Class of 2018 – Day of the Dead: Bloodline

To be completely honest, I had no intention of watching DAY OF THE DEAD: BLOODLINE. I know the drill when it comes to these cheap, cash-in, Romero re-makes. I watched that 3D version of NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD with Sid Haig. I’m 90% sure I watched at least the trailer for the Nick Cannon/Ving Rhames DAY OF THE DEAD from a few years back. I’ve paid my dues, and I don’t have anything to prove with regards to these movies. But then I saw this tweet from filmmaker Ted Geoghegan: 

That tweet sold me on giving DAY OF THE DEAD: BLOODLINE a watch. Not because it makes the movie sound good, mind you, but because it describes a movie so wrong-headed, particularly at this moment in time, that I had to see how accurate the tweet was.

That tweet is 100 percent accurate.  The film is seriously about a rapist-zombie that holds the key to saving all of humanity. Saying the plot feels a bit misguided is an understatement, but I will argue that there is a little bit more going on in DAY OF THE DEAD: BLOODLINE than that. But not much.

BLOODLINE starts hilariously enough by opening in the middle of a zombie rampage through a major “American” city, and then jumping back in time to four hours earlier in the day to show how we got to this point, AND THEN it proceeds to jump five years into the future to show how everyone is dealing with zombie outbreak. I felt like I was watching a mathematical word problem. Anyway, let’s jump back to the four-hours-earlier part of the prologue. Zoe (Sophie Skelton) is a medical student who is hounded by one of her patients, Max, played by Johnathan Shaech (The dick-headed member of the ONEDERS from THAT THING YOU DO). We find out that Max is more-than-a-little smitten with Zoe as he is escorted off the premises after he reveals to her that he has carved her name into his arm. Things get much more dangerous later though, when Max returns to the premises and sneaks into a kegger being held inside of the morgue to sexually assault Zoe. Luckily before Max can assault her, one of the corpses she has been studying comes back to life as a zombie and attacks the sleaze ball, Max.

With both prologues over, we cut to five years later, where Zoe is part of a band of survivors that have attempted to re-make the original DAY OF THE DEAD. The group is a mixture of survivors, scientists, and military members that are bunker-ed up and sealed off from the outside world. With supplies dwindling, Zoe decides that she needs to get back to the hospital where she studied, so that she can find the drugs needed to save the surviving humans. Zoe and a group of soldiers are attacked on their way back to the hospital, but make it out mostly intact, and with the medical supplies in tow. Unfortunately, Max, the sexual assaulter from earlier, and now a zombie, hitches a ride back to the camp by grabbing on to the bottom of the Humvee the group is traveling in.

This is where DAY OF THE DEAD: BLOODLINE gets very odd, and honestly pretty gross. It’s also where I am going to start spoiling it, because I really must talk about Max. Max is essentially BLOODLINE’s version of Bub from the original movie. The make-up used for Max is reminiscent of Bub, and the antibodies in his bloodstream have caused him to remain very human-like as well. Here’s where things really go off-the-rails though: Those antibodies that cause him to maintain his human essence also contain the key to a vaccine that could wipe out the zombie plague. Oh, and he’s also still obsessed with Zoe, even on a sexual level, it seems. So, the main zombie is still a rapist, and holds the key to curing all of humanity. It’s also around this point where it becomes clear that BLOODLINE is going to become a weird, rape-revenge/zombie movie mashup, as it follows the standard template for a rape-revenge movie: I. Girl is attacked. II. Girl rehabs herself. III. Girl confronts her attacker. Only this movie throws a zombie in it. This is all nuts. I guess zombie/rape-revenge is a hybrid I’ve never seen before, so kudos for giving it a shot, but I think there might be a reason I’ve never seen this type of film before.

Anyway, back to the rapist-zombie being the savior of humanity part. Admittedly, this is a surface-level reading of the film, but what makes it such a baffling choice, is that by the end of the film, it’s obviously trying to say the exact opposite of that. While Max is chained up later in the film, Zoe uses her sexuality, and Max’s attraction to her, to get close enough to let her former attacker lick her face, so that she can obtain the samples she needs to run further testing. This is bad and gross, but there is enough of the filmmakers giving Zoe control over the situation, that I let it slide a little bit. After that, there is a scene where Miguel (this movie’s military bad guy) and Baca (Zoe’s Boyfriend) begin to question her motives, as they see Zoe’s named carved into the zombie’s arm. This is also not-good, and I cannot defend this scene at all, because this is the moment where the movie jumps into victim-shaming, and even though eventually the woman overcomes her past and defeats her attacker in the end, it’s another huge misstep by the movie on the way to getting there.

The filmmakers –whether it be the screenwriter or director, or a combination– are obviously going for something here. The problem is that nobody involved in BLOODLINE is nimble enough to pull of the statement they seem to be trying to make on rape culture, which is strange because it’s not that deep of a statement. In what seems to be an attempt to make a zombie movie that, much like Romero’s work, wants to use the current cultural climate as a launching pad to tell a story, the filmmakers somehow make the type of missteps (The victim shaming, the rapist saving humanity), that cloud the movie to the point of seeming to tell the exact opposite story it sets out to tell: A straightforward story about a woman overcoming her attacker. It’s almost impressively incompetent.

Mark, Hector, Lars. Those are the three main creative names involved in DAY OF THE DEAD: BLOODLINE, and yeah, they’re all men. Listen, I’m not sure if anyone, be it male or female, is going to pull off a rape-revenge zombie mash-up, but I think maybe we are at a point in time where men shouldn’t be the ones attempting to tell these types of stories. I don’t think anyone involved in BLOODLINE is saying that rapists are the key to saving humanity, that’s insane, but some of the missteps in this movie seem to come from a specifically male point of view, so maybe it’s time to step aside and be the ones amplifying the voices of women telling these stories, instead of telling them.

Deranged creative choices aside, DAY OF THE DEAD: BLOODLINE isn’t very good anyway. As low-budget zombie flicks go, it looks decent enough, moves quick, and has some decent gore, but the characters are wooden, and nothing really makes any sense. I do think the filmmakers are trying for something beyond the normal zombie movie cash-in, and I give them credit for that. I just hope next time they let someone else give it a try.