Starring John Freedom Henry, Joseph Marino, Jackeline Olivier
Directed by James Glenn Dudelson and Ana Clavell
Distributed by Anchor Bay Home Entertainment
When Day of the Dead: Contagium was first announced, press and fans alike were baffled. “What the hell is it?” was everyone’s main query. “A Remake? A Sequel? What?!” After realizing the confusion they had caused, the folks behind Contagium added a numerical value onto the title to help further define just what this thing is. Even that misses the mark. The title of this film should simply read Day of the Dead: Cash In. This is a sequel in name only, created solely to generate revenue from ill informed fans. It has NOTHING to do with the Romero classic. Pull up a chair, dear readers. Uncle Creepy is about to vent.
First, let’s start with part of the film’s title: Contagium. To be honest, I am still not entirely convinced this is an actual word since the spell check on my PC keeps telling me that it is not. Either way, the “contagium” is actually a viral contagion. It affects its hosts like the flu and eventually turns them into one of the walking dead. There begins the story, and there ends the story. Let’s go a little bit more into detail though.
The film starts in the year 1968 in everyone’s favorite zombie town: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Apparently, a Russian soldier was captured while carrying a few vials of the virus and brought to a military hospital. We wacky Americans! We are notorious for incarcerating our Weapon of Mass Destruction toting P.O.W.’s in places of healing! That’ll learn ‘em! Obviously, one of the vials is opened, and faster than frizzy haired Stooge Larry Fine can say, “That sounds terrible,” we have an instant zombie outbreak! Of course the army then shows up complete with bad CGI helicopter to “clean up” the situation before it gets out of hand.
Realizing how grave the circumstances are, one of the hospital’s staff does what any red blooded American would do in a time of crisis — Grab one of the infectious vials, hide it in a thermos, and escape with ninja-like skill through a platoon of soldiers! Of course he doesn’t make it very far, but his Thermos of Doom™ is never recovered. Until now. Or “Five Days Ago” if you’re even paying attention to the film’s subtitles. The aforementioned military hospital is now a loony bin with a work release program. A few nuts are sent out to clean up a ravine, and guess what they find! THE THERMOS OF DOOM™! *cues spooky music* It’s opened, the contagium (or whatever the word is supposed to be) is now airborne, and again a zombie outbreak ensues, but not right away.
First we have to endure our exposed humans’ transformation into zombie-dom. This takes up over an hour of the film’s 103-minute run time. Truth be told, there is barely any zombie action in this film at all. The viewer is just left to sit there through some of the most awful exposition I have ever heard or seen. Some say the original Day of the Dead was guilty of being too talky. I didn’t think so and very much enjoyed Romero’s vision. In fact it stands as my favorite of the series. In it we were treated to some very thought-provoking lines of dialogue like “You want to put some kind of explanation on all this? Here’s one as good as any other. We’re bein’ punished by the Creator. He visited a curse on us. Maybe He didn’t want to see us blow ourselves up and put a big hole in his sky. Maybe he just wanted to show us he’s still the Boss Man. Maybe He figured we’re gettin’ too big for our britches, tryin’ to figure His shit out.” In Contagium we have lines like “I’m a project, you’re a project, we’re a project” and “Even the fastest deer will get hit by a car if it crosses the road too many times.” How I wish I could make this up. How I wish this could go away.
Let’s get to the special effects. They’re shit too. The main effect throughout the film seems to be that everyone gets to spit out fake blood. Everyone. There’s some attempted splatter here and there including the most pitiful head shots I have ever seen, but nothing works. Nothing looks good. Everything is awful.
How about them zombies! They’re not your ordinary zombies. Once infected by a glowing fairy not unlike Disney’s Tinkerbell, they start showing symptoms of their illness like peeling Elmer’s Glue off of their faces to simulate peeling skin. How’s that for effects!? Also, they were apparently infected with the dreaded Corsican Contagium™, as they now feel each other’s pain as well! They do everything every other zombie can do: shamble, run, even talk! They’re also the new frontrunners in the Worst Looking Zombies Ever category. There’s one that looks like The Toxic Avenger with fangs and a can of Chef Boyardee Beef-a-Roni poured over him, and the rest are of the Bruno Mattei pizza faced variety. The zombies in Grade Z shit like Children of the Living Dead were better, and dare I say it, even THAT was a better film. I was considering giving myself a well placed head shot just to end this misery, but no, I forged ahead.
Finally, in the last ten minutes of the film, the zombie action is in full swing, and we get to see zombies making their way through one neighborhood in suburbia attacking the same victims in different clothing and wigs over and over and over again. I’m not sure if this was my imagination or not, but I’m not going back a second time to find out either.
So, who is responsible for this mess? Ana Clavell and James Glenn Dudelson. Many directors have made cameos in their own films. Few, however, give themselves a role in which they use their real names spelled out on the screen just in case you didn’t get the “nudge nudge, wink wink.” Even Uwe Boll’s balls aren’t that big! How I wish Steele and Rhodes could come back for one more turn just so someone could “shoot that woman” while Rhodes makes the other “choke on ‘em” before they do any more damage to the genre.
On the “Making of… DVD extra we get a shot of Dudelson at work directing. He yells “cut,” and everyone has to set up whatever scene they were shooting for a re-shoot. Reason being? “It sucked,” says Dudelson. He ain’t kiddin’. A new blemish has appeared on the Day of the Dead brand. One that according to the directors was five years in the making. I shudder to think about how Dudelson and company will eventually shit stain the Creepshow franchise with Creepshow III (review here). That’s a tale for another time. In the interim I’ll let the good Dr. Logan sum up my endgame message for Dudelson and Clavell:
“That wasn’t very nice you know. That wasn’t very nice at all. Think about what you’ve done. Think about it. THINK.”
The Making of Day of the Dead 2: Contagium featurette
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