When the trailer for “Day of the Dead” arrived, it looked interesting but stumped me. The trailer for the Syfy series was a fast paced dark comedy with zombies, goofy one liners, and a bunch of action. It felt more like “Return of Z Nation” rather than a throwback to Romero. This could have been given any generic title like “Zombie Warz” or “Country Zombie Jammie Jam” and never really miss a beat. There’s no reason at all to call this “Day of the Dead” and pretend it’s honoring Romero’s original movie, and it’s sad Syfy has resorted to this.
It’s all brand recognition. It’s an easy sell, an easy pitch, and has a built in audience.
Set in Mawinhaken, Pennsylvania, an ordinary day takes a terrifying turn when the dead begin to rise. Townspeople Mayor Bowman is up for reelection, Jai is hours away from his wedding, Luke has a party to attend, Lauren is going to lead a funeral, McDermott has a mystery to solve, and Cam has a lawn to mow. Now they must band together to fight off the flesh eating horde, and figure out why the dead are walking the Earth. The only thing “Day of the Dead” has in common is its namesake, the rest is really just made up on the fly, and it takes off running at a breakneck speed.
The original 1985 George A. Romero movie was a masterpiece. It was a horror movie about PTSD and a commentary on the military industrial complex, as much as it was a post apocalyptic movie about how man had lost the battle against the walking dead. Mankind went from battling from their homes, being pushed in to shopping centers, and then forced to hide in underground bunkers. By the end of the “Day of the Dead,” humanity admitted defeat, and there was very little hope in the final scene. “Day of the Dead” the TV series offers none of this and takes the material about as seriously as past garbage George Romero “remakes” and “adaptations.”
There’s a mere hint here and there of social commentary, as the writers dabble in condemning fracking, and desecrating ancient land owned by Indigenous tribes. But all of that is fleeting and exchanged for a ton of black comedy and gross out gags. If you’re tuning in to see some blood and guts, the first episode has it in spades. There’s severed limbs, bitten arms, a ton of zombie carnage, and hell, even an abrupt visual callback to Dr. Tongue. There’s also a ton of hit or miss comedy involving a getaway on a lawn mower, and a fight with a zombie being heard by confused funeral mourners in the next room. “Day of the Dead” fills the appetite of audiences that just want shambling monsters eating locals and yokels with gory results.
But if you’re tuning in to “Day of the Dead” hoping for a worthwhile tribute to George A. Romero and or his 1985 masterpiece, then you will definitely come up empty handed. After “Black Summer” and “The Walking Dead” I don’t hold out hope for “Day of the Dead” transforming in to anything other than more goofy video game gore, violence, and dark comedy.
At least we still have the movie.
Airing Fridays on Syfy. Check Local Listings.