Day of the Dead: Bloodline – Better Than You Think
Day of the Dead: Bloodline
Review & Analysis
At a Glance
- 2018 remake, not 1985 version
- Zombie type: can run
- Zombies are called: rotters
- Makeup: Not bad! Max’s makeup is especially cool
- Gore: 10/10! Gore shots and blood spatters are awesome. Wish there was more!
How was Day of the Dead: Bloodline?
Imdb reviewers hate this movie. Rotten Tomatoes is almost unanimous on how bad it is.
It’s true that the acting wasn’t great. And there are other problems. But I’d make the case that the story is well written, with rich psychological symbolism and cathartic character development.
Also, the death and blood and gore are shocking and brutal and meaty.
Zombie Virus as Signifier
What’s a zombie, or zombie virus?
Well, that depends who you ask.
If you were to ask the characters in Day of the Dead: Bloodline, they’d tell you it’s actually called a “rotter,” not a “zombie.” Then they’d probably tell you a rotter was a deadly, flesh eating monster that spreads its infection by biting its victims, continuing a never-ending cycle.
The director of Day of the Dead: Bloodlines, Hector Hernandez Vicens, uses the zombie virus as a metaphor for rape. It is a virus that infects the rapist, then the victim, and then the people all around them.
Max the Rapist Zombie
In one important scene, Max, a rapist-turned-rotter, is chained to a stone wall.
Max is a sick, sociopathic rapist, and people like Max can’t have normal relationships. He is a prisoner to his desires. Psychologically, you could also say he is partly dead inside. Being a rotter, Max is also medically dead, although part of him mysteriously remains alive.
Strapped to the wall, Max’s chains are his sexuality. His out-of-control sexuality is what keeps him from being a normal functioning member of society.
This is all we need to know about Max. The rest is about Zoe.
“You are nothing but filth.”
– Zoe, to Max
Zoe is an interesting character. Here’s my breakdown of Zoe:
- Passivity (lets guys walk all over her)
- Fear (doesn’t like to face her problems)
- Sentimental (she grabs her photos, causing people to die, so stupid)
At the start of the film, Zoe was the only student willing to be objective with the cadaver in the morgue. She touched the body, examined it, and almost figured out how it died. But the other students were either too grossed out or too stupid to solve the puzzle themselves. Zoe’s clinical detachment comes in handy later on when she has to set aside her personal feelings of disgust when Max licks her cheek. At that time, she is acting in her capacity as a medical professional. In terms of character design, Zoe’s profession lets us see how a survivor of a traumatic event may look at that past event with emotional detachment.
Men in Day of the Dead: Bloodline
Unfortunately, Day of the Dead: Bloodline is not kind to men.
In the context of the movie, all men are either out-of-control rapists (zombie), patriarchal daddies (lieutenant), pervy weirdos (Alphonse, who makes unwanted flirtation, and janitor reading nudie mag), or insecure, oversensitive dufuses (Baca).
It’s honestly a bit much.
Actually, it’s fucking annoying. But then again, the movie deals with it with relative fairness. For example, the janitor’s wife is totally cool that he was reading a nudie mag. And Alphonse is a completely redeemable person.
Baca, The Boyfriend
Baca: “I have to ask. What was that thing to you?”
Zoe: “He was a fucking psycho who tried to rape me.”
Baca: “Why didn’t you just tell me?”
OK so first of all, this guy’s name is pronounced the same way as “idiot” in Japanese. Very distracting.
Secondly, also regarding his character, I mentioned that Baca was an insecure, oversensitive dufus. For example, he is insecure when Zoe doesn’t want to have sex with him. And then he gets insecure again by not believing her rape story. Of course, you could argue she should have said something up front.
So not we get to the part where Zoe talks about when Max tried to rape her.
Baca’s brother, the Lieutenant, sees that Zoe’s name is carved into Max’s arm, and insinuates that Zoe was only trying to save Max because they were lovers. This translates to the patriarchy, personified by the Lieutenant, sowing doubt about the assault.
Frankly, it’s refreshing that Day of the Dead: Bloodline didn’t get up on a soapbox about #metoo. Sure, the symbolism is there, but for me the important thing is that it didn’t detract from the quality of the movie. Actually, I thought it enhanced the picture. That’s because zombie movies are about what we fear. And historically, there is absolutely precedent for socially-driven fears.
Anyway, by keeping her sexual assault to herself, Zoe sowed mistrust among her only companions. So at least we can take some of the blame off Baca. Unfortunately, it’s not easy for women to talk about trauma or sexual assault. Again, I did feel that the film handled that aspect of the subject with subtlety and good taste, without hammering the point home too obtusely.
