With the popularity of the zombie genre still chugging along – with numerous zombie movies and television shows popping up at an alarming rate – it is sad to report that the percentage of good zombie content versus bad zombie content weighs heavily on the side of “Oh my god this sucks.” Director Hernández Vicens’ Day of the Dead: Bloodline is clearly no exception. When one thinks of zombies, the creations of George Romero (considered by most to be the father of the genre) will always be in the forefront of such discussions, so it’s a bit depressing to see a remake of one of his films being as uninteresting and lame as the one we are discussing here today. Back in 1990, Tom Savini remade Romero’s seminal classic Night of the Living Dead – which was surprisingly good – then in 2004 ,Zack Snyder made arguably his best film with his remake of Romero’s sequel Dawn of the Dead, and so the possibility of a remake of Romero’s 1985 Day of the Dead being decent was not beyond the pale. Well it turns out that the third remake is not the charm.
This movie opens with medical student Zoe Parker (Sophie Skelton) running down the streets – doing her best to survive a zombie rampage – before cutting to a “Four Hours Earlier” title card where we then learn that she was working with a patient/psycho stalker named Max (Johnathon Schaech), who happened to have an alarming amount of antibodies in his blood. Then during this “Four Hours Earlier,” we get her freaking when she sees Max has carved her name into his arm. Once again there is another time jump – now to a keg party being held inside the medical facility later that night – but the party takes a turn for the worst when Max shows up for some attempted rape. Lucky for Zoe, this rape attempt took place in the morgue, and psycho Max finds himself attacked by one of the now walking corpses. The film then jumps to “Five Years Later,” to where we now find Zoe working as a doctor in a underground military bunker, and we are left wondering, “What was the point of that cold open with Zoe running from zombie hordes?” Someone should have told the editor that playing that much with time jumps in your first ten minutes is not the best idea. Then again there aren’t that many good ideas on display in this film period.
I’ve never been a huge fan of Romero’s original Day of the Dead, but a lot of its failings came down to how little money he had to work with; so another version of this one had none of that stigma of “How could you remake a classic?” So I went into this viewing with an open mind and a little bit of hope – yet that hope was almost immediately dashed when I realized the hero was a total git and the majority of the deaths could be laid at her feet. Though to be fair, almost all the characters are pretty incompetent, varying between rock stupid and suicidally moronic. When Zoe declares they need to make a supply run to get medicine for a sick girl – against the wishes of her commanding officer, who is also a total asshat named Lieutenant Miguel Salazar (Jeff Gum) – she gets one of her teammates killed because she slips away from the group to get some photos from her old office. Now I’ll admit vacation memories are important to me, but they are not the “Get your teammates killed” kind of important.
The main plot of the movie deals with her discovering that her old stalker Max is some kind of super-zombie – he’s only “mostly dead” – so she believes this could lead to her coming up with a vaccine that would prevent people who have been bitten from turning into the walking dead. Now I’m no virologist, but that seems to me like a hard thing to develop while in an underground bunker – especially if you aren’t even a bloody medical graduate – but good ole Zoe is an uber-genius who can whip up a zombie cure in a couple of hours. And just how special is Zombie Max? Well he finds Zoe’s scrunchie – which she dropped during that tragic supply run – and he is able to track her down like some kind of zombie bloodhound. Zombie Max then attaches himself to the undercarriage of their Humvee – riding all the way to their base unbeknownst to these idiots – and then he sneaks around the bunker by crawling through the air ducts.
Seeing Zombie Max wander around the military facility like a fucking ninja is just one of many ridiculous moments in Day of the Dead: Bloodline; every other minute it seems like someone is doing something phenomenally moronic – one particular idiot hears noises in the ducts so he grabs a hammer and flashlight because he thinks it rats (meeting a rat with a hammer in the closed confines of an air duct seems kind of odd), so he climbs up into the ducts to do some hunting, and while there, he is messily dispatched by Zombie Max. We also have to assume that this is the most acoustically sound underground base ever made as people are constantly being chased and killed with no one hearing a goddamn thing.
They manage to capture Zombie Max – which leads to more tension between Zoe and Lieutenant Asshat – and even more tension between Zoe and her boyfriend Baca Salazar (Marcus Vanco), who briefly gets jealous of Zombie Max for some bloody reason. All this relationship nonsense aside – and it is all pretty ridiculous when you consider a major part of the plot deals with a romantically obsessed zombie – I’m left with one final burning question, “Why in the hell would you keep your super zombie chained to the wall in your bloody lab?” Are you too lazy to walk down the hall to get blood samples from the zombie in a more secure enclosure? I have to believe that a slavering monster constantly growling your name would not be conducive to delicate scientific work.
The one real positive thing I can say about Day of the Dead: Bloodline is that the gore we do get is none of that horrible CGI crap we see in a lot of the low budget horror films these days, here at least we get the bulk of blood and guts the old fashion way with nice practical effects. I will give a final shoutout to Johnathon Schaech whose Zombie Max was the only interesting thing going on in this movie -even if a bit ridiculous at times – and if they had managed to write a plot that deserved him, we might have had something worth remembering. But Day of the Dead: Bloodline is just another tepid remake that doesn’t say or do anything new, and should be avoided, even by fans of the genre.
Note: Producer Christa Campbell has been quoted as saying, “We wanted to keep it as close to the Romero version as possible. To make sure that his fans are happy. These are not going to be zombies climbing walls and doing back flips like in World War Z.” A nice sentiment to be sure, but the zombies here are basically the same fast running zombies that have appeared in countless modern zombie films, and not the classic Romero shambling undead at all.