Wednesday, January 31, 2018

DAY OF THE DEAD: BLOODLINE (2017) (Blu-ray Review)

Label: Lionsgate
Region Code: A
Rating: R
Duration: 91 Minutes 
Audio: English DTS-HD MA Surround 5.1 with Optional English Subtitles 
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (2.39:1)
Director: Hèctor Hernández Vicens          
Cast: Johnathon Schaech, Sophie Skelton, Jeff Gum, Marcus Canco

Synopsis: Fear goes viral in this terrifying retelling of George A. Romero’s zombie horror classic. Five years after an epidemic nearly wiped out the world’s population, Dr. Zoe Parker lives in an underground bunker among a small group of military personnel and survivalists, working on a cure while fighting armies of the undead. When a dangerous patient from Zoe’s past infiltrates the bunker, he just might hold the key to saving humanity . . . or ending it.

To my knowledge this is the third sequel/reboot version of the George A. Romero classic, first we had Day of the Dead 2: Contagion (2005), a sequel of sorts I remember nothing about whatsoever, and the more memorable (but by no means better) Day of the Dead (2008) directed by Steve Miner (Friday the 13th Part II), a truly disastrous cash-in that took a foul dump on Romero's original, having nothing to do with it. This re-imagining comes to us from the same producing team who brought us the 2008 cash-in, a movie featuring vomit-spewing and gravity defying ceiling crawling undead, and while this one in my opinion is an easier watch than the 2008 film it does also feature some minor zombie vomit-spew, but at least has some faint echoes of Romero's original, but it's still a pale imitation that's poorly executed. 

The film opens amidst a frenzied outbreak of the undead on the city streets, flesh is being torn, there's a mix of practical gore and ill-advised digital blood spatter, just a few minutes into it we are then moved four hours back in time, to a hospital to learn how the outbreak started. It's a jarring and pointless time shift to a hospital where med student Zoe (Sophie Skelton) is found diagnosing the cause of death of a cadaver. While on her rounds she must treat a creeper-patient named Max (Johnathon Schaech) who has an unhealthy obsession with the attractive med student, leering at her like a tom cat on the prowl, making suggestive comments and revealing to her how he's carved her name into his forearm. He's tolerated because he has some rare form of antibody coursing through his veins, something that proves to be of note later in the film. Afterward Zoe attends an office party where she is attacked by Max who tries to rape her in the morgue, but he's stopped when a re-animated cadaver takes a bit out of him, in the ensuing chaos most of the hospital staff are attacked and infected and Zoe somehow manages to escape. Now the movies flashes forward five years, Zoe is now part of a team of survivors comprised of scientists like herself and soldiers, from his point the film sort of falls into the familiar Romero framework as the scientist and soldiers are at odds with each other. When med supplies run low at the compound Zoe organizes a trip back to the hospital she originated from to gather much needed medical supplies. There she encounters the semi-undead Max, who for some reason has stayed at the same hospital for five years waiting for hos obsession's return!?! Apparently his the antibodies in his blood have allowed him o remain semi-sentient - he's not a total brain-dead zombies, but he's still a pervy creeper with eye for Zoe.

The supply party comes under attack and in the chaos to escape Max hitches a ride under one of the Humvees Cape Fear-style back to the compound, unnoticed he makes his way inside the military base where he proceeds to infiltrate the A/C duct work, waiting for his moment to pounce on poor Zoe. Max is clearly this film's version of Bud from the original film, a rape-y zombies creep who's weirdness carries over to infected version, the whole rape-y zombie thing is the oddest part of the film in my opinion, though I will say that I think Schaech's performance as Maz is arguably the sole highlight of the whole film. While I didn't care for the pervy aspect of his character I did like his physical performance and the make-up effects, at one point he flashes a strange joker grin that I thought was pretty cool.

For her part Skelton as Zoe is supposed to be the Dr. Sarah Bowman analog to the original, but I found her performance weak, and she's not alone, everyone here with the exception of Schaech, come across real weak. As far as character analog's go we also have Marcus Canco as Zoe's love interest Baca who is clearly modelled after the original's Miguel, though he doesn't suffer from shell-shock of the Romero character, and in place of Joe Pilato's Capt. Rhodes we have 
Miguel (Jeff Gum), again a pale imitation with none of the charisma and maniacal threat of Romero's character. Notably missing is any sort of Dr. "Frankestein" and his gruesome experiments on the undead,  one of the highlights of the original film, the character has been sort of folded into the Zoe character, but there's no real series of grotesque lab experiments, just a lot of scene of Max chained to a wall that recall the original film, but I just cannot say enough how this is a warmed over and anemic retread of the original - this film is DOA. 

The special effects are decent at times but uneven, there's some great practical gore, flesh being torn from the living by the undead, but there's also an over abundance of digital blood splatter - a lot of it, and while I can forgive this in small doses it's way overused here - this is a Romero remake, it deserves the real-deal special effects, the original featured some amazing work from Tom Savini, they should have at least gone all-out for the real gore. 
Audio/Video: Day of the Dead: Bloodline (2017) arrives on Blu-ray from Lionsgate in 1080p HD framed in 2.35:1 widescreen, it looks quite good, it's a modern digital production and doesn't suffer from any sort of transfer-deficit. The English DTS-HD MA surround 5.1 audio mix us fine, not overly active in the surrounds, but everything is crisp and well-mixed, the score from composer Frederik Wiedmann (The Hills Run Red) coming through strong, optional English subtitles are included.

Extras on the disc include a making of featurette and a Ulatraviolet/Vudu digital copy of the film. This single-disc release comes housed in a standard Blu-ray keepcase with an o-card (slipcover) featuring the same artwork, the disc itself featuring another image of Max the zombie alongside some other undead, it's really a shame that the film doesn't live up to the artwork - the key art for this one is simple but creepy and atmospheric. 

Special Features: 
-“Day of the Dead: Bloodline: Reviving Horror” Featurette

I'm not opposed to re-imaginings of beloved films, Romero's movies in particular have three very good remakes, his seminal infected film The Crazies has a great remake I would argue usurps the original, and Tom Savini (with a Romero script) did justice to the 90's update of Night of the Living Dead. I'm not even opposed to a drastically altered remake, Zach Snyder's Dawn of the Dead is a in-name-only remake, but I love it, even though they went for fast-moving zombies. I prefer the shambling variety of the undead, I just think them creepier to their running counterparts, but I'll go along with fast-moving undead and the infected from time to time - it's not a deal breaker. However, Day of the Dead: Bloodline is ill-advised and poorly executed cash-in, this is not a recommend, but maybe it's worth a watch once it comes to Netflix and Amazon Prime for the morbidly curious.

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