In the first 30 minutes, I picked up on three references:
1. 28 Days Later
Now, this is more of a minor coincidence, but when Miguel is yelling to see if anyone is alive in town, it’s not just that Jim does it in 28 Days Later, but Miguel even sounds like Jim (or vice versa I suppose). It was the sound of Miguel’s voice that was so familiar at first, not what he was actually doing. Hear it at 3:18
2. The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920)
I can’t imagine Romero making a horror film and indirectly costuming Dr. Logan like the infamous Dr. Caligari
At the end of Caligari, we see the doctor sans top hat and looks a lot like Logan’s appearance. Definitely a nod.
3. The Big Lebowski’s Walter Sobchak (John Goodman)
This could be coincidence, or it could very well be direct influence, but Private Steel (Gary Howard Klar) immediately reminded me of Walter during a cafeteria scene in which he fits the exact visual profile of The Dude’s most boisterous bowling buddy:
Click to 9:03 for a better look at Steel:
Day came out in 1985, well before Lebowski in 1998. Who knows….
Further, it was interesting to see a strong female character that reminded me of Ripley, yet came out a year before. Placed with Romero’s Night of the Living Dead (1968) and Dawn of the Dead (1978), it follows the same story and character structures: black man and white woman fight the dead and crazy, over-aggressive white guys (Night, Dawn, Day); in the latter third of the film, dump in a montage of zombies eating to really hammer your disturbing film home (Night, Dawn, Day).
Evidently the film did poorly because Romero wanted to do the project unrated for artistic purposes (rating the film would earn it an X/NC-17 and effectively rule out mainstream distribution; he preferred taking a chance that cinemas would accept his unrated film, still a big taboo for cinema owners). Due to the unrated path, his budget was cut and larger sequences were shelved until Land of the Dead (2005).
Overall not bad. Thinking zombies and the film’s somber tone made it interesting. The military guys keep hitting the same dull key, with the main bad guy, Captain Rhodes, maybe doing the worst. The Dr. Sarah Bowman character (Lori Cordille) is probably the best female lead of the whole Dead series (over time, Romero seemed to figure out how to write non-idiot females) and finally, the special effects are great, as it seems Savini was able to talk Romero out of using the same bright blood from Dawn.
The film genuinely scares, go see it*
*but make sure you don’t watch the horrible re-make done in 2008 that features Mena Suvari and Ving Rhames.