By Raymond Knowby

Romero’s third DEAD flick might have qualified as an epic had he shot his original script. Instead, due to budget limitations, he scaled down the story in favor of costly and numerous special make-up effects. Most often this is a direct ingredient for a major disaster, but the king of the zombies somehow managed to work with the economic mandate on his screenplay and pull off a frightening film in the process.

The last pocket of humans remaining alive in the world of the living dead are at the ends of sanity. Secured in a massive storage silo underground, a handful of scientists (led by Lori Cardille and notably Richard Liberty) research the reanimated ghouls in a hope of finding some way to cure the unknown disease. Logan plans on domesticating them, even teaching a particularly well behaved flesh eater named “Bub” to remember basic human behaviors from its former life. The military group of the team, however, aren’t so patient with the progress. Number one asshole captain Rhodes (played to the hilt by Joseph Pilato) and his men are so fargone beyond hope and suffering from what appears to be major sexual frustration that they unleash mostly verbal threats on the suvillian researchers for the first half of the movie. For the second half, Rhodes goes totally postal and it becomes a wicked play of evil human dog-eat-dog while the creatures invade the base and snack on the unlucky stragglers.

Despite the limited, unforgivingly gloomy location, Romero pulls out the stops. Not only is the cast superb in this outing, the dialogue is fired so craftily that you sometimes fail to notice that a great deal of the picture is arguing and/or yelling. The tension created from the hostile delivery really seems to add to the atmosphere, as well, and there’s tasty one-liners galore. Tom Savini’s astonishing make-up effects close the door, of course, and DAY is probably not only the goriest of his career, but of all the splatter flicks in the 1980’s. Some of the stuff here is hard to watch by even today’s jaded standards.

While it might have been cool to see what would have been had the budget been plentiful to go around, the DAY OF THE DEAD that we have today is a respectable, if not spectacular entry. The chilling apocalyptic opening of the film, particularly, is one of the greatest moments of the entire series.

The dead just won't stay down in George Romero's DAY OF THE DEAD.