Land of the Dead
Director: George Romero
Cast: Simon Baker, John Leguizamo, Asia Argento, Robert Joy, Dennis Hopper
Review: Each film in George Romero’s zombie series has stretched further into the future of a zombie infested world than its predecesor. Night of The Living Dead takes place over the first 24 hours after the outbreak. Dawn of The Dead, chronicles some longer term survivors who take refuge in a shopping mall a few weeks after that, as society crumbles around them. The third and weakest film, Day of The Dead, takes place months later in a millitary outpost whose residents begin to lose their own sense of civility as they search for other survivors and attempt to piece together a taxonomy of these ghouls that plague them.
So naturally Land of The Dead gives only a quick nod to the outbreak of zombie infestation during the opening credits, before zooming several years forward in time to a city near Pittsburgh that has used its three rivers and a series of electric fences to build a zombie-free safe haven.
Dennis Hopper plays Kaufman, a man who rules the city in a strong-fisted manner. The elite live in a beautiful high rise at the city’s center, while the lower class live in hovels, taking care of the dirty work. They are kept passive by plenty of drugs, booze, prostitution and gambling all supplied of course by Kaufman who profits greatly while keeping the masses in their place. (Romero’s usual social critique is in full effect.)
The world outside the city is populated by millions of zombies. This is where the movie gets controversial. The zombies are evolving. Not only do they gain access to skills they had while living — using guns, etc. — but they seem to develop empathy, and even a sense of vengence.
I was sure this was going to annoy me to no end. I perfer my zombies mindless and drooling. Want them running? No problem, a fresh zombie moving with great speed makes sense (so long as they start shuffling later as the moris sisters, rigor and trigor move in). But zombies going on a mission and learning to use guns, no, not for me.
I’m happy to report this minor annoyance does not interfere with the movie as Romero doesn’t waste too much time on it. As usual, the main conflicts are actually among the human survivors. People struggle with each other and try to avoid being eaten, as zombies try to munch brains. That makes a good zombie flick and that’s where Day of The Dead spends most of its energy.
There is some great gore, and it’s quick and efficient not labored and full of “Hey, look what we can do now” like the effects in Day of. Hopper is absolutely brilliant and delivers some hillarious lines. John Lequizamo also shines as the redemption story of the film, but he plays the character eerily close to his Sid the Sloth in Ice Age and this gave me some giggles.
On the down side, the ending of the movie is big-time stupid and no individual scene manages to create the kind of suspenseful tension you look for in a great horror film. Still, Land of The Dead is an enjoyable film, great for watching with a noisy crowd.
Ultimately, it passed the true test of a great horror film — I kept both eyes wide open for zombies as I rode my bike home from the theatre. I was also, accutely aware of how many folks walk with a zombie like shuffle when I went shopping later that night.
Fortunately, it didn’t appear that these pseudo-zombies have acquired any signinficant brain power. I mean, who shops at mall?