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Day of the Dead 2: Contagium
Directed by James Dudelson, Ana Clavell
Written by Ana Clavell
Starring Laurie Maria Baranyay, Simon Burzynski, Samantha Clarke, Mike Dalager
Produced by James Dudelson
Okay…when I put this one into the player, I have to admit, I had my share of concerns. Given “Dawn of the Dead’s” fairly lackluster remake, and even the less than stellar reemergence of the Grand Old Man himself, anything having to do with George Romero hadn’t been shaping up all that well.
Compared to the original stuff, in fact, it was all pretty lousy. And that hurts more than anything to have to say.
But then I put “Day of the Dead 2: Contagium” in. And it didn’t turn out half bad.
We’ll have a look at just why a bit later, but let me sum up the plot for you. Basically, back in 1968, Ravenside Military Installation started developing this self-replicating virus tailor made to smoke DNA at the molecular level—biowarfare on a previously unimaginable scale. So, as you no doubt expected, something went wrong, and a whole bunch of people got dead. Most of them came back for a while, and got dead once again. Thirty seven years later, Ravenside Psychiatric Hospital (wow, how’s that for cover, folks?) is clearing up a ravine near the hospital when they come across an old thermos containing one of the last known samples of the self-replicating virus. Naturally, something goes wrong again, and the whole process fires back up with zombies aplenty.
Okay, sounds kinda pedestrian, no? Sure it does. But it’s in the execution that “Day of the Dead 2: Contagium” shines.
First and foremost, the zombies are almost exactly authentic. Head shots kill, and only head shots kill. Most of the zombies plod rather than run. Almost no zombies are talking. I have to make hedges on this—there are visible examples to the contrary that happen every so often. Of course, the plot does take care of this by saying that some people’s DNA will be affected in a different fashion by the virus. It’s a bit flimsy but it does work, so I’m okay with it.
Even better, they name one of the buildings at Ravenside the “Romero Ward,” so that’s a solid addition. It’s good that they mostly used his physics, and then gave him the nod besides. That’s respect. The Grand Old Man deserves respect.
It’s not without flaws here, though. The first half hour, indeed, the first half, is a bit slow moving plot wise. And a movie like this shouldn’t be slow moving. Except it did that thing I always hate in my zombie movies. It’s been a big push lately, and I’m not happy about it. All the zombie action was contained to one building, with the last ten minutes showing the outbreak beginning as a horde of zombies pours out of the hospital. I want the Apocalypse back in my zombie movies! The last one I can recall that got that far with it was “Feeding the Masses,” and that at least managed to get a city going up! I want to see people trying to survive in an entire world gone mad, not in a building with a little zombie problem.
This needs to be a geopolitical conflict, not a problem for the realtors.
The ending, redundantly, is solid enough, but the content it held really needed featuring more toward the front. I want to see the zombies expand, not just bust out of a building.
The special features included a making of featurette, cast and crew commentary, and trailers for “Day of the Dead,” “All Souls Day,” “It Waits,” “The Evil Dead,” and “Demon Hunter.”
All in all, “Day of the Dead 2: Contagium” is a solid entry into the zombie movie genre. It’s certainly not all it could have been, but what was there was definitely worth watching. With a few changes, it could have been the best zombie movie since the original “Dawn of the Dead” hit. But I can definitely recommend seeing it as it is.
Steve Anderson is a film critic who collects action figures so he can dress them up as his favorite horror villains. He lives somewhere in the United States.
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