Scene 41: Peter and Stephen put together their wall to hide the hallway... etc.
Stephen goes for something in a storage room and finds Fran puking up. Her pregnancy has advanced and she pushes him away, not wanting him to see her so sick (and weak - as she sees it?).
When he returns, Peter is having a cigar break - he tells him they're going to have to clean up the undead or things are going to get rank very soon.
Scene 42: We get a montage of the clean up operation. Stephen and Peter have to stack up the bodies on pallets and roll them to one of the restaurant freezers to store (and if it was me - I would have moved the food out - but maybe there is just the one - it's still nasty).
In the meanwhile, Fran takes Roger 'shopping'. He's more lucid again, but still on the decline.
Through all of this, that awful cheery mall muszak is playing....
We get another cheery montage of everyone shopping, now. Trying on clothes, collecting groceries, playing at the arcade....
Scene 43: Time passes and still the zombies arrive at the mall, crawling under the semis and clawing at the doors. Here the gang watch them for a bit. Fran asks what the hell they are, and Peter tells her they're just 'us', that's all. He also gives the famous movie tagline, "When there's no more room in Hell, the dead will walk the Earth".
Scene 44: Back in the hidden rooms, Roger takes a turn for the worse, convulsing. Fran loads up more morphine. In the meanwhile, Peter is painting the fake wall (they get around it by going up through the duct work with a rope ladder) and hears his cries echoing (again, doubtful with that machinery between them, but it's a sweet sentiment) and rushes back to the rooms.
Now, relaxed (and high) Roger lies shifting around on the makeshift mattress set up for him. Peter strokes his hair and face. He dismisses Stephen and Fran to stay watch over him. Stephen realizes there isn't anything they can do. Peter holds Roger as he makes sure that Peter will "take care of me" after he goes. He heartbreakingly tries to insist that he's going to try really hard not to come back, further upsetting Peter, but he stays with him, holding him.
There is another 'news show' going on that Fran is watching, but it is obviously set up on some back studio and is improvised. The scientist is trying hard to get people to understand that they have to deny the undead any further food and they have to be destroyed. He also puts forward the idea of eating the dead as a way to extend dwindling food supplies among the living. The 'anchor' (in a direct echo of the opening scene) is insisting that people don't work like that, but the scientist (who I get the distinct impression is cracking up) insists they have to be logical or all is lost. He suggests it may be necessary to stop the contagion by launching the nuclear arsenal at the major cities - a suggestion the anchor finds appalling. In addition to the cracking up scientist, the anchor is clearly drinking liquor from the bottle - so this doesn't really seem like it's any more than going through the motions of determining what to do ... civilization, as the living knew it, is already lost.
As we'll see in "Day of the Dead", this apparently wasn't followed through on. One has to wonder if there is any government left to do so... but we'll talk about that a bit more in "Day of....".
In the makeshift bedroom - Peter is now sitting against the wall swigging from a bottle of JD and holding a pistol. His eyes are keenly on Roger's blanket covered corpse, which starts to shift. Roger sits up - Peter pulls the trigger.
Commentary: The relationship between Peter and Roger is really the bedrock that the rest of the movie rests on - and this scene is the most powerful, emotionally. If the original ending were used, it might almost be too much, but we'll talk about that in a bit. Right now, this scene - Peter providing what comfort he can for Rog, and then doing as he requested to stop him from "walking around... like... that" is surprisingly (for a horror movie) heart-rending... and something we could use a lot more of in modern horror, rather than just blood, guts, torture and screaming.
In the other room - both Stephen and Fran jump at the gunshot and break down.
Scene 45: In the atrium, Roger has been buried. More time passes....
Scene 46: In the ice rink, mannequin's have been set up and Fran and Stephen practice making head shots. Later, Peter serves up a romantic dinner for Fran and Stephen and then leaves them to it.
Fran and Stephen have set up a whole apartment with things from the mall. As their having their romantic meal - Peter returns to Roger's graveside and shares a drink with him.
Meanwhile, Stephen pulls out a set of wedding bands and offers them to Fran - but she declines, saying it wouldn't be real with them living the way they are and the way things are in the world. She apologizes, but later we see them restlessly lying in bed - a strain evident between them.
Scene 47: At dawn, Fran lies across the bed, snacking (with wine! And cigarettes!). She wanders into the living room they've set up and stares at the static-screened television - their last link with an outside being cut off. On the roof - Peter hits tennis balls. One of them bounces out into the parking lot, and we see the dead - still there - still wanting to get into the mall - still groaning and shuffling and not, apparently, degrading at all. In a salon, Fran has gotten dolled up in a Bonnie/Clyde, Betty Boop makeup ensemble, but after a few moments of staring at herself in the mirror, she strips off the fake eyelashes. An atmosphere of boredom and oppression rests over the scene.
