The first time I saw Day Of The Dead was on home video around 1988. I had already devoured Night Of The Living Dead and Dawn Of The Dead through repeated viewings (and rental charges). By 15 years old, I was a rabid George A. Romero fan and digging through whatever titles of his were available on VHS.
I was really disappointed the first time I saw Day Of The Dead. I don’t think anyone could argue that the zombie make-up and gore effects in the film were the best to date, but the acting was overwrought and the playfulness of Dawn Of The Dead was missing. I just wasn’t into it. It wasn’t until years later that I came to appreciate the film. It’s still my least favorite of the three, but that’s comparing it to my favorite horror films of all time.
I own what was previously the best version of the film, the Divimax Special Edition put out by Anchor Bay about ten years ago. Now, our freaky friends at Scream Factory have put out a great looking Blu-ray that is worth the upgrade.
I was very curious to see the differences between the Blu-ray and the DVD. In reviewing other Scream Factory titles, I’m more familiar with the films that the improvements in the remastered versions pop out. However, it had been probably ten years since I’ve watched Day, so I did my due diligence. I put both discs in their respective players and alternated between the two. (These are the moments when my wife finds me most amusing.) In swapping back and forth, it’s amazing how the Blu-ray looks. Not just because it’s hi-def, but because the transfer has been remastered to fit the format. And this one still retains a decent amount of grain — which I prefer. The film is meant to be gritty and raw.
I did find that in the darker scenes, the contrast was really pumped up to be able to see the image. It made me wonder if they were mastering from a negative or an older previous digital transfer. Overall, this is definitely the best looking version I have seen.
Much of the extra content has been ported over from the Anchor Bay. My favorite are the personal videos taken by Tom Savini and his make-up team, featuring a young Greg Nicotero who actually looks like the current Greg Nictoro – the guy doesn’t age!
There is a new set of interviews that updates the previous documentary. I found Joe Pilato to be the most interesting of the subjects. I think in a true zombie outbreak, I’d want him on my side. Also, in a bar fight, I’d want him on my side.
In my previous write ups, I’ve never commented on the beautiful artwork that adorns the covers, but every Scream Factory release does have gorgeous design on the cases. I didn’t want the artist to think I hadn’t noticed. If you order the Blu-ray directly from the Shout! Factory, you can get an 18’’ by 24’’ poster featuring the artwork.
CHOKE ON ‘EM!
In viewing the film again, I found it more enjoyable than I ever have. One thing regarding George A. Romero is that little is mentioned of his editing. Now, Pasquale Buba cut this film and he’s gone on to edit some major Hollywood projects like Heat and other films with Al Pacino. However, Romero cut Night and Dawn (amongst others) and he is, hands down, one of the masters at pacing a movie. His third act kicks off like a double barrel shotgun and continues to reload and blast away until the very last moment. Then he knows when to end it. Day Of The Dead has such a fantastic and intense last act that maybe I couldn’t understand back when I first discovered film. Now I view those last twenty minutes as some of the best a horror film has to offer. For those who have not seen it, I don’t want to spoil what happens, but it makes the slow burn at the front worthwhile.