Day of the Dead appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.78:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. This was a decent image but not one that excelled.
General definition seemed fine. While the film rarely looked razor sharp, it usually appeared reasonably concise. However, wide shots tended to be more than a little on the soft side and could veer toward mild blurriness. I suspect that these issues stemmed from the source photography, but they still created a tentative feel to a fair amount of the movie.
I saw no problems related to jagged edges and moiré effects, and edge haloes failed to appear. With a consistent, natural layer of grain, I detected no overzealous digital noise reduction, and print flaws were reasonably minor. Occasional examples of spots and marks appeared, but those weren’t a substantial concern.
Since most of it took place in an underground military installation, Dead didn’t feature many opportunities for vivid hues, but the transfer replicated the colors appropriately. These tones came across clearly and seemed acceptably distinct and full. Black levels were deep and dense, and low-light shots seemed reasonably smooth; a few shots looked a little thick, but not to a problematic degree. Given the movie’s age and low budget, I didn’t expect great visuals, but I still thought this one was a bit less impressive than it should have been.
Back in 1985, multichannel audio was fairly common, but it wasn’t a given – especially in low-budget flicks like Day. As such, it came as no surprise that Day’s Blu-ray provided a DTS-HD MA 2.0 monaural soundtrack.
Unfortunately, the quality of the audio didn’t hold up well over the last 28 years. Speech tended to be somewhat shrill and sibilant; while the lines remained intelligible, they never sounded natural. Music was clear enough and showed passable range but wasn’t exactly dynamic.
Effects fell into the same realm. Like the dialogue, these elements seemed tinny and trebly, which could be a distraction. I wouldn’t call the effects terribly distorted, but they didn’t seem accurate, either. Even when I considered the audio’s age, I still thought it fell short of expectations.
How did the Blu-ray compare to the 2003 Special Edition DVD? Audio regressed on the Blu-ray in a number of ways. For one, it abandoned the DVD’s 6.1 channel mixes, which I didn’t regard as a terrible thing, as the monaural track here represented the film’s theatrical audio.
However, quality took a drop along the way. While I didn’t think the DVD’s 6.1 tracks sounded great, they came across as superior to the reedy, rough mono mix found here.
Visuals demonstrated improvements, however. Even with the softness, the Blu-ray looked tighter and better defined, so that made it a step up by comparison. While I didn’t think the Blu-ray blew away the DVD’s visuals, it did look better.
The Blu-ray mixes old and new extras, and these start with two audio commentaries. The first features writer/director George Romero, actress Lori Cardille, special makeup effects artist Tom Savini, and production designer Cletus Anderson. All four sit together for this running, screen-specific track. Despite my dislike of the movie itself, this commentary seems fun.
The participants cover a lot of useful ground, as we get information about alterations from Romero’s original plans for the flick and hear a lot about locations and sets from Anderson. Cardille presents the actor’s point of view while Savini lets us know the secrets behind the gruesome creations.
The four also get into some general material and anecdotes as they reflect on their experiences and the movie’s legacy. Almost no dead air appears during this lively and entertaining discussion. Fans will definitely enjoy the chat, and even those of us who think the movie bites should like it.
The second commentary presents filmmaker Roger Avary all on his own, and he offers a running, screen-specific track. Avary has no formal connection to Day. The co-writer of Pulp Fiction and the director of The Rules of Attraction, Avary is just a fan with a résumé. He clearly adores Day and he tells us that over and over again. Avary gets into a few moderately interesting subjects like his one contact with Romero, his work with Savini, and his dream about a deleted scene.
However, many gaps show up through the commentary, and Avary doesn’t tell us much more than how much he loves the flick. He doesn’t seem all that educated about Day, and he occasionally seems to be under the impression that there were only two movies in the Dead series. Sometimes Avary notes the existence of Night, but other times he refers to the “two” films in the series and presents the impression that Dawn began the series. I didn’t find much to enjoy in this banal commentary.
With World’s End: The Legacy of Day of the Dead, we get a one-hour, 25-minute, 26-second documentary. It includes notes from Romero, Cardille, Savini, editor Pasquale Buba, director of photography Michael Gornick, composer/1st AD John Harrison, art director Bruce Alan Miller, makeup effects assistant Dean Gates, makeup effects designers John Vulich and Everett Burrell, and actors Joseph Pilato, John Amplas, Gary Klar, Terry Alexander, Anthony DiLeo, Howard Sherman, Debra Gordon, Mark Tierno and Phillip Kellams. We learn about the project’s roots and development, story/character areas and changes from the original script, cast and performances, sets and locations, makeup and effects, editing and music, the film’s release and retrospective thoughts.
With nearly an hour and a half at its disposal, “End” gets more than enough time to explore a wide variety of subjects, and it takes advantage of its length. The show digs into a nice array of areas and does so in an involving, full manner. It acts as a good complement to the main commentary and delivers a solid examination of the film.
Next we shift to Behind the Scenes Footage. Subtitled “from special makeup effects creator Tom Savini’s archives”, this 30-minute, 42-second collection offers exactly what its title implies: videotaped footage from Savini’s archives. We see effects tests, makeup applications, and how the elements worked on the set. “Behind the Scenes” could have used some narration to tie it together, but it’s still a cool package of footage.
To get a look at one Dead location’s “real life”, we find the Wampum Mine Promotional Video. This eight-minute and 12-second ad shows the film’s main location in its normal state. This makes for a fun archival extra.
Another look at that location comes via Underground: A look at the Day of the Dead Mines. It runs seven minutes, 37 seconds and offers info from facility tech Skip Docchio, though most of the piece brings us a set tour from