Director: Hector Hernandez Vicens
Writer: Mark Tonderai, Lars Jacobson
Producer: Yariv Lerner, Boaz Davidson, Les Weldon, Jeff Rice, Lati Grobman, Christa Campbell, James Dudelson
Stars: Johnathon Schaech, Sophie Skelton, Marcus Vanco, Jeff Gum, Lilian Blankenship, Mark Rhino Smith, Rachel O’Meara
A medical student confined to a military bunker discovers that a past connection to a ravenous zombie may lead to the cure for an undead epidemic.
Two kinds of “Day of the Dead” fans exist in this world: those who’ve never seen the 2008 remake starring Mena Suvari, and those who did, but have understandably forgotten it since.
As unmemorable as that movie may be, its negligibility barely compares to that of 2005’s “Day of the Dead 2: Contagium.” A rightfully ignored sequel of sorts to George A. Romero’s 1985 classic, “Contagium” came from the people also responsible for the awful anthology “Creepshow 3” (review here). Why flush one franchise opportunity down the toilet when you can ruin two titles in the same licensing deal, right?
If that’s their operating philosophy, it makes sense that these same producers of the 2005 and 2008 “Day of the Dead” films would dig up the corpse they killed only to bury it again. So it comes to pass that Taurus Entertainment, whose work is so sloppy that end credits misspell their name, takes an equally odious third stab at failure. Overly eager to elbow Steve Miner’s remake as well as “Contagium” out of its way, “Day of the Dead: Bloodline” mounts a persuasive ‘For Your Consideration’ campaign in the category of “Worst Movie to Bear the ‘Day of the Dead’ Name.”
Romero’s 1985 original opened with a sweeping helicopter sequence. Panoramic vistas depicted zombie hordes shambling in wide-open spaces. Imagery illustrated the depth of devastation, establishing where the world was in its outbreak timeline before title credits concluded.
“Day of the Dead: Bloodline” opens with a montage where one zombie gnaws on a lone man. A close-up then cuts to a newscaster watching two panicking people run across what is clearly a film studio backlot. We’re not even introduced to the military bunker where much of the movie unfolds and the initial sense of claustrophobia comes from how a tight budgetary belt cheaply confines scope.
A flashback to four hours earlier shows struggling med student Zoe. In the midst of conducting research, Zoe pauses to smile at family photos taped above her microscope. With fantastically organic pinches of character development like this, how can anyone not be instantly bonded to her emotionally?
Zoe would rather cut all contact with her regular patient Max. Sporting a Poindexter hair part and cold-eyed whisper, it’s no wonder Max’s unsettling vibe makes Zoe uneasy. But, as Zoe’s superior reiterates, Max’s antibodies are 100x the normal level, and they need to study his samples. (See where this is headed? The movie telegraphs so many plot points, Alexander Graham Bell should be credited as a co-writer.)
Zoe’s stalker suspicions are confirmed when Max tries to rape her. If not for a serendipitously sudden zombie outbreak, Max might have gotten away with it too. Max ends up mauled, Zoe eventually escapes, and the rest of the population is quickly consumed by the undead.
Five years later, the world remains overrun by “rotters,” because zombies aren’t a reference point in this fiction, requiring the script to pointlessly concoct another unique name. Zoe continues researching the virus at a bunker that is part refugee camp and part military station. Lt. Miguel fills in for the first film’s Col. Rhodes while Baca plays the part of Zoe’s love interest. Despite never doing anything dramatically engaging with their relationship, “Bloodline” never lets anyone forget Baca’s sibling status by referring to him as Miguel’s brother no less than three times.
Also five years later, Max hasn’t moved from the spot where Zoe left him. Forced to return to her former medical center for supplies, Zoe faces her old foe in undead form. Not only do Max’s aforementioned antibodies afford him enough sentience to resume his psychotic pursuit of Zoe, he also retains the wherewithal to stow away on the underside of a Humvee and hitch a ride back to the bunker.
With those pieces on the board, the remaining plays make their own moves. Max stirs havoc in the facility. However, his blood holds the key to creating a vaccine. Contentious confrontations pit everyone against each other for assorted reasons. Finally, the pot comes to a boil in an underwhelming climax where every thread unspools exactly like any dimwitted dunce could predict.
“Day of the Dead: Bloodline” laughably touts itself as “a bold new reimagining of the George A. Romero classic.” The only thing bold about it is the collective chutzpah of ten executive producers, seven producers, and one co-producer thinking they could pawn this off and not be called out for peddling plop.
Nothing about the film feels natural. Fabricated sets read as fake as the forced personalities. Dubbed dialogue and stilted speaking styles accentuate amateurish acting. Characters such as Zoe and Baca exhibit all the chemistry of oil and water. It’s sad to see director Hector Hernandez Vicens, who took creative risks on his previous project “The Corpse of Anna Fritz” (review here), cull such flat passion from his cast as everything plays straight down an uninspired line.
Strip out the dubious “Day of the Dead” association and all that remains is an indistinct zombie flick that looks like a made-for-cable quickie. We need another one of those like we need this team to try reinventing “Day of the Dead” a fourth time.
Review Score: 30