Land of the Dead

LD1

Years after the zombie apocalypse consumed the world, a small pocket of humanity has come together in a walled off city to survive as best they can in a world overrun by zombies, but the undead are getting restless and that city may not last much longer. The fourth in Romero’s zombie series.

Land of the Dead is a film that proves what hypocrites the living are. Just take a look at the beginning of the movie. Here we have a large population of the undead just going about their business, some are trying to play music, one seems to be acting like a mechanic, and a whole host of them are just wandering around town not bothering anyone. Then what happens? A group of the living blaze into town and start killing any zombie in their way, even cruelly in some cases. They shoot “sky flowers” (fireworks) into the sky to distract the undead and when their machine screws up and the undead notice the tasty humans the living start rampaging. And why are the humans there? For food of course (and booze, living or dead, everyone likes booze). That’s understandable, they’re hungry, they need to eat, so why the fuck get on our case because we have to eat too? I mean, yeah, we eat you, but that’s just our food source. So if you don’t mind offing us to get your food why should we care about offing you to get our food which is you? Just something to think about the next time you feel the need to judge us.

Our fourth film in Romero’s series begins several years after mankind has become adjusted to a world overrun by the dead. A large grouping of those still among the living have settled into a walled off community surrounded by water and defended by a trained military force where the people believe themselves to be safe, especially those in the city center of Fiddler’s Green where the more affluent live. A trained force of raiders make supply runs in a convoy of vehicles with the behemoth of a machine, Dead Reckoning, at the center of it all, but things begin to change on one fateful supply run. On this particular run, raid leader Riley (on his last run before retirement, which here means buying a car and driving as far away as you can get) and his lovable but mentally deficient friend Charlie notice that the dead are becoming a lot smarter. Despite Riley’s warnings about the more intelligent zombies the raid continues on as normal, but Riley’s misgivings turn out quite prophetic and things quickly go wrong, forcing a fast escape for the raiders. Unbeknownst to them, they are followed by the undead who seem to have found a new leader in Big Daddy, a zombified mechanic who has an empathy with his undead brethren. Upon the raiders return home, one member Cholo (played by John Leguizamo), who has been working for Fiddler’s Green head man Kaufman (Dennis Hopper), believes he has finally bought his way into Fiddler’s Green with the rest of the rich and famous by doing Kaufman’s dirty work. He is instead betrayed and nearly murdered but is able to get away before Kaufman’s henchmen can finish him off. Together with a group of his friends Cholo is able to steal Dead Reckoning for himself, promising to destroy the whole city unless he is paid several million dollars. Kaufman refuses and tasks Riley, along with his friend Charlie, newcomer Slack (played by Asia Argento) and a few extra soldiers, with recapturing the massive vehicle. Riley and his team are going to have to hurry too because while they try and recapture what was stolen, the horde is moving ever closer.

LD4

{Why no one ever figured out that water might not be enough to stop the undead is beyond me}

I’m not sure how this one fits in with Romero’s other films, timeline wise at least. There are a few hints dropped as to it definitely fitting in with his other films (such as Tom Savini playing a zombified biker that looks very similar to the biker attacked during the scavenger raid in Dawn of the Dead), but no real timeline as to when it happened. The only reason I wonder is because I can see this movie taking place either a short time after Day of the Dead or even taking place concurrently with that film. George A. Romero has never had a concrete timeframe within his films, preferring to instead make his own timeline as he went along. It makes perfect sense if you think about it, by not gluing anything down to the timeframe of the real world many of these movies can take place in whatever time (though with Diary of the Dead taking place concurrently with Night of the Living Dead the leeway might have gone too far but that’s something to discuss with the next review). Regardless of when exactly Land of the Dead takes place, I thought it was an excellent film, though I know I’m in the minority here.

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{Zombie biker Savini is just not a man you can keep down}

