The late George Romero has a zombie film formula that’s easy to recognize—sociocultural themes embedded into a gory, post-apocalyptic context, with the dead who’ve risen from their graves to threaten all of humanity sometimes just as horrifying as the people trying to survive them. His series started with 1968’s iconic Night of the Living Dead, then came Dawn of the Dead (1978)—where the characters are holed up a shopping mall (you might remember the remake that came out in 2004).
This is the final outing of the loosely connected three-part zombie films, presented during Northwest Film Forum’s Schlock and Awe series, which showcases Reagan ('80s)-era horror films. (Day of the Dead had a re-do as well, in 2008; this is the original.) It’s set in an underground army base/facility made up of soldiers and scientists; the former are protecting the latter as they work on a cure for the dead-rising pandemic. Amputated arms, bodies torn apart, zombies falling apart in bloody pieces—it has all the classics of a gory-campy ’80s-era horror film. Romero described it as a “tragedy about how a lack of human communication causes chaos and collapse even in this small little pie slice of society.”
If you have 90 minutes to kill, check out this cool documentary about the making of Day of the Dead:
Here's the opening scene:
And here's a little background on the Schlock and Awe series, which is programmed by Amanda Salazar and CB Shamah:
Feverish paranoia and queasy cynicism pervade the horror films of the ‘80s. Directors had a robust cache of public anxiety to draw on: Russian nuclear threats, the AIDS crisis, and the Iran-Contra scandal were just the tip of the iceberg. Slashers, stalkers, mutants, and parasites crept through deep shadows and onto screens, terrorizing innocently sterile families, unsuspecting teenagers, and American audiences. Simultaneously, special effects technology was giving dizzying new dimensions to gooey gore, allowing filmmakers to more effectively plumb the depths of perversion.
Each Wednesday in October, put on a brave face and join us for a selection of some of the most memorably (and delightfully) bloody, oozy, insidious threats in horror history! See small-town, straight-laced America turned inside out and upside down by mocking murderers, demonic curses, and, inevitably… each other. Seattle premieres of new restorations, rare film prints, and more await the audiences that dare to face them.
Schlock and Awe continues on October 24 with cheeky absurd horror classic Evil Dead II, then, on Halloween, NWFF presents the bizarrely grotesque Society, and finally, the series closes with the eerie small town ghosts of The Fog November 1-3.