Remember how in 2008 we all thought a Day Of The Dead remake co-starring Nick Cannon was the lowest low? Well, sorry 2016 us – it’s only gotten worse. Hèctor Hernández Vicens’ Day Of The Dead: Bloodline is – against all odds – an even more ill-advised rehashing than Steve Miner’s. How? Hold on, let me unravel the mile-long scroll of notes I scribbled…ah. How about digitally abhorrent CGI scars and blood splatters? Horrendous ADR that starts the film with mismatched voices to mouths? Angled camera shots of half-empty rooms – like, who watched 1985’s Day Of The Dead and decided it needed more rape? If you’re going to remake history, there better be a good reason – case and point.
Sophie Skelton stars as Zoe Parker, a med student whose graduation is put on hold when the zombie apocalypse hits. She escapes Whittendale University Medical Center and ends up at High Rock Bunker – a refugee camp/CDC research facility – where we rejoin her five years later. A preventative antidote is still being sought after, and one day Zoe pushes for an out-of-zone supply run back to Whittendate – where an ex-stalker-patient now shambles as an “almost” zombie. This intelligent monster, Max (Johnathon Schaech), hitches a ride back to High Rock (holding onto a humvee’s underbelly) and corners Zoe, yet doesn’t bite. He’s chained, locked-up and harvested for abnormal blood in hopes he’ll be the key to a breakthrough vaccination, with the constant risk of escape looming. Which, duh, he does.
Let’s first start with Max, the now villainous reincarnation of Romero’s domesticated zed named Bub. Writers Mark Tonderai and Lars Jacobson introduce Max as a living blood donor with strong antibodies in his bloodstream, but he also harbors an unhealthy attraction to Zoe (like, he carves her name into his forearm). Max tries to rape Zoe the night Whittendale gets infected, but fails after tearing her shirt open because a morgue corpse rips into his flesh.
This means his entire captivity holds disgusting predatory overtones while the relationship between Zoe and her abnormal subject is icky, gross, and culminates in this wholly unnecessary rape-revenge arc. Max tries to rape her as a human, and these same motivations are what fuel evil zombified Max. Translation: rape is unjustifiably manipulated as a weak plot device. With Bub there was evolution, investment and curiosity. With Max? A penetrating male gaze you want to avert at every face-lick and glance (in a very wrong-for-this-movie way).
On the technical side, Day Of The Dead: Bloodline makes bad decisions at the worst times. There are, oddly, positive examples of practical organs being shredded and flesh being pulled from bone (broken jaw zombie!). Other times? The *worst* CGI blood splatters coat faces like a layered gloss is sitting atop airbrushed flesh. It looks HORRENDOUS and is so inexcusably noticeable – same goes for the mismatched ADR voice overs. And why is blood squirting onto the camera lens when THE CAMERA LENS ISN’T SUPPOSED TO BE THERE? It’s like Vicens was required to burn an entire CGI budget and got stuck with leftovers, so egregious neck wounds were added post-filming to strip away natural horror atmospheres. Ah, the ugliness of cheap-o animation when there’s gore worth praising.
Since this is a reimaging, Vicens goes the Zack Snyder route and opts for fast-moving zombies (dubbed “Rotters”). They lumber-sprint in awkward fashion – like gorillas just learning to run – but only for the sake of trying to be different. Red eyes represent some kind of rage virus, and zombies dart around. It’s all some breeze-through guesstimating which doesn’t matter in the long run because characters always make most profoundly idiotic decisions. Zoe’s plans always get security detail killed, Bacca (Marcus Vanco) abides because he loves Zoe and soldiers stare at danger until zombies are close enough for it to be an issue – generic, bland, and utterly brainless. Not an ounce of political commentary to be found.
Performances, meanwhile, are…forgettable. That’s generous noting how thinly stereotypes are scripted (military guy with Tapout shirt, military guy with basketball jersey, military girl who’s not Zoe, etc). Granted, Skelton is the main focus and does a tremendous job going for jogs along perimeter fences (so many times). Otherwise it’s all Bacca’s sneaky suicide missions, leader Miguel (Jeff Gum) throwing his “machismo” around, red shirt lady flip-flopping sides – frankly, names and details don’t matter here. Soldiers fight zombies, and that’s all this movie cares about. Why waste time on the nitty-gritty…aka development?
No ifs, ands or Bubs about it, the memory of Day Of The Dead: Bloodline will decay at lightning speed. There’s nothing new here that Romero didn’t do better, only a downgraded horror watch with lesser value. If you can’t do it right, why bother? Because Romero’s name and pedigree carries immediate recognition, yeah – but you damn-well better deliver in those cases. Unlike this delinquent zombie bore that’s barely even worth a dishonorable discharge.
Day Of The Dead: Bloodline somehow dethrones 2008's earlier remake attempt as an even more forgettable "reimagining" (aka rip-off).