Day of the Dead: The Need to Feed
It might appear that there is a covert governing body that controls the types of film made. If so then they most likely just passed a regulation that two out of every three independent films must be about zombies. Sure, this isn’t true but looking over the latest Indy flicks to preview it certainly seems to be. Zombie movies have become the fall back default for the burgeoning group of young, independent film makers. This type of film possesses the attributes most highly coveted by the young film makers, they can be made cheaply, the shooting schedule can be as little as a couple of weeks and they have a good chance of being distributed if not in theaters at least on cable or DVD. The most important fact is these movies can turn a profit. It is only natural that some are better than others and as Zombie flicks go ‘Day of the Dead: The Need to Feed’ is about in the middle. The flick would have been better off with a different title. To present it as a remake of the George Romero classic film by the same name invites comparisons that may not be fair. Except for the name and a few plot devices this is its own film and should be treated as such. The downside is there are some major problems even when the flick is considered apart from the Romero zombie universe.
Almost every zombie movie is at least internally consistent. They may have variations from the classic, lumbering zombies but there is a set of rules provided at the start of the film that remains the same throughout. The biggest misstep in this flick is they don’t establish the natural laws of zombies in their world. It is okay to have fast zombies, slow one, smart or dumb zombies but not all in the same flick. Here there is even gravity defying zombies able to scurry across the walls. They also have the quickest zombie transformation period of any zombie movie ever. Right there they take away a great source of conflict. If the transformation is slow you have the normal people angst over what to do with their infected friend. Most of the new crop of zombie films has their faults so some continuity errors are nothing major for the genre. It is just that it shouldn’t be that difficult to pick a zombie variation and stick to it or at least give some sort of justification like a line of dialogue ‘oh no, they are changing’. They did come up with a type of zombie that no one has ever imagined before, the world’s first vegetarian zombie. Talk about your dilemma. Zombies are supposed to rip apart human flesh not feed on veggies. Perhaps next time we can get a vegan zombie who is morally opposed to eating anything with a face.
This is not to say that the film is all that bad. As zombie flicks go it has some positive aspects that make it an entertaining watch. Script writer Jeffrey Reddick gets right into things with only enough exposition to set up the film. At least he has some experience in the horror and thriller genres. He penned all three installments of the ‘Final Destination’ franchise coming up with a variety of novel way to kill off teenagers. He also wrote the sequel to the made for cable flick ‘Cabin by the Lake’, aptly named ‘Return to the Cabin by the Lake’. He has some plot devices like truck driving zombies. This may sound scary but then again this is a generation that is used to the driving mishaps of the popular celebrity princesses lately. Reddick does do better with stories that require a little more of a build up. Here he just lets it rip and for the zombie fans that can be enjoyable.
The film was directed by Steve Miner who should be familiar to the die hard horror fans. He took the helm for the second and third films in the ‘Friday the 13th’ franchise. He also directed horror flicks like ‘Halloween H20: 20 Years Later’ and ‘Lake Placid’. Besides that he has directed numerous television series ranging from ‘Smallville’ to ‘Wildfire’. He has made one of the greatest gifts to mankind by directing Katherine Heigl in her break out role in ‘My Father the Hero’. With such a varied background this film is atypical of his style. The pacing is quick but choppy. Many of the scenes come across as disjointed almost vignettes instead of part of a film. Much of this can be excused since the film is overall entertaining. It was not intended to be a lesson in direction just something to watch with your friends over some beer and pizza. All you really want in a zombie flick is action and Miner delivers it on time and with suitable blood and gore. It was an excellent decision to release this film directly to DVD instead of giving it a theatrical release. As far as DTV releases goes it works as well as most in the genre.
The story is about average for a zombie flick. A town in Colorado is quarantined after an outbreak of a strange virus. The army is sent in to help the townsfolk deal with the growing crisis. The virus isn’t exactly lethal, well not directly. Those infected begin to rapidly decompose and revert to a feral state. They also develop a taste for human flesh. That is except the veggie zombie but he comes around much later in the film. One of the soldiers is a very pretty young woman, Sarah Bowman (Mena Suvari) who is under the command of Captain Rhodes (Ving Rhames). Naturally she feels there is more to the crisis that is officially announced while the captain is the usually by the book sort of commanding officer. There is a need to keep what is happening in the town contained. I supposed it would be difficult to explain an American town overrun by zombies, especially in an election year. Since the zombies are technically not dead you might wonder if they can still vote. The film does contain ample examples of what you watch this type of film for. Heads explode, limbs are ripped off and people eviscerated and eaten alive. You also have zombies performing tricks that would seem better suited for a Hong Kong action flick.
Survari is normally a dynamic actress with great talent. Here she drifts through her part. You might even say that she just phoned it in. Rhames does well as the pompous commanding officer but then he just has to appear on screen to pull off menacing. The most embarrassing performance is given by Nick Cannon. He is a parody of the stereotype black man in horror flicks. He personally sets African-American actors back by at least fifty years here.
The film is released to DVD by independent film distributor First Look Home Entertainment. Since they deal with the highly experimental world of small Indy movies they have their share of hits and misses. This film is okay for the genre and will be enjoyable by the devotee of zombie flicks. The audio is a robust Dolby 5.1. There are several extras announced by not included in the advanced screener copy. They include a commentary track featuring Reddick, Miner and several cast members. There is an ‘internet only’ trailer and an alternate ending. If you collect zombie flicks add this one to your set.