The makers of Day Of The Dead: Bloodline had a big task in front of them – to make a movie that was worthy of being associated with the works of a recently-deceased, and much-beloved, horror legend. And they nearly pulled it off. Day Of The Dead: Bloodline is a perfectly acceptable film, and it will likely keep you entertained for 90 minutes. But that’s the best I can say about it – “acceptable”. It’s entertaining, but falls way short of being a classic.
Before we get started, let me say that I am not opposed to horror remakes. In fact, and I’m just gonna blurt it out right now, I thought Zack Snyder’s remake of Dawn Of The Dead was better than the George Romero original. There, I said it. And if you’re still debating the merits of slow zombies vs fast zombies, then 2004 called and it wants its antiquated Usenet debate back. I wanted to love Day Of The Dead: Bloodline, but the best I can say is that I didn’t hate it.
The plot closely follows the story of the original George A. Romero film. Several years after the zombie outbreak, the last remaining human survivors are living in a military bunker. Here in this fortress, they are safe from the zombies (or “rotters”, in this film). But living in this heavily-armored compound brings its own challenges, namely dealing with the abusive, power-hungry, military commander Miguel (Jeff Gum). When a rotter finds its way into the compound, it sets off a bitter divide within those in command. Most of the bunker inhabitants want to quickly do what you do to rotters – place a bullet deep in its skull. But the staff doctor, Zoe (Sophie Skelton), persuades the powers-that-be to let her study it. You see, this particular rotter, Max (Johnathon Schaech), is special. In fact, Max may hold a valuable clue to ending the zombie apocalypse.
Honestly, there is alot to like here. Director Hector Hernandez Vicens kicks the movie off with an action-packed look at the first few hours of the rotter outbreak, and he keeps the momentum going throughout the film. I never got bored, and that itself sets this film apart from lesser films – most notably, the god-awful 2008 remake of Day Of The Dead (which interestingly starred Christa Campbell, who serves as producer on Bloodline). This film maintains tension, and delivers the appropriate amount of jump scares. The film’s final act did have moving towards the edge of my seat. And yeah, gore fans will be satisfied. All manner of blood, entrails, brains, and assorted other goo vividly paint the screen.
But the real standout in this film is Max, the Very Special Rotter. Like Bub in the original Romero film, its Max that keeps this from being just another zombie film. Johnathon Schaech steals every scene he appears in, whether playing Max in rotter or human form. It is an unfortunate fact for the other performers in this film that the best performance is given by an actor with practically no dialogue.
Is it beginning to sound like I liked Day Of The Dead: Bloodline? I nearly did. So what was the deal-breaker for this reviewer? The dialogue. I don’t claim to be an expert screenwriter, but I can spot bad dialogue like a proofreading bloodhound, and this movie has some bad dialogue. There are some exchanges here that can only be described as cringe-worthy, and these exchanges sometimes took me out of the movie. The problem is that the characters seem to speak excessively formally, even when the scenario does not call for it. I was tempted to blame this on the acting (and I’m still not sure I entirely forgive the performers), but I believe the main culprit is the writing.
Another problem was the decision to give Max a backstory. I believe this removed alot of the “magic” from the character that was present in Bub. In the early scenes in the movie, we are shown Max in human form and get to know him in his pre-rotter state. I won’t spoil anything here, but I’ll just say that Max is not a nice guy. I believe the viewer does not need to know this, and I much preferred the original film’s approach of letting the audience decide what kind of zombie Bub was. For example, imagine the scene of Bub wearing headphones and being delighted with hearing music. If we had known that Bub was a horrible person in his human life, this scene would have lost all of its magic. Instead of a memorable scene of a zombie expressing joy, we would have just had a scene of a dick wearing headphones.
So here’s my official wishy-washy conclusion. Was Day Of The Dead: Bloodline good? Yeah, mostly. Do I recommend it? Sure, why not, I guess. It’s a decent way to spend 90 minutes sitting on your living room couch. For the most part, I don’t regret the time I spent watching it. Is it a remarkable film? Nope. Will you remember it years from now? Probably not. Is it as good as the original Romero film? Uh, that’s a solid “no.” Day Of The Dead: Bloodline, while fairly enjoyable, could still use a transfusion.
Day Of The Dead: Bloodline is now in a limited theatrical release, and also on several VOD platforms.