Bolstered by the success of 28 Days Later, Shaun of the Dead, the Resident Evil movies and the hit remake of his own Dawn of the Dead, George A. Romero returns to the horror subgenre he invented with Land of the Dead. The ... more »fourth installment in Romero's zombie cycle (and the first since 1985's Day of the Dead) presents a logical progression of events since 1968's horror classic Night of the Living Dead: Zombies (also known as "stenches" for their rotting odor) are the dominant population, and they've begun to show signs of undead intelligence and gathering power. The wealthiest survivors live comfortably in a luxury high-rise within a barricaded safe zone, ignoring the horrors of the outside world while armed scavengers stage raids in the zombie-zone to gather much-needed food and supplies. Simon Baker and John Leguizamo play mercenaries-for-hire; Dennis Hopper is their nefarious boss; and horror favorite Asia Argento (daughter of Suspiria« less
Extension of Romero's original "Dead" trilogy fun and invent
Wayne Klein | My Little Blue Window, USA | 07/07/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"The dead are mad as heck and aren't going to take it anymore! When we last caught up with George Romero's "Dead" films, "Day of the Dead" focused on the military trying to train the zombies for combat and experimenting on them. Romero takes the next step introduced into a world divided by the dead and the living each sharing space reluctantly with the other. That is until a gas station attendant zombie shows an inkling of intelligence and decides to go after the living in a sealed off skyscaper while those less fortunate live on the streets of the sealed off metropolis. Run by Kaufman (Dennis Hopper in perfect looney mode), the city is supplied by "employees" who can't live in the beautiful people's skyscraper. These scavengers led by Riley (Simon Baker) and Cholo (John Leguizamo) pillage the landscape around them for essential items for the wealthy. Riley has a conscience decides he will no longer lead the crew of his "tank" Dead Reconkening and work for "the man" anymore. Cholo, on the other hand, keeps doing Kaufman's dirty work in hopes that he'll be able to buy his way into the wealthy paradise.
As usual Romero has lots of gore but, more importantly, there's a sly political and satricial message at the heart of the movie. Romero who has been an independent filmmaker his whole life probably identifies with Riley and thinks of the film studios as Kaufman and his denizens. It's a much broader metaphor though as it can be used to look at the disappearing middle class and the disintegration of the class system in America. It's a fun ride with some of Romero's most accomplished filmmaking. Working with a budget of around $20 million Romero manages to do the same kind of work as was seen in the remake of his "Dawn of the Dead" last year. Interestingly, the more films Romero makes in his "Dead" series (and this probably going to be the last or at least next to last because of his age), the more milage he gets out of the inspiration for the entire saga--Richard Matheson's novel "I Am Legend" which was turned into the low budget horror movie "The Last Man on Earth" with Vincent Price (and the campy "The Omega Man" with Charleton Heston).
Outstanding effects are nicely off set with strong performances by the cast including Asia Argento (daughter of Romero friend and Italian horror film director Dario Argento) as a former hooker named Slack who is almost fed to the "stenches" (as the city inhabitants refer to the rotting zombies)in a bizarre scene that satrizies "Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome". Romero hasn't lost his touch and although this doesn't have quite the revolutionary punch of "Dawn of the Dead" or "Night of the Living Dead" it's an improvement on "Day of the Dead" as well as most of the horror films out there.
The DVD has a very nice transfer and with the exception of an occasional bit of digital shimmer, the film looks as vibrant and alive as the bright red gushing blood. This is much more an action adventure movie than the previous films in the horror series and provides a nice bookend to the remake of "Dawn of the Dead" (even if it isn't related). Sound is pretty lively with a nice 5.1 and DTS mix that will have you looking over your shoulders for the undead.
Extras include a lively commentary by "Dead" director Romero, producer Grunwald and editor Michael Doherty. There's also a number of featurettes on the making of the film but my personal favorite is "When Shawn Met George" about when Simon Pegg and Edgar White (star & writer and director * writer respectively) of the comedy/horror film "Shawn of the Dead" met Romero and appeared as extras in "Land of the Dead". We get to see how they're made into the undead and the first meeting between the three of them. "Undead Again" provides a glimpse into the making of the film. "Green Screen to Finished Screen" gives us before and after comparisons between the raw footage and the finished footage with optical effects. "Storyboards and Final Scenes" looks at the storyboards inserted as PIP with the finished product. "Scream Tests" opens with a very funny outtake featuring dancing zombies from the CGI footage for the film. "Scenes of Carnage" is pretty self explanatory. "Bits and Pieces" are scenes that were cut. Although none of the featurettes are quite as exhaustive as those provided as extras for the three disc set of the original "Dawn of the Dead". There's also some other extras including a behind-the-scenes "A Day with the Living Dead".
