SYFY’s Day of the Dead show has a big legacy behind it. George A. Romero‘s zombie films are the blueprint for every zombie genre film to come after it. Whether that’s the fast moving zombies of The 28 Days/Weeks films or something similar to Army of the Dead. This time around, the show isn’t a simple retread like the film remake of the original Romero movie. The show takes a different path, but it’s pilot episode really takes awhile to get going.

We’re greeted to a frame of the Zombie apocalypse already in progress. Here’s the official description from SYFY:

“Day of the Dead” is the intense story of six strangers trying to survive the first 24 hours of an undead invasion. This ode to George A. Romero’s famous flesh-eaters reminds us that sometimes all it takes to bring people together is a horde of hungry zombies trying to rip them apart. The series stars Keenan Tracey (“Bates Motel”), Daniel Doheny (“Alex Strangelove”), Natalie Malaika (“Fractured”), Kristy Dinsmore (“Vikings”), and newcomer Morgan Holmstrom. 

The show shifts from that opening scene to sometime before the plague begins. We’re introduced to our main characters, Cam, Luke, Lauren, Paula, and others. The issues with pace and just how we’re made to feel about these characters are where the show hits a wall. Since we’re given a look at the zombies in the first scene of the show, it’s a bit jarring to not see them up until the very end of this episode.

Does This Stand Out From The Rest Of The Zombie Shows Out There?

DAY OF THE DEAD — “The Thing in the Hole” Episode 101 — Pictured: Keenan Tracey as Cam McDermott — (Photo by: Sergei Bachlakov/DOTD S1 Productions/SYFY)

With a name like Day of the Dead, that’s quite the legacy to live up to. The zombie market is pretty saturated, so it’s going to take either some fantastic effects, great storytelling, or something else to stand out. The issue with the pilot of Day of the Dead isn’t that it’s bad. it’s far from that, but it doesn’t do anything to stick out past the crowd of other zombie/horror shows. Something like Chucky (also premiered on SYFY this week), has a unique character and angle in the killer doll. This show has zombies. So does iZombie, The Walking Dead, Fear the Walking Dead, and all the other zombie shows out there.

If anything, the zombies in this show look fantastic. It’s a worry that with television, they’ll skimp out on effects and overuse CG. At least in the first episode, we get plenty of practical zombies running around. They’re a mix between eras of zombies, so for the horror hounds out there, that’ll likely be a highlight. We get a couple glimpses at what could be coming in this first episode, but the majority of the action is in that first scene.

The characters are sometimes relatable, sometimes they play off like caricatures. The tone is uneven in that way, are we supposed to feel like this is a drama like The Walking Dead or more of an action-comedy series? Day of the Dead doesn’t stick in one lane for long enough to get a beat on what it wants.

There’s Some Good Here, But We Need To See More Action

DAY OF THE DEAD — “The Thing in the Hole” Episode 101 — Pictured: (l-r) Caitlin Stryker as Nicole, Miranda Frigon as Paula Bowman, Daniel Doheny as Luke Bowman — (Photo by: Sergei Bachlakov/DOTD S1 Productions/SYFY)

The characters have potential, the action and zombie horror has potential here as well. It did some good work in drumming up tension and atmosphere; but this first episode of Day of the Dead doesn’t do much to set itself apart from the crowded field. If you’re a Romero fan, this doesn’t play out at all like the movie, which you may like. It’s sharing the name, the zombies, and really nothing else at this point.

They’re going to need to do more to set itself apart or else it’ll fall into the bucket with all the rest of the zombie shows on the market.

Day of the Dead airs tonight, October 15th, 2021 on SYFY.

For more on horror, make sure to check out Fright-A-Thon, the month-plus marathon of Halloween content.