Remembering Romero: George Romero’s ‘Day of the Dead’ (1985)


1428 Elm’s celebration of George Romero’s life and career rages on like a zombie as we take a look at 1985’s ‘Day of the Dead.’ We’re in the minority now.

The dead are taking over. Night turns into dawn and dawn becomes day. Good morning, welcome to the darkest day in horror the world has ever known.


It’s 1984 and George Romero is at the top of his game. Conquering both indie and mainstream film, Dawn of the Dead and Creepshow, respectively, the filmmaker has nothing left to accomplish. With only one film left in his three picture deal with UFDC Films, Romero is contractually obligated to make the third “Dead” picture. And he’s about to kill it.

Romero originally turns in a huge script for the second sequel to his breakout picture. Featuring a bigger army presence, and huge sets to structure his narrative, UFDC agrees to release his film unrated if he cuts the budget back. Romero knows he’s not gunning for an R rating and agrees. What the film legend does with the $3.5M, down from $7M, still holds up 32 years later and proves the dead never truly die.


George Romero’s ‘Day of the Dead’ — Courtesy of UFDC Films

The film is Day of the Dead. The darkest of the original trilogy, the film makes little noise at the box office. Releasing in the “year of the zombie”, along side Re-Animator and The Return of the Living Dead, the film makes $5M domestically — a far cry from Dawn’s $55M take. Only, history doesn’t concern itself with money.

In the years since Day of the Dead’s release, the film gains a cult following. With conventions becoming popular, Romero’s third zombie picture finally gets the respect it deserves. Bub shirts and buttons are seen, as well as original art, toys and special edition DVD sets featuring the film. It eventually is the darkest day the world had ever known — it just took a few decades to get there.


More from George Romero

Starring Lori CardilleTerry Alexander and Joseph Pilato, with Richard Liberty and Howard Sherman giving superb supporting performances, Day of the Dead is a timeless classic. My personal favorite “Dead” saga film, the ’85 picture is dark, gritty and unforgiving. While Dawn of the Dead is often recalled for its comicbook tone, Day’s tone is bleak and depressing — how I like my horror. But it’s not just the darkness I respond to. It’s the craft.

For all involved, everyone is at the top of their game. The effects by master Tom Savini (Friday the 13th, Dawn of the Dead) are some of the best practical effects work in the industry’s history. They still hold up to this day. Romero is sharper as a visual storyteller, though he’s always been an amazing writer, and the film flows beautifully. This time about the possible fall of the military, Day is a true masterpiece and gets better every day. Ironically.

Five days ago, the movie’s creator left this earth of ours. After battling lung cancer, George Andrew Romero lost his fight and went where we all go. While he can be seen holding a cigarette in almost every interview, being in those mines may have contributed to his eventual death. It certainly didn’t help. And for that alone, because I love the movie so much, you’ll always be a god to me sir.

Next: Remembering Romero: George Romero’s ‘Creepshow’ (1982)

So rest easy Romero. You may be gone, but you’ll never be forgotten.

Love ‘Day of the Dead’? Missing the man behind the macabre? Let the other Zombies know what you think in the comment section below.