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Day of the Dead, the most important horror movie of the last 30 years?



Day of the Dead turns 30 next year and while I think the movie casts a wide shadow in regards to how influential it is I doubt many other than fans of the horror genera have seen it. It’s the final film of George Romero’s zombie trilogy after Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead and serves as an appropriate ending to his brutal series.

When I think of Day of the Dead I think of three things; first it’s a great movie. Second it scared me so much that after the first time I saw it that I literally slept on the floor of my parent’s room for a month. And finally I think that Day of the Dead might just be the most important movie in the last 30 years for horror fans.

Why is it that important? Because even with Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead you don’t get the TV series The Walking Dead that’s one of the most successful series of the last decade without Day of the Dead.

In Day of the Dead, years have past since the zombies of Night of the Living Dead have emerged and then in Dawn of the Dead started taking control of the world one bite at a time. Now the zombies rule the planet and the last vestiges of humanity, if not the last vestige, are holed up in an underground complex trying to study the zombie and figure out how to win a war against them that at this point is all but over. Underground the scientists find some progress when they’re able to turn a zombie they’ve named “Bub” (Sherman Howard) to something more docile but when the soldiers find out what’s really been going on in the lab that’s more Dr. Frankenstein than what they’ve lead to believe, it turns out being trapped inside with each other might be more dangerous than being trapped outside with the walking dead.

The Walking Dead Season 3 PosterAnd that’s why that when The Walking Dead series creator Robert Kirkman has said in the past that his series takes place in the universe of Night of the Living Dead it’s really taking place in the universe of Day of the Dead.

In Night of the Living Dead the characters are in a world where zombies first appear. And while the zombies are dangerous and kill people, it’s not like the government has lost control of things. In the movie there are scenes of newscasters delivering stories about the undead and even a segment that takes place in a zombie-free Washington DC. And while the end of the movie spells doom for the entire living cast of Night of the Living Dead, it seems like things are mostly under control with posses of people gunning down the dead and restoring some sort of order.

And in Dawn of the Dead while things have gotten much worse, the police are still battling zombies on the streets of cities and anchors are still delivering the news.

And while all this might have happened in the backstory of The Walking Dead it certainly doesn’t happen on screen.

Instead, The Walking Dead jumps right to the same universe of Day of the Dead, where civilization has all but collapsed and the zombies have made venturing into cities extremely dangerous. And any remnant of whatever institutions used to exist be it the military or scientists don’t realize that their parts on the world stage are essentially over are incidental and if not completely gone.

Which to me sounds more like Day of the Dead than Night of the Living Dead.

I’m not saying that Kirkman lifted The Walking Dead from Day of the Dead, his story has gone in a totally different direction than Romeo’s did in Day of the Dead, just that when people name check Night of the Living Dead with The Walking Dead they should really mention Day of the Dead in that conversation too.