Miami Herald, The (FL) - November 5, 1985

Author: BILL COSFORD Herald Movie Critic

From Night of the Living Dead through Dawn of the Dead and now, to the concluding eruption of George Romero's gore trilogy, Day of the Dead, Romero has kept audiences off-balance. His zombie jamborees are so gruesome, and Romero keeps up on the latest in splatter-effects techniques so devotedly, that one is tempted to dismiss them as the very worst of a bad lot. After all, dismemberment is a limited form, and explicit gore hard to redeem.

But one may not dismiss Romero or his trilogy, because there has always been a filmmaking intelligence behind the work. This is as true of Day of the Dead as it was of Night and Dawn. And though Romero seems unlikely ever to reach the black-comic heights of Dawn, in which waves of zombies descended on a suburban shopping mall in answer to some sort of deep-seated genetic call, Day of the Dead has its moments of narrative depth.

By Day, the zombies who were first seen in scattered packs in the Pennsylvania countryside in Night have all but taken over the world. The principal survivors are holed up somewhere in southern Florida, where a detachment of troops uneasily coexists with a small group of scientists working on a living- dead cure. As usual, Romero has a metaphor handy: One of the scientists, whom the soldiers refer to with murderous disdain as "Dr. Frankenstein," has been vivisecting some of the zombies and attempting to train others as ghastly pets.

It's not subtle, this business, but compared to the desultory attempts at subtexts found in most contemporary horror films, it amounts to High Theme. It also provides comic relief -- what else to do but laugh when Frankenstein's great achievement turns out to be feeding his zombie without losing any fingers? -- as well as establishing the films' first sympathetic walking dead, a spaniel-eyed giant played marvelously by Howard Sherman.

As is traditional, such fooling where man is not meant to fool must bring judgment down on Frankenstein as well as on the loutish soldiers who threaten his work. Eventually, since this is Romero and these are his Dead, Day becomes a bloodbath of epic proportions. Tom Savini, a special makeup-effects craftsman, manages to move the state of the art another revolting step "forward," and Day of the Dead offers what are easily the screen's most graphic decapitations and disembowelings. Those with the stomach for it will find in this film revelations concerning special effects: They are astonishing.

But strong stomachs are called for. Romero does not cut away. He is not shy, and though Day of the Dead is the best performed and best written of the three films, and is clearly the work of a serious filmmaker, it is not for the unwary. Romero makes you pay for that theme. He must be approached by novices in the way that timid eaters approach a Japanese restaurant -- very, very carefully.

Day of the Dead (U) ** 1/2

CAST: Lori Cardille, Joseph Pilato, Richard Liberty, Terry Alexander, Howard Sherman, G. Howard Klar.

CREDITS: Director: George Romero. Producer: Richard P. Rubinstein. Screenwriter: George Romero. Cinematographer: Michael Gornick. Music: John Harrison.

A United Film Distribution release. Running time: 102 minutes. Vulgar language, much violence and gore.

**** Excellent *** 1/2 Very Good

*** Good ** 1/2 Worth Seeing ** Fair

* Poor Zero: Worthless

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