-Wide. They turn out to fire only sunlight, to which he claims because the film is called Night of the Dead and not Day of the Dead to hint out their weakness to sunlight. Coroner Rick yells at him "That was the sequel!"

The song "M1A1", from the self-titled 2001 Gorillaz album samples the pulsing synthesizers and cries of "Hello! Is anyone there?" from the opening of the film.[24] The song "Hip Albatross", also by Gorillaz, features a clip of Terry Alexander's dialogue.[25] Furthermore, the artwork for the song "November has Come" off of the Gorillaz' 2005 album Demon Days has a picture of a calendar pinned to a brick wall set to the month of October with all the dates marked off in red Xs (reminiscent of the opening scene in Day of the Dead).[24]

The song "Battlefield", from the This is my battlefield 2004 Panzer AG album samples Captain Rhodes asking Sarah in reference to Miguel's zombie bite: "You think he wants to walk around after he's dead? You think he want to be one of these things?"

The band Through the Eyes of the Dead sampled a clip at the beginning of the song "Between the Gardens that Bathe in Blood", released on the Scars of Ages EP.

The film "Resident Evil: Extinction," incorporates many plot points, such as trying to train a zombie to be human, or in a deleted scene when trying to capture zombies to experiment on. Also, the idea of an underground facility and how the floor moves up without any indication on the surface (impossible to know it was there) is also very similar.


The soundtrack was released in 1985 the same year as the film; it includes 11 tracks, all of which was composed and performed by John Harrison.[26] The vocals came from Sputzy Sparacino who is the lead singer of Modern Man and Delilah on the tracks "If Tomorrow Comes" and "The World Inside Your Eyes".[26] The album would be released in 2002 with a limited release of 3000 copies, the limited release included a 12 page booklet with information from Harrison and Romero regarding the score.[26]

Sequel and remake

An unofficial quasi-prequel was released in 2005, entitled Day of the Dead 2: Contagium. Although it is, by definition, an official sequel as Taurus Entertainment Company hold the rights to the original film, no one from the original Day of the Dead had any involvement in the film.[27]

A loose remake of the film was released straight to DVD on April 8, 2008.[28] Little of the original plot exists, with only a few basic elements remaining; notably the underground army base near the end of the movie, and some of the characters names.[29][29]

Almost two decades later, a follow-up to Day of the Dead titled Land of the Dead[2] was released, expanding upon themes about the zombie's recollection of past memories and lifestyles and humankind's present day frame of mind when confronted with crisis.


  1. ^ a b c d "Box Office History for George A. Romero's Dead Series Movies". Retrieved 2008-01-04.  
  2. ^ a b c d e f g "Home of the Dead: Day of the Dead - The Filming". homepageofthedead. Retrieved 2008-01-03.  
  3. ^ Day of the Dead Locations - Fort Myers, Florida
  4. ^ "Romero's original Day of the Dead script". Retrieved 2008-01-05.  
  5. ^ a b c "Interview with Josef Pilato". homepageofthedead. Retrieved 2008-01-03.  
  6. ^ "Day of the Dead". Pop Matters. Retrieved 2008-01-03.  
  7. ^ "Day of the Dead". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2008-12-31.  
  8. ^ a b "Night of the Living Dead". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2008-12-31.  
  9. ^ a b "Dawn of the Dead". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2008-12-31.  
  10. ^ "Day of the Dead release info at IMDb". Retrieved 2008-07-15.  
  11. ^ Night of the Living Dead (1968) Review Roger Ebert, January 5, 1967
  12. ^ Dawn of the Dead (1978) Review Roger Ebert, May 4, 1979
  13. ^ "Land of the Dead". Retrieved 2007-10-07.  
  14. ^ Day of the Dead (1985) Review Roger Ebert, August 30, 1985
  15. ^ a b c "Day of the Dead". BBC. Retrieved 2009-01-01.  
  16. ^ "Film: Day of the Dead". New York Times. Retrieved 2009-01-03.  
  17. ^ "Day of the Dead". VH1. Retrieved 2009-01-03.  
  18. ^ "Top VHS Sales - Day of the Dead". Billboard. Retrieved 2009-01-04.  
  19. ^ USCCB - (Film and Broadcasting) - Day of the Dead
  20. ^ "Saturn Awards Archive". Saturn Awards. Retrieved 2009-01-03.  
  21. ^ George A. Romero interview, The Many Days of Day of the Dead, on Day of the Dead "Divimax special edition" (DVD, Anchor Bay Entertainment, 2003)
  22. ^ "Day of the Dead: DVD Release". VH1. Retrieved 2009-01-03.  
  23. ^ a b c d e "Day of the Dead". Retrieved 2008-01-01.  
  24. ^ a b "The Year of the Monkey". The Guardian. Retrieved 2008-01-05.  
  25. ^ "Gorillaz". Retrieved 2008-01-05.  
  26. ^ a b c "SoundtrackCollector: Soundtrack details: Day Of The Dead". Retrieved 2008-01-03.  
  27. ^ "George A. Romero". Retrieved 2008-12-31.  
  28. ^ "Day of the Dead Remake: DOA". Retrieved 2009-01-03.  
  29. ^ a b "Day of the Dead - Jeffrey Reddick interview". Retrieved 2009-01-03.  

External links

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