Day of the Dead seems to be the ugly sibling in George A. Romero's original Dead trilogy, but in honesty I think it's possibly the best of the three, despite how sacrilegious that may sound. It's a bit more bizarre, a lot gorier, and gets across the epic scale of the zombie apocalypse that began with Night of the Living Dead in 1968.
A dozen military personnel are working on a solution to the zombie menace from an underground missile silo, but once the facility becomes overrun with flesh-gnawing undead, a frantic battle for survival ensues. It's bleak, nasty and claustrophobic, which is where its power lies.
The chilling dream sequences that pepper the film add to the feeling of despair and inevitability felt by the people in the silo, and the internal conflicts between those characters work well to humanise people who are basically rather stereotypical.
It's very different to the two earlier films, which may be one of the reasons that it is seem as a lesser entry by some people, but I think it is a marvellously paced and wonderfully frightening horror movie that has aged much better than the iconic first two movies.
The conflict between military personnel and the scientists of the group is wound tighter and tighter throughout the film, until it all boils over right in the middle of a zombie invasion. This drags the viewer in and adds to both the entertainment value and the scares. The examination of what drives the zombies onwards that the film offers is fascinating and adds to the mythos, while the grisly visuals up the ante set down by 'Night...' and 'Dawn...' with gleefully nasty relish.
Some of the gore scenes are amazing, and rank amongst my all-time favourite. These of course include the cutting-off of the infected guy's arm, the vividly gory experimentation scenes and the scenes of zombies tearing characters apart in glorious technicolour.
The inclusion of Bub, the domesticated zombie, is a masterstroke, reminding us that the cadavers are moe than just cannon fodder and that they used to be human once upon a time. Of course, he does offer a bit of comedy relief too, but that serves to alleviate the darkness of the otherwise relentlessly bleak story a bit.
Day of the Dead isn't a perfect film, but it successfully built on what had gone before and brought the horror to a new level. It was my first exposure to Romero's work way back in the mists of my teenage years, which may have coloured my opinion a bit, but I love it. Most horror fans have their favourite Romero zombie flick, and I'm proud to say this is mine.