We’re Ready For Our Closeup Mr. Romero
The story of six strangers trying to survive the first day of the zombie apocalypse, SYFY’s Day of The Dead brings together some classic zombie fun. Less of a remake and more an homage to the George A. Romero original in name only, this story is really more about a small middle American town, its inhabitants, and the events that happen on day one of the end of the world.
Day of The Dead is really more about teenage angst and cable TV melodrama than actual catastrophic events regarding the end of the world. In fact, most of what unfolds this first season are events less to do with the world ending, in so much as it is about the townsfolk’s surprisingly silly and desperate attempts to deny the fact that we’re in a zombie pandemic. Which in many ways, I believe is art imitating life with our current pandemic.
Season one sees a corrupt fracking facility, a pair of boys wanting desperately to bring alcohol to a party to get laid, a beleaguered mayoral campaign, and loads-upon-loads of: “I have parent issues,” all of which take precedent over say, zombies eating our neighbors. It’s interesting because by focusing on the first Day of The Dead as the name implies, we get to see how an entire town falls apart within 24 hours, filled story with numerous character arcs of people clinging desperately while denying the state of emergency.
The series stars Keenan Tracey (Cam McDermott), Daniel Doheny (Luke Bowman), Natalie Malaika (Lauren Howell), Kristy Dinsmore (Amy), and newcomer Morgan Holmstrom (Sarah Blackwood). It was created by Jed Elinoff and Scott Thomas.
For those expecting anything resembling the original, be warned, that this really has nothing to do with it minus a few name recyclations. Most of the conflict in the pilot relies on character motivation, which feels very young adult and teen-friendly, with stakes that feel surprisingly low. Likewise, don’t expect hardcore melodrama as this isn’t The Walking Dead, and don’t expect anything like the worldbuilding of Daybreak, as the show isn’t based on any graphic novels. Do, however, expect a lot of people pointing out the same similarities to SYFY’s Z-Nation. All for a zombie series that’s a lot of fun but not at all that serious.
Here’s our recap of the pilot.
Day Of The Dead Episode 01: The Thing In The Hole
It’s the apocalypse in downtown Mawinhaken, where former best friends Cam McDermont and Luke Bowman are surrounded by zombies. Mayor Paula Bowman, Luke’s mom, arrives just in time to save the boys’ guns a-blazing, as Cam’s friend Lauren Howell, drives up in a getaway car. The group escaping what remains of the zombie overrun town.
Earlier in the day, a fracking operation led by Cleargenix energy had dug deep into the earth before running into problems. So foreman Rhodes sends newcomer Sarah Blackwood, an ex-special forces agent turned blue-collar worker, down into the drill tunnels to purvey. There, Sarah uncovers a mummified body and calls it in to the police, upsetting Rhodes’ deadline. He gives her the rest of the day off then secretly continues to drill despite the body.
Meanwhile, Cam McDermott leaves for his part-time job that he’s taken up to pay for out-of-state college. It’s revealed, the night before, he and his father argued about him leaving. Ignoring their fight from last night, Mr. McDermott smokes in bed before being called to investigate the fracking site. When he arrives, both he and Sarah are told to ignore the issue by their superiors. The two decide to investigate anyway and Detective McDermott finds the random chained-up body. When the Cleargenix workers find Sarah still there, she disconnects the detective’s rope he used to repel down before being knocked out by Rhodes. Stuck in the pit with the body, the detective is suddenly attacked by it.
At that same moment, Cam heads to his job mowing lawns at a graveyard, where he finds Lauren just outside of the nearby funeral home smoking a cigarette. They chat and we learn that she’s the aide to the town funeral home advisor/coroner and that she has a former addiction problem. While at her job, Lauren gets offered her first solo funeral prep but is then propositioned by her creepy boss, Lazlo. She reluctantly agrees as Lazlo threatens to give a scathing review to her parole officer. Later that day, while Lauren preps the body then undresses in the bathroom to get changed, it’s revealed that Lazlo has a spy camera setup, and has been watching her change inside his office. In serendipitous fashion, he’s attacked by the recently deceased body, now a zombie.
At her home, Mayor Bowman makes sure she grabs a gun for any photo opportunities today as she’s pro-gun and about to make a public appearance to vote. She catches her son Luke Bowman, trying to sneak alcohol out of the house and reprimands him. Luke, meanwhile, picks up his friend Trent and the two go on the pursuit for alcohol for an outdoor party. At the elections polling area, Mayor Bowman argues with her reassuring husband, Trey Bowman, and their weirdly helpful campaign aide Nicole. She then gives a press conference about how important the Cleargenix company is for creating jobs in town. While going in to vote, Nicole sneaks into Trey’s booth for a quickie, as it’s revealed Nicole and him are having an affair.
Elsewhere, a stressed-out Doctor Jai Fisher goes on a run. It’s his wedding day and his parent’s flight is delayed. At the venue, Jai complains about the wrong colored white roses being arranged. He learns that the tall and handsome Sean, his wife’s ex and current best friend, traveled all the way to Philadelphia last minute just to get the proper cream-colored ones. Leaving even more stressed and slightly emasculated.
At the graveyard, Cam’s lawn mowing is disrupted by Luke and his friend Trent. They scare him with their car, and in retaliation, Cam throws an ornament that cracks Luke’s rear windshield. The bullies chase after Cam. When they can’t find him, Trent trips over a rock which is revealed to be a zombie’s hand.
Nearby, Lauren talks with a family regarding her solo funeral arrangement. She does all the prep work perfectly but notices the body is missing from the coffin. Blaming Lazlo, she searches for him in the lower morgue only to find his face half-eaten. The zombie soon attacks her, as she struggles to get back upstairs. During the struggle, Lauren gets bit, then kills the zombie with a microphone stand in front of his son and family.
Back outside, Cam finds a bone caught in the lawnmower. When he checks the grounds, an arm grabs him from the grave and a series of zombies sprout from the ground. Cam mows some zombies down before narrowly escaping and locking the gates of the cemetery. He goes inside the funeral home to find Lauren. Soon, the front door of the home gets surrounded by zombies, and so Lauren takes the group downstairs thinking it’s safe, only to realize the bodies in the morgue are also reanimating.
Day Of The Dead airs on Fridays at 10pm on SYFY starting October 15th