DAY OF THE DEAD 2: CONTAGIUM
Directed by James Dudelson & Ana Clavell
Produced by James Dudelson
Written by Ana Clavell
Director of Photograpy James LeGoy
Music by Chris Anderson
Cast: Stephan Wolfert, Laurie Maria Baranyay, Samantha Clarke
2005/109 mins/Color/Dolby Surround 2.0
1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen/English/USA/NTSC Region 1
Review from the Anchor Bay Entertainment DVD
In this age where hip-hop artists misspell every word that they can and posts on the internet are full of grammatical errors, I probably shouldn't get hung up on syntax. But, when I picked up the DVD box for DAY OF THE DEAD 2: CONTAGIUM, I found myself staring at that last word: contagium. Is that even a real word? I’ve heard of “contagion”, but not “contagium” (and for the record, neither had spell-check on Microsoft Works). But some research showed that “contagium” is truly a real word. After watching the film, I now realize that the film’s awkward title was the least of its problems.
The title DAY OF THE DEAD 2: CONTAGIUM (really?) suggests that this is a sequel to George A. Romero’s 1985 film. However, aside from the presence of zombies and some not-so-subtle nods to Romero’s saga, the movie has no relation to those classic films. The film opens in 1968 in a military hospital in Pennsylvania (there’s one of those not-so-subtle nods), where chaos has ensued. As a gory zombie runs amok in the facility, military personnel move through the hospital, killing everyone in sight. An orderly (Michael Moon) takes a oddly-shaped vial, shoves it in a thermos, and flees the hospital. However, he is shot and the thermos lands in the bushes.
The scene then shifts to the present, where the military hospital is now an inpatient mental health facility. Dr. Donwynn (Stephan Wolfert) and a group of his patients, Isaac (Justin Ipock), Sam (Julian Thomas), Boris (Steve Colosi), and Jackie (John Freedom Henry) are doing some maintenance work on the hospital grounds when they find the thermos. Back in the facility, we learn that Isaac will be leaving the hospital soon, and that he’s fallen in love with fellow patient, Emma (Laurie Baranyay). Also we meet the evil chief of staff, Dr. Heller (Andreas van Ray) and a sadistic orderly named Marshall (Joseph Marino).
To no one’s surprise, the thermos is opened and the vial inside releases strange purple stars (I’m not making this up). The patients exposed to this (the five main males and Emma) begin to experience odds symptoms, such as their skin peeling. When Emma bites Marshall, an epidemic begins to spread throughout the hospital as violence erupts and the patients begin to eat one another.
I must admit that zombie films aren't my favorite sub-genre of horror, but like many fright fans, I enjoy a good gut-munching living dead movie. And, I'm always on the look-out for a great zombie movie. Well, DAY OF THE DEAD 2: CONTAGIUM isn't that great zombie movie, nor does it even qualify as good. In fact, it may be the worst zombie movie that I've sat through since Bruno Mattei's HELL OF THE LIVING DEAD (Or maybe ZOMBIE '90, but I'm not going to quibble).
Many will want to scrutinize and vilify DAY OF THE DEAD 2: CONTAGIUM for the simple reason that it (falsely) presents itself as a sequel to Romero’s DAY OF THE DEAD (to the point that the same font is used in the title). (And I’m still a little cloudy on how this was possible.) However, the fact that this film is trying to piggy-back on a more famous movie is the least of its problems. Despite the fact that the filmmakers behind the cameras of DAY OF THE DEAD 2: CONTAGIUM have some experience, this movie has all of the earmarks of a very amateurish production.
This can be broken down into two problem areas. The script by co-director Ana Clavel is at once too vague and too broad. The movie introduces us to many characters, but gives us very few details about them. We get little information about the patient's problems and the villains are simply bad. The dialogue is very stilted and confusing at times.
DAY OF THE DEAD 2: CONTAGIUM also has a very shoddy feel. The first stages of the virus include peeling skin, which appears to have been achieved by smearing Elmer's glue on the actors and then peeling it off. (What 3rd grader hasn't done that?) The film does contain some gory scenes, but they become ridiculous as each victim has black blood pour from their mouths, no matter where on their body their wound occurs. The movie is also oddly edited, as those exposed to the virus exhibit symptoms, then seem to recover, and then don't discuss what has happened. (There's a very odd scene in which two characters vomit in their food and no one ever talks about this.)
While these factors are bad enough, the worst thing about DAY OF THE DEAD 2: CONTAGIUM is that it's boring. Following the prologue, it takes a long time for any zombies to show up again, and the scenes in-between contain a lot of painful dialogue. This one will only appeal to zombie completists and they will be enraged by the way that this film disgraces the DAY OF THE DEAD name.
DAY OF THE DEAD 2: CONTAGIUM wanders onto DVD courtesy of Anchor Bay Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. According to the commentary, the movie was shot on film and the transfer looks good. The image is sharp and clear, showing no grain and no overt defects from the source print. The colors look good, although some scenes appear to be somewhat too bright, giving the colors a washed-out look. There is no sign of problems with edge-enhancement and artifacting is kept to a minimum. The DVD carries a Dolby Surround 2.0 audio track. This track provides clear dialogue and music with no distortion. Beyond that, the track is quite lackluster, as the surround sound effects are barely noticeable.
The DVD contains two extra features. We start with an audio commentary from co-director James Dudelson, co-director & writer Ana Clavell, and director of photography James LeGoy. In the commentary, they refer to the film simply as DAY OF THE DEAD. Clavell says of the film, "(It's a) dramatic tour de force." The trio speak at length throughout the movie and give some nice tidbits about the making of the film, but they also spend a lot of time rambling about the other, more famous, films which were shot at the hospital location. The other extra is the 12-minute "The Making of DAY OF THE DEAD 2: CONTAGIUM". In this featurette, we get some nice behind-the-scenes footage, as well as comments from the cast and crew. However, we aren't told why the film was made and how it's related to Romero's films.
This Film Features:
Review by Mike Long. All Right Reserved. 2005. ©
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