Could "Dead" have been more? Sure. There were some missed opportunities here regarding the life in the tower but then that would have been a completely different movie. Romero's done a terrific job given the limitations of time and budget. Deftly balancing satire, horror and humanism, Romero makes one of his best films in years. I'm hoping this does well at the box office so that Romero can get financing to continue to examine the post-stench world a bit more. Oh and it's a Romero rarity with an ending that's actually more upbeat than I expected."
George A. Romero proves that zombies still creep us out
Lawrance M. Bernabo | The Zenith City, Duluth, Minnesota | 08/07/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"We should have known that if George A. Romero was going to go back to the well of the living dead another time he was going to come up with something different. What "George A. Romero's Land of the Dead" (the director's name goes up top so you know this is not merely another remake of one of his zombie films, like last year's "Dawn of the Dead") offers is two variations on the familiar theme. The first is in this brave new world humanity has found a way of perpetuating the old divide between the "haves" and "haves not," even when there are all those zombies out there suggest it should now be "us" versus "them." Kaufman (Dennis Hopper) has set up Fiddler's Green, a luxury high rise on an island between a couple of rivers (think the location of Three River Stadium in Romero's old stomping ground of Pittsburgh even though the movie is shot in Toronto). There the "haves" live while the rest of the island has the "have nots," some of whom are hired as mercenaries to go out into the world and bring back "necessities." Apparently money still matters in the "Land of the Dead," or perhaps people are merely trying to hold on to the old way of life, because the poor are not listening to those advocating going and taking away from the rich.
Consequently, humanity has found a way to survive. You can compare the more active approach of "Land of the Dead" with the mall rats of "Dawn of the Dead," who found a passive means of existence. Kaufman has built Dead Reckoning, a gigantic armored vehicle that leads foraging parties out into the world. These parties are led by Riley (Simon Baker), whose primary goal is getting everybody back alive, which does not always happen. That is because he works with Cholo (John Leguizamo), who has a different idea of necessities, one attuned to the fine tastes of Kaufman. Both men believe they are on their last mission at the start of this 2005 film, Riley because he will have now earned enough to pay for a car to get out of town and Cholo because he believes he has now earned the chance to move on up to Fiddler's Green. Both are wrong and that sets up the conflict to come.
This is where the second variation comes into play. Kaufman not only created a high rise where the "haves" are protected from that "have nots," some of whom actually help the "haves" have even more, but the entire island is zombie proof. This forces Romero to change the zombie part of the equation, and so we are introduced to Big Daddy (Eugene Clark), who runs a gas station and has a moment akin to when the ape looks at the thigh bone in "2001: A Space Odyssey." Just to help us along the voice over at the start of the film warn us that if the zombies ever develop anything approaching rudimentary thinking skills that would be a bad thing, a very bad thing indeed. So, of course, that is what happens. After all, if you can have bad humans, then you can have good zombies (Joss Whedon has convinced me being dead does not make a character inherently bad).
Having a zombie to root for is quite a different experience, but Romero also delivers on the guts and gore when the zombies go into their patented feeding frenzy. The narrative can offer all the sly social satire it wants, we watch these movies to be disgusted by the bloody scenes of cannibalism. The people Romero hires to do makeup and special effects are clearly on the cutting edge when it comes to this type of work. Even when you watch the DVD special features and you see what they are doing in bright light most of it will still creep you out, so the scenes in the film shot at night or in the shadows with the liberal application of blood and other things it is even worse (which is a good thing in a zombie movie).
The bottom line is that Romero delivers just what his fans want with this movie so that there is not a problem with failing to meet expectations. No, "Land of the Dead" is not the best of the bunch, but for my money nothing will surpass the original "Night of the Living Dead." The important thing is that here we are four films into the series, limiting ourselves to just the Romero helmed ones, and the series is certainly going a lot strong than the other comparable horror series, all of which have been abandoned by their creators (which is either a cause or effect). Final Note: Look for Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright of "Shaun of the Dead" fame as the photo booth zombies in one of the classic cameos of the early 21st century."
