Land of the Dead
DVD Release: 10.18.05
Rated R; (DVD: UR)
1 hour, 33 minutes;
(UR: 1 hour, 37 minutes)
We've watched zombies evolve from the shambling, grunting corpses of 1968's Night of the Living Dead to those who spew blood a dozen feet and give chase like they’re Usain Bolt a la 28 Days Later. How can the king of the undead genre hope to compete? Simple; writer-director George A. Romero has the zombies who awoke in the night, ravaged in the dawn, and overran in the day now exert their will over the land.
Humans have taken up refuge on an island city where a societal class system is still in effect. The poor masses huddle beneath the Utopian skyscraper of the rich known as Fiddler’s Green. Fiddler’s Green is run by Kaufman (Dennis Hopper, Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2) who uses money and influence to command an army and a team of scavengers. Riley (Simon Baker, Ring Two) leads the lowly scavengers alongside Cholo, played by everyone’s favorite typecast Latino, John Leguizamo (Spawn). The duo, with scavenger crew in tow, lead a foraging run to a neighboring zombie-infested city where the zombies’ have attained the ability to communicate and react. Shortly following, all Hell breaks loose as the zombies unite to swarm the human outpost.
While the evolution of zombies into thinking, rationalizing creatures is contrary to their very nature, you have to admit that it makes for a cool film concept. Big Daddy zombie uses his jerky movements and disgruntled moans to fuse his rotting brethren into a menacing, unstoppable force. Riley and Cholo are the stereotypical heroes, the Cain and Able if you will, of the scavengers. Riley is a hard-working, honest, and caring leader who just wants to retire far away from the dilapidated existence humans know. Cholo is a self-centered hustler looking to buy his way into Kaufman's high society Kaufman.
As with previous Romero flicks, the humans’ superficial aspirations blind them to the more immediate threat of being devoured by shuffling nimrods, so just imagine the panic and carnage when those nimrods start wielding knives, guns, and jackhammers! Post-apocalyptic vehicles, fireworks, and massive explosions fill the voids between the shallow conflicts emerging among the city’s denizens.
The zombie make-up and special effects are friggin’ awesome. My favorite was the perpetual pearly whites of Number 9. Keep a close eye out for zombies that have made appearances in previous Dead films; in particular the infamous Bub from Day of the Dead and the Seersucker Zombie from the original Night of the Living Dead. I’m certain there had to be more cameos, but with so many zombies in Hollywood, it’s hard to remember all their faces.
Ahh, the refreshing aftertaste of an R-rated film! Romero dishes up a sensory overload of violence, cursing and racial slurs! The 65-yr-old even flashes us a nice pair of chesticles; after all this is a man who made his bread and butter in the heyday of the 70’s and 80’s. Watching these shambling, festering corpses take up arms, and literally, arms to fight against the infringing humans is intense. The prolonged sequences of gore and destruction as the undead turn humans into wishbones; tearing hunks from throats, snacking on sausagesque intestines and wrestling over scraps of actual finger foods will surely sate even the sickest of appetites.
The Money ShotNot only does Romero improve upon his zombies, but also his story's undertones. You’ll leave the theater ruminating whether the humans were really the victims. Preponderances aside, Land of the Dead is ideal brain candy for the mindless theater masses.