I felt the story was a great addition to Romero’s series. It delved into not just how the living evolve in a world overrun by the living dead, but how the living dead themselves would evolve as well. A major complaint among many fans was why the dead would start communicating with each other and attempting to rebuild the lives they had. First of all, they are not trying to rebuild the lives they had, they are simply repeating actions that they felt passionate about in life. The musician zombies don’t play music because they want to play music but because that’s the last thing left of who they were before they turned, the lover zombies who are holding hands don’t hold hands because they still love each other but because that’s the little bit they remember of who they were, loving and wanting to feel one another’s touch, and Big Daddy isn’t checking the gas pumps at his station because he wants to make sure they remain tip top but because that’s what he did day in and day out while he was alive. These zombies aren’t trying to rebuild the lives they had, they’re trying to find any kind of purpose their greatly reduced brains will accept and the things most important to them in life are the shadow of what remains of who they were, making those things the easiest for their brains to cling to. It’s why they follow Big Daddy so easily when he makes his trip toward the city. He’s giving them something new to follow, a new purpose that they can understand more easily. They no longer have to try and reconnect with what they were before becoming undead, something they can’t ever possibly understand, but keep trying to reclaim anyways because it’s all they have left. Now they can adhere to a purpose that makes so much more sense to them, the desire to feed on the flesh of the living, and having the entire horde come together as one brings back a sensation so much older than modern man, the sensation of being a part of a tribe. If you think about it, a horde is nothing more than a large tribe, and that’s something the zombies are becoming part of once again, in ways that humanity hasn’t realized in a thousand years. As far as the zombie communication goes, it’s the most basic of communication. It’s not like they’re running around asking each other how their day was. They grunt basic commands to alert other zombies to their purpose or use physical actions to portray what they mean. It makes sense that a group, any group no matter how intelligent, would eventually learn how to communicate with each other after having to survive as they have for so long.

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{They may also have just gotten upset about poorly lit photo ops}

There’s also some of the amazing performances present in this film. I can go on and on about the living cast members and how well they do. John Leguizamo was great as rebel raider Cholo (and that takes a lot for me to say because I can’t stand the guy), Simon Baker as level headed, if slightly emotionless Riley does fantastic, Dennis Hopper who plays head honcho Kaufman was phenomenal, basing his performance on what he believed Donald Rumsfield would act like in a similar situation, and last but not least, Robert Joy as the mentally challenged Charlie was my favorite character. Joy’s performance as the ever loyal Charlie was so great that I found myself leaning on the edge of my seat whenever he was in danger. It was a truly outstanding portrayal by the actor. The only actor I thought was less than stellar was Asia Argento. She’s sadly not that great an actress but keeps getting jobs anyways because of daddy Dario Argento’s reputation. The real shining actors for Land of the Dead though are the zombie actors. Each and every single one does a spectacular job. I was impressed by all of the zombified actors, each one coming across as terrifying and yet still sympathetic in their representations of humanity lost. The individual zombies they focus on do an even better job with how well they were able to blend into the horde while still maintaining a distinct personality. Special mention should definitely go towards Eugene Clark, otherwise known as Big Daddy, the leader of the zombie horde. He plays such a perfect zombie leader, maintaining his status as a member of the overall horde and yet still growing into his leadership role.

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{Riley}

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{Charlie}

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{Slack}

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{Cholo}

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{Kaufman}

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{And a severed head, I mean Big Daddy}

Lastly there are the absolutely fantastic effects. This movie excels in the visual effects department, showcasing some of the best practical effects in the series. There are some truly gory and disgusting things done to both the living and the dead, but it always looked amazing. Not only do the zombies look great, coming across as rotting corpses that have adjusted to being mobile for so long (with some looking more rotted than others), but when they go down, they go down with a good amount of blood and guts. I might have even winced a few times at some of the deaths, both those of the living and the true deaths from the living dead. I can’t think of one single complaint from the effects department. They should all be very proud of what they accomplished.

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{The badass that is Dead Reckoning}

While I know this movie gets a lot of shit as not living up to standards others had set for Romero, I found it to be a terrific film. I can’t say that I was a huge fan of his next two, but I did love this. I would highly recommend it.

 

The Undead Review

 

Directed By: George A. Romero (Night of the Living Dead, The Crazies)

Starring: Simon Baker (Sex and Death 101, Red Planet), John Leguizamo (Romeo + Juliet, Moulin Rouge), Dennis Hopper (Blue Velvet, Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2), Asia Argento (xXx, Dracula 3D), and Robert Joy (Fallen, The Dark Half)

Released By: Universal Pictures, Romero-Grunwald Productions, Exception Wild Bunch, and Atmosphere Entertainment MM

Release Year: 2005

Release Type: Theatrical Release

MPAA Rating: Rated R

About The Undead Review

When I was alive I was an asshole and after I died remained pretty much the same, if not a little worse. You’d think becoming a member of the walking dead would mellow a person out, no more worrying about awkward small talk with people, no more having to be politically correct, and the entire world is your upright, bipedal buffet. Don’t get me wrong, it’s fun as hell to be a zombie, just somewhat irritating at times, especially those times you have to watch a lame movie or read a lame book. Thankfully, when I am forced to watch these films or read those books, I’ve got places like The Undead Review to bitch and moan to my heart’s content. {When he’s not devouring the living or sinking his teeth into a good film The Undead Review (Andy Taylor) spends his time writing his own stories or hunting down the paranormal. Oh, and did we mention his blind dog once saved the world?)
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