Scene 48: Later that evening, Fran is putting together dinner for them while Peter and Stephen silently play poker with money they took from the local bank branch. The level of monotony is obviously getting to both Fran and Stephen, as over a dinner a disagreement over leaving the television on static in case something comes back on leads to angry looks between them. Fran exclaims she doesn't know what they're doing to themselves - it is obvious that being trapped, even in a mall, is wearing on her... on all of them.
Scene 49: Stephen and Fran start loading up the copter with supplies, in an evident plan to abandon the mall and risk seeking out other people. We see them in flight, but it turns out that they aren't leaving Peter. Fran is finally being taught how to fly the chopper, as she said she wanted to do shortly after her run in with Hare Krishna-zombie. When she successfully lands, Stephen is excited for her before she realizes she got it - she knows how to handle the craft.
But trouble is on the horizon: Through a pair of binoculars, there is a raider group of survivors and they see the copter and realize that there are people in the mall. Later that night, the drunken raider group sends out a radio transmission and tries to contact the mall inhabitants. The group is heavily armed and when they don't get a response from the mall - they transmit that they don't like people who don't share.
The rowdy gang starts gathering up their weapons to hit the mall and Peter and Stephen watch them racing down the road by their motorcycle headlights.
Peter decides that there isn't any way to keep them out, but he intends to make them work for it. He and Stephen go down to secure the mesh gates over the front doors that they've ignored until now, as well as each gate over the stores. His plan is to let them do whatever they're going to do, while they remain hidden away in the apartment and keep and eye on them through the ductwork.
Commentary: Of course, the problem will be the undead that is going to be swarming through in their wake - and if they bust in, they may not be able to secure the place again. They should have just grabbed up Fran, picked up what they could from the apartment and lift the hell outta there... but they don't. Oh, and Stephen? He runs really funnily.
Outside the mall, in the lot, the gang play around with blasting, blowing up and smashing around the dead - treating the whole raid as a big party. They further gain entry through the loading docks, setting off the mall alarms while Peter and Stephen are still working in the mall.
In the mall, the gang being raiding stores, when they're not pushing pies into faces of the undead and seltzer-watering them. In the meanwhile, Stephen is getting angrier that they're sanctuary has been invaded. After all of the hard work they went through to take over the mall and secure it, Stephen goes a little homicidal in wanting to protect it. He begins to take rifle shots at the gang members, causing them to start rampaging a little more seriously and to find and kill the people firing at them. Peter isn't happy, but since it's started he plans on winning it. In the meanwhile, Frannie was left in the apartment and nervously paces.
Peter and Stephen get into a running gun battle with the interlopers with Stephen retreating to the elevator in JC Penney's and Peter making it back to the rope ladder up into the duct work. The power ends up cutting out because of the damage being caused.
With the power out - Stephen finds the elevator out of service, but Peter makes it back through the power/water room. Peter restores power after Stephen has already climbed up onto the elevator's roof. It immediately starts heading down to the first floor with Stephen along for the ride. He looses his rifle down the side of the shaft.
Two of the gang members shoot up into the elevator shaft, thinking they saw him go into the elevator. Stephen is hit in the shoulder but manages to stop from yelling out and alerting them to his presence. They take off to continue the general mayhem, laughing maniacally.
In the meantime, Peter has returned to the mall proper and is taking shots at the gang members - taking them out one by one (Tom Savini goes over a balcony with a chest shot). One moron dies because he puts his arm in a blood pressure cuff and the zombies get him (that was really stupid - I don't know what George was thinking). Another is bloodily ripped open at the abdomen.
Stephen, meanwhile, drops down into the elevator cab to retrieve the set of keys and the walkie talkie he dropped there and calls Peter. Stephen tries to crawl back up into the shaft, but can't haul himself up because of his wounded shoulder. Zombies in the meanwhile are pawing at the doors to be let in, one of them hits the door open button and swarm into the elevator cab - Stephen suffers multiple bites - including to the side of the neck!
Peter hears Stephen's cries of pain and realizes he's been taken. He tries to call him over the walkie talkie, but can hear the zombies' vocalizations over the bandwidth. Stephen isn't immediately killed though and is able to get the zombies out and hits the close button on the door - but he's in dire shape, bleeding out. Peter, struggles with what to do, but returns to Fran instead of going to him - but he hates himself for it.
Peter tells Fran that he heard Stephen's gun and they'll wait and see - but he knows Stephen's fate....
Scene 50: Fran knows it too. She's ready to get onboard the chopper and go. Down in the mall, the gang have been killed or moved on. The zombies once again take over. On the first floor of JC Penney's, the elevator door opens....
And, Stephen remembers the fake wall - and the way to where the meat is....
As he heads up, leading an army of hungry undead (including sweater vest and nurse!), Peter tells Frannie to go and leave. He tells her he just doesn't want to go - he really doesn't. She heads out to the coptor, bereft. He waits for Stephen to make his way into the makeshift apartment.
