Sunday, 6 May 2018
Day of the Dead: Bloodline (2018) - Zombie Horror Film Review
I knew one day I would have to get around to seeing Day of the Dead: Bloodline, and seeing as it is a lazy Sunday I thought that day might as well be now. George Romero's Day of the Dead (I really need to do an updated review of that that is actually well written) is my favourite zombie film of all time and so I was immediately immensely sceptical of this re-make. That classic has been re-imagined before (2008's Day of the Dead that I was too kind towards for what it was), but this sticks much more closely to the general outline of the original. Sadly even getting over my distaste of a stone cold classic getting recreated this is still a pretty terrible film.
This takes place in a world which has been overrun with the running dead, a pocket of civilians and soldiers have taken refuge in an underground bunker built into the side of a mountain. Zoe (Sophie Skelton) was a first year medical student who is now the army base's Dr. When a little girl gets a potentially deadly flu virus she gets permission by the bases moody and strict leader; Miguel (Jeff Gum) to head out with a group to retrieve essential medicines from the hospital she used to train at. However once there Zoe encounters Max (Johnathon Schaech - Prom Night) who in life had been her creepy stalker who had attempted to rape her, and in death has inexplicably retained some of his human intelligence. Max still obsessed with the woman sneaks back to the bunker with the group and soon all hell breaks loose...
Ok, I do like that this isn't a straight re-make and tries to forge its own identity. Replacing Bub with the sinister Max, having the main female's boyfriend actually also being the brother of the base commander, these were fine enough changes. The very best character in the whole film in fact was Max, Schaech plays a villain character that has no redeeming features, but he plays it with relish. Making the zombies runners rather than shamblers is also fine enough these days, they have a weird, vaguely unsettling, vaguely comedic walking run that I could never decide if I thought it worked or not. The make-up effects were also quite cool, there was one zombie who had its jaw almost missing, a ghoul whose head got crushed into the ground, shots of intestines getting pulled out of bodies, and a nice leg snap that saw the bone come out the leg.
Initially my problem was the script and the delivery of lines. This is so predictable that on two separate occasions I spoke out aloud the exact same lines at the exact same time as a character on screen did. The acting is also very patchy at times, no more so than the prologue that took place in day 1 of the outbreak and seemed to feature a bunch of young adults who couldn't act their way out of a paper bag. Thankfully these are all killed off within minutes leaving just Zoe. There are no memorable characters at all here, as mentioned Schaech was fun, but everyone else is very one dimensional making it hard to think of them as living breathing people rather than character types. Mark Rhino Smith (he was Gladiator Rhino on the popular 90's game show of the same name) was my favourite of these, he had a good line in facial expressions.
Now Skelton as Zoe isn't terrible but the plot makes her character into someone you can't help but hate. In the original Day of the Dead the base commander (Henry Rhodes in that one) was quite visibly the main antagonist, he was a nasty evil being who was power mad and felt it should be survival of the fittest. Miguel is set up to be a similarly nasty obvious antagonist, and he is certainly power mad, yet I found myself totally on his side throughout this, in fact I would go so far as to say he is the primary protagonist with Zoe herself being the antagonist. He is needlessly stern yet he makes the right decisions and says the right things time and time again. When a soldier is bitten with no chance of surviving he is the one who shoots her. When zombies have invaded the base he is the one who orders his men to protect the civilians, and shuts the gate they were flooding in from. Yet he is the one that is framed as the bad guy, even devoting time to make sure he is shown to have a violent death. Zoe on the other hand is the root cause of every single piece of misfortune that occurs here, her expedition to the hospital results in death, her desire to keep Max alive results in death, her manipulation of her boyfriend to get him and some soldiers to try and get samples from the undead not only leads to more dead, but also a huge invasion. At every point of misfortune Zoe is there bleating about a cure she thinks she can create as a tonic for the misery and carnage everyone experiences. This might even be a noble reason to do what she does if not for the fact that aside from a few occasions victims of zombies either get immediately ripped apart by hungry mobs, or get bites that would be lethal even if they had had a cure in their system (such as one woman whose neck gets a gigantic chunk bitten out of). When you feel like you have more in common with the 'bad' guy rather than the heroine you know something has gone terribly wrong.
Even putting my prejudices aside Day of the Dead: Bloodline is a terrible film, while it may look nice enough, and have plenty of gore this is killed by an abysmal script (I genuinely think I could have written a better one) and terrible characters. This was actually directed by Hector Hernandez Vicens who did the unique The Corpse of Anna Fritz, that will explain the actual directing being on point, but sadly not much else is, but hey, at least it isn't boring.