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'Day of the Dead: Bloodline' disrespects George Romero's zombie legacy

'Day of the Dead: Bloodline' disrespects George Romero's zombie legacy
Johnathon Schaech in the movie "Day of the Dead: Bloodline." (Radostin Naydenov / Saban Films)

If the "Star Wars" movies can attract filmmakers eager to burnish the franchise with top-drawer continuations, why can't horror legend George Romero get the same for his groundbreaking "Dead" movies? Instead, the very year after zombiedom's grand master passes, we get the stupid, zipless homage "Day of the Dead: Bloodline." Would that Romero could arise like one of his creations, just to take a nasty bite out of this cheap "reimagining" of one of his movies and consign it to a genre graveyard where nothing comes back.

First, the movie hopscotches from zombie-ridden streets as the epidemic flourishes, back to when the outbreak started months prior in a medical school's morgue, where epidemiology student Zoe (Sophie Skelton) is sexually assaulted by obsessed blood-work patient Max (Johnathan Schaech) until one of the corpses awakens and narrowly saves her by biting him.

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Cut to five years later, and Zoe is part of a remote military compound of camo-wearing survivalists dumb enough to allow a semi-intelligent zombie to sneak onto their base. The interloper is an infected Max, still yearning for Zoe, who now sees in her former tormentor the makings of a vaccine.

Romero's 1985 "Day of the Dead" wasn't his best, but its talky debates about science versus brute force in battling annihilation at least reflected its filmmaker's grand hopes for the thematic heft of zombies. "Bloodline" director Hèctor Hernández Vicens and screenwriters Mark Tonderai and Lars Jacobson, on the other hand, are less stewards of it than schlockmeisters, treating any possible resonance as stale oil in which to fry the usual junk food of gory, hyperkinetic kills. Their side orders are thin characters with dumb dialogue and even dumber behavior. Did Zoe need to flirt with a chained Max and let him lick her face to get a blood sample? No, but when you're on a tight schedule of "ew" moments, why not cheapen her trauma?

Romero would have known how to capitalize on a useful monster like Max, but "Day of the Dead: Bloodline" can only slick its floor with tangled insides and slide all over the place. Romero's legacy deserves better.

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‘Day of the Dead: Bloodline’

Running time: 1 hour, 30 minutes

Rated: R, for bloody violence and gore, language and brief sexuality/nudity

Playing: AMC Universal CityWalk

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