Woman VS Society
Let’s take a look at how Zombie Max steals the key and gets loose in the compound.
It all happens when Alphonse and that girl come into the lab. The girl, mistrusting Zoe’s instinct, approaches the zombie as if to kill it. That’s when she gets close enough for Max to grab the key from her.
I think the film is trying to say that if people just believed Zoe, the virus would stop hurting people. But because people don’t believe her story, they actually cause more problems by getting the key back into his pocket.
This scene could be seen as a metaphor for a court hearing where the guilty man gets out of trouble because no one believes her story.
Or it could be interpreted in more of a cerebral sense, where her mental state is once again endangered because her community refuses to accept her story.
Woman VS Self
Okay, so we can’t blame Zoe for the key. But she did decide to go back for her photos and old crap from the school. People died because of that. On the surface, it was a very stupid thing to do.
However, I believe this is a pivotal point in Day of the Dead: Bloodline where we can start analyzing the conflict of woman VS self.
Zoe was feeling nostalgic. But sometimes when people dig into their past, they come across uncomfortable memories, or worse, dormant viruses they thought were long dead…
So Zoe looks back into her psyche and finds her trauma, Max.
Soon, it turns out that his blood can stop the virus. What can we make of that?
This means that if she can just face her past, she will win. She needs to defeat the rapist Max by acknowledging feelings of disgust and using objectivity to transcend it (I mentioned earlier that this could also be interpreted as numbness. I think there’s more than one way to look at it).
When Max gets free, Zoe has faced her fears, but the virus has won. It gets out and causes damage to other people. To continue the metaphor of rotters as a self-perpetuating virus of rape and negative feelings, when a person dies, it is as a result of Zoe pushing him or her away.
To understand this, we really need to look at this entire movie from Zoe’s perspective. If we can do that, we’ll have the key to understanding everything Day of the Dead: Bloodline has to offer.
This is about Zoe’s inner world. She tries to be objective about the event. But when someone disbelieves her, Zoe’s triggered. Zoe’s seemingly crazy behavior permanently pushes this acquaintance away, out of Zoe’s life forever.
Zoe’s Inner Child
When Zoe declines to go to the Township with everyone, she wants to find Lilly (the little girl she’s caring for). Lilly is Zoe’s inner child, the innocent part of her that she will do anything to save.
When Max kills Lilly’s mom, he has 2 agendas:
- To prove to Zoe that he cares for Lilly
- To gaslight and manipulate her
These amount to the same thing.
“You need me,” he says.
And the fact that Lily dropped a crucifix means that she was an innocent person.
Max holds Lilly, Zoe’s inner child, hostage. When the zombies come rushing in, and Lilly runs outside, Zoe follows her. Baca wants to, but he can’t.
Of course he can’t. Only you can dive into the cave of your own psyche.
“The cave you fear hold the treasure you seek” -Joe Campbell
In her symbolic cave, Zoe decides to reinvent herself. She kills Max, first tearing out his guts, then cutting his head off.
And where is her cave? A greenhouse, where plants grow.
And where does she hide right before killing Max? Under the soil, the first place where new life begins.
“You’re mine, motherfucker,” she says, and now she has complete ownership of herself.
She has already looked inside and found her inner child. Now she has to look outside of herself and choose her path that leads into the future.
Next, Baca is going to kill himself because he’s turning into a Zombie. But Zoe says she can stop the virus.
If people dying is the virus pushing people out of her life, then Baca sitting there with a gun against his temple stands for her significant other trying to break up with her because he feels infected by the whole thing.
But Zoe insists she can stop the virus.
She is looking forward to the future.
And it really is a happy ending:
“I could only dispense so much, as I need the remaining samples to create a mass production schedule for…everybody.”
In other words, she’s not going to spend all her effort just trying to fix her relationship with that dufus Baca. That would be unhealthy. Instead, she’s going to try to immunize everyone left in the world, e.g. to become a healthy functioning member of society.
At first glance, it seems like Zoe has saved the world. But within the framework of Day of the Dead: Bloodlines’ rich symbolism, Zoe has saved herself.
“It’s okay for us to let our guard down now. To be happy, and to love.”
Day of the Dead: Bloodlines got a lot of negative reviews. While the film has real problems, I was impressed by how tightly the story was synchronized.
If you don’t think about the symbolism, Day of the Dead: Bloodlines can be a little ridiculous at times. On the surface level, Zoe basically causes all these people to die for no reason because she wants to get a photo, etc., but if you look deeper this movie is about her psychology.
So I think the virus is the entire rape cycle: the rapist, the filth of him, the act itself, the negative feelings afterword, the loss of innocence, and finally the way it damages good relationships. I hope this article helps you see Day of the Dead: Bloodline in a new way.