Day of the Dead: Contagium (2005)
By: Devon B. on April 11, 2006  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
Umbrella Entertainment (Australia). All Regions, PAL. 1.85:1 (16:9 enhanced). English DD 2.0. 99 minutes
The Movie
Director: Ana Clavell,
James Glenn Dudelson
Starring: John Freedom Henry, Joseph Marino, Jackeline Olivier, Andrew Allen, Laurie Baranyay
Screenplay: Ana Clavell
Country: USA
Day of the Dead: Contagium, or Day of the Dead 2: Contagium as it's actually called on the print, is a 'prequel/sequel' to a certain film by George A. Romero. I instantly thought of a certain film by J.R. Bookwalter when I read that, but Contagium is leagues ahead of The Dead Next Door in terms of budget, so comparisons are unfair. Unfair to Contagium that is, because even with such a distinct monetary advantage, The Dead Next Door is far more entertaining.

Contagium begins in the late 60s. A virus has been brought to the States, I guess from Russia, that makes some people look like hamburger. The leading infectee also exhibits other symptoms from the disease, most interestingly a magic finger that can burst aortas with a mere touch. The virus is being studied, but the military invades the study project, killing all involved or exposed. One guy almost manages to get away (in a section that owes a bit to Stephen King's The Stand), but conveniently, in terms of story, drops a thermos with plague material inside. Thirty seven years later at a mental health facility, some inmates find his thermos. Despite being supposedly nearly cured, they have a bizarre fascination with this stupid thermos. Anyway, eventually the plague is unleashed.

While Contagium's plot is shit, the 28th rate acting and 'witty' dialogue are even worse. The story is very slow, and even after the plague is unleashed, it still takes its sweet time to reach full effect. In fact, aside from the pre-credits walking dead, there are no more zombies 'till over an hour in. The handheld camerawork is poorly done and distracting, just like this clumsy sentence I tacked on to the end of this paragraph.

There are also indications in the script that Contagium was helmed by people that knew nothing about mental health. Firstly, the most consistent mental illness in the film seems to be one character's bandana obsession. He doesn't even take it off to go to bed. No mention is made of this particular derangement, but if you pay attention like me, you can pick up on these subtle nuances. Another interesting aspect is that characters are constantly talking to themselves. This could make sense, but most of the ones doing it aren't the 'crazies.' Also, since when are mental patients predominantently young and good looking? Or for that matter, the staff who work in mental health? This is not a pretty field, people! Worst of all, the mental health facility seems dreadfully unprepared for even normal inmate problems, let alone a zombie massacre. If I were working at a mental institution, I'd want places I could lock myself away if the going got tough.

But what really makes or breaks a movie like Contagium is the FX. Some of the zombie make up is quite good, but other times it's just shoddy layers of latex on an actor's face. Likewise, the gore is also inconsistent in quality, with blood coming from character's mouths regardless of where they're being assaulted or how violent that assault is.
Contagium is a new movie, but there is still a bit of specking present. The film is presented at 1.85:1, and the image is sharp. It actually looks good, as in I was surprised this movie had any budget, because I was expecting shot on video crap. Instead, the film has the quality in presentation of most films in the low budget direct-to-video market. Colours are a bit bland, but this may have been a style choice so that the red stuff is more apparent when it begins to flow.
The audio is presented in a 2.0 English Dolby Digital track. The score drowns out dialogue at times, but I'm sure I didn't miss anything important. Sometimes the dialogue is inaudible without any score or background noise, but this is probably a fault of film itself, not Umbrella's DVD.
Extra Features
For extras we get a still gallery, and a 12 minute featurette. The featurette's great if you want to listen to idiots yakking. There're also the standard advertisements…err, I mean bonus trailers. Present this time out Candyman, Candyman: Farewell to the Flesh, Society, and Inn of the Damned. Because that last one is a double feature with Night of Fear, it would make sense to have included both trailers, but only Inn's made it on.
The Verdict
Aside from a short but amusing Frankenhos movie-within-a-movie, there's not a lot to recommend Day of the Dead 2: Contagium on. Unless you want to see a movie that creates the interesting new development that a zombie virus enables psychic bonds, you'll more than likely find this a silly, overlong movie with no real ending. I guess the first warning I got about this movie was that it was rated MA. Any self-respecting gorefest should be R or RC. I understand that Contagium's makers probably weren't worried about the OFLC while making the movie, but they should've aimed for highest ratings worldwide. Losers.
Movie Score
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