Peter retreats to Roger's room, pulls out a .22 and puts it to his head....
Meanwhile, Fran starts up the copter, but waits for Peter to come up, even though he made it pretty clear that he doesn't want to leave.
On the roof - it's the zombies that appear, climbing up the ladder and closing in on Fran in the helicopter. At the same time, more zombies break in on Roger's room....
As dawn is breaking, again, Peter changes his mind suddenly and fires at the nearest zombie. He wrestles his way out of Roger's bedroom and up the ladder to the roof, where Fran is still hovering - not willing to leave until there is no other choice. He manages to make it into the chopper and they take off North, for an uncertain, but probably bleak and short future... Fran tells him they don't have much fuel left.
And, end with the zombies wandering the mall and mimicking doing things they did when alive while that stupid mall muszak plays us out....
Commentary: There are several things here to take up: First, I didn't buy the zombies being able to climb a step ladder, pulling themselves up the roof ladder access, and then hauling themselves out onto the roof. I don't buy they'd be that motivated and I don't buy they'd have the necessary coordination left... I just don't. Second, I don't buy that Peter - even assuming he changed his mind, would be able to black-fu his way through the zombie hoard, drive them off the ladder, climb up it, out onto the roof and through the zombies waiting there to get to the coptor. I just don't buy his survival, here. Third, I hate the triumphant music here, as considering what they're going off into - it just doesn't fit. And, if I could edit out the mall music closing us out, I would.
So, what went wrong with this ending when things were so right, up to the last few minutes? It a simple phrase - it was changed. The original ending of the script was much, much bleaker in keeping with the ending of "Night of the Living Dead", only more so.
George apparently found himself just unable to do it, which is unfortunate - for though unpleasant and heartbreaking and horrible - it would have been far more appropriate. And it would have been in keeping with the general theme of hopelessness that much of "Day of the Dead" will convey - though it too has survivalists exiting via chopper.
Peter wasn't supposed to get out of that room alive - he pulled the trigger, ending his life. Fran, in an even more shocking and unbearable scene - still pregnant remember - realizes there is no place to go and no hope. Instead of taking off, she was supposed to have jumped up into the helicopter blades - cutting off the top of her head (echoing Frankenforehead's death earlier and using the dummy head we got a glimpse of back in the tenement where a man's head was blown apart) and ending with no survivors.
Now, to tell you the truth, I'm not sure I could handle it either - going through this movie, just to lose everyone (the way we lost Barbara and Ben in "Night..."), but I think it would have been far more appropriate than the falsely hopeful ending we received.
The Good: The main characters. All of them are likable, sympathetic, played by good actors, believable, brave... none of them are assholish and we really bond with them as they bond with one another, so we can easily see us wanting to be with them in that mall. Sympathetic people in movies are becoming a rare breed - it's nice to spend time with a movie who has them in spades.
The relationships. Fran and Stephen's on/off relationship feels so real, especially for people under enormous stress. And the relationship between Peter and Roger is so... affectionate... and warm and full of respect and a deep friendship.
The gore. It's very, very well done mostly, but see other thoughts.
The story. It's very easy to get involved in this tale and to watch it over and over. I love this movie.
The Bad: But, there are problems. A big one being the ending, which I appreciate on one level - we lose Roger and Stephen - it would be hard losing Fran and/or Peter after all of that struggle to survive, but the ending feels like what is was - tacked on with false hope at the last minute. Despite the shock and bleakness of the original ending, it was just the right one.
Some of the zombie-komedy is annoying because it yanks us out of the story that was being told. The shift between comedy and horror is clumsily handled and by the time that the raiders attack, we shouldn't still be shifting tone back and forth. The slapstick was especially unwelcome, as was the mall's jaunty tunes. I have trouble believing our heroes wouldn't have shut that junk off about fifteen minutes after it started.
There are budget issues with the zombies - face paint does not a zombie make - and there aren't the numbers of extras this movie really needed, so we see the same faces over and over among the zombie hoard.
Other Thoughts: There is another problem that you can deal with or you can't. This is the 70s, which means the blood tends to be a little too bright red. You can see it in several of the screen captures and it doesn't look remotely like blood that would actually come out of a person - I can deal with this because of the era and budget - if you've grown up on ultra-real grue you may not be able to look past it. Additionally, you have zombies that are little more (there are a few exceptions, but they are exceptions) than blue-green facepaint. The returned Stephen is very well done, but a lot of that is the actor's physical acting, which is outstanding. There is also the problem with the re-appearing zombies that are in front of the camera no matter where the scene is - the nurse zombie especially teleports from the inside to the outside and back to the inside and between floors constantly. It is distracting everytime some of them appear again in a totally different place.
The Score: I don't care about its flaws - I love this movie, end of story: 4.75 out of 5 for me! But to be more fair, the movie is actually more like a 3.75 out of 5 stars.