The Best New Horror Movie Yet.
JRZ | Pittsburgh, PA | 05/31/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Finally a new movie that does not suck. I had to go to the theater twice when it came out. Great story, and hands down the best zombie effects ever filmed. The special effects artist's out done themselves with this one. And George shows the world that he is still King. I hope that we can see more films like this one in the future and possibly more from George himself. If you never seen this film you need to see it. Don't overlook it cause it has zombies in it. I know tons of people hear the word "zombies" and don't give it a chance. But I'm telling you that you need to give this one a chance. Cause it's straight out a good film whether you like horror, zombies or any kind of movie. You'll see a quality film that's worth every penny."
When there's no more room in your dvd store...
A. D. Castro | 10/19/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"As a big fan of Romero I liked "Land..." as a zombie movie although it didn't scare me as viscerally like when I saw "Dawn of the Dead" at an impresssionable 12 years of age with some older cousins. "Dawn" left me with that hyper-creepiness the world we know is ending with people we know--who look like us--tearing us apart with gnashing teeth and eating our innards at a place we knew everyday, the shopping mall. Here we get an apocalyptic wasteland populated by ghouls with a city fortress of rich people and a second-class tier of people who fight the zombies for everyday items. It left me little to hold on to in terms of a "this could happen now and today" creepiness "Dawn" instilled but it still gave me my fix of zombie scares. The zombie munchfests still had me squirming in my seat. The characters were real enough given their setting and some moments were palpable in its sense of dread and creep (needed more daytime zombie scenes to make it more real).
I guess I lean towards "Dawn" as the epitomy of zombie creepdom (and NOT the remake with its uber Nike sprinting zombies that could have just as well have been just an angry mob and not the creeping unsleeping nonresting everpresent shuffling undead--). The makeup in "Land" is far superior to the blue-makeup, squib packing of the dead in "Dawn". But "Dawn" felt real--like it could happen--and that you were "f"'ed if you didnt get your act together. But in "Land" you got your scares, your zombies, your apocalyptic wasteland Romero style and that alone is worthy of any zombie fans to check this one out."
Romero's Still Got It
Drunewp | Chicago, Il USA | 06/25/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I've read several reviews for Land of the Dead in the past week. Some praised it, while some dismissed it as a "rehash" or "uninspired" film, saying it does nothing to further the Romero legacy. I've heard it's not funny. I've heard it's character's sucked. I've heard lots. I'm here to let you know that Romero's new addition not only fits like a glove to the original three - it's hillarious, well acted, well concieved, and looks beautifully-dirty at that!
When I hear people say LAND is "unoriginal", it makes me chuckle. No other horror filmmaker can mix social commentary, humor, and gore like Romero, and if there is one out there, he'she probablly got the idea from Romero anyway!
I saw LAND last night, at a midnight show here in Chicago. From the opening old-school UNIVERSAL logo, to watching KAUFMAN say things like "We don't negoitate with terrorists," to watching a population of zombies appear from under the water in what, to me, is one of the creepiest moments I've felt in a looooong time, I not only thouroughly enjoyed this flick, I welcome it WHOLEHEARTEDLY as an instant classic.
The underlying story is a cautionary one - just like Night, Dawn, and Day. It's shows a population that have locked themselves in, so much so that when it comes time to escape, they can't. It tells of a ruthless leader that keeps the outside population occupied with drugs, sex and entertainment to keep their minds from coming together and storming Fiddler's Green. The Green is a skyscraper-fortress that Kaufman and his cronies have turned into a new city, one that holds every memory of the former life - shopping malls, gyms, movies, etc. This film is about zombies, obviously. But like every Romero films before, it's also about our post 9-11 world, living in fear, isolating ourselves in a big world, and so much more. The effects are UNMATCHED. I didn't notice ANY CGI throughout the whole thing. There were a couple puppets, and they looked amazing.
Overall, this is one BIG ASS THUMBS up for a long awaited flick. The end caused pause initially. I felt it could have been better. However, I wake up this morning and rethink everything in my head and I'm satisfied. It wraps the microscopic story up like a lovely package, leaving the macroscopic problem wide open.