Here we are, twenty years later and George A. Romero’s fourth zombie pic, Land of the Dead (review), is finally hitting theaters! In addition to our official review above, we just added Buzz’s review for the film over at our sister site Freeze Dried Movies. You can also read interview with Romero and the stars at our interviews page and check out numerous clips from the film over at Moviefone. Remember, if Universal’s Land does well, we’ll be seeing more zombie action from Romero- so get your ass into the theater this weekend! Don’t forget you can write your own reviews this weekend under ours by clicking here! Click the link above for our image gallery. Read on for a bunch more fan reviews!!
By G. Lamberson:
When DAY OF THE DEAD opened in theatres, I was left feeling dissatisfied. It wasn’t a bad movie, it just wasn’t as shocking as NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD or as thrilling as DAWN OF THE DEAD. Over the years, though, I’ve come to appreciate’even love’George Romero’s third zombie film.
It’s hard to imagine that I will ever come to appreciate or love LAND OF THE DEAD, or that I will ever feel anything toward it but ambivalence.
Did I go into the theatre expecting too much? Well, I wanted to like the film, but that’s all. So the answer is, ‘yes.’
In its scant 88 minute running time, there are no surprises, no shocks, and no suspense. The walled in city that the ‘story’ takes place in is never explored or developed; nor are its citizens or their lifestyles. The main characters don’t begin to feel like real people until the final 20 minutes or so, and even then, you never once get the feeling that any of them are in jeopardy. Since this was conceived as the first part of a trilogy of films that would apparently follow the same characters, the film is anticlimactic and incomplete’like a TV pilot or THE PHANTOM MENACE.
The zombies are never scary, or even creepy; the old ‘they are us’ line is no longer applicable, because they’re so sculpted-looking. The film looks cheap, like something made for the Sci-Fi Channel, and the world it creates is unconvincing. None of Romero’s documentary-style filmmaking is evident, and the so-called social commentary he is known for is either obvious or underdeveloped this time around.
The audience I saw the film with seemed to enjoy it, but the best I can say is that some of the zombie gags were fun, and I liked the characters enough to want to see them in an actual story. This is a stripped down, minimalist sequel, like ROCKY IV or BATTLE FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES. I hope it does well for Romero’s sake, but’and I REALLY hate to say this’the loathsome DAWN OF THE DEAD remake was a more interesting film.
Hopefully, I’ve lowered your expectations enough that you’ll have a better time with this than I did. It’s a painless hour and a half, and you’ll laugh several times.
Review by: Hardrock
I wanted to chime in with my impression of Land of the Dead. I saw it last night in Raleigh, NC, special screening to create some buzz and for local critics, sponsered by a local tv station (UPN) affiliate. This will have some spoilers.
Let me start by saying I did not have high expectations. Although I really enjoyed all of the previous Dead films, let’s all face it, they were B movies with lofty ideas and envelope pushing special effects/gore. I think most people would agree the $ they had to make these films shoestringed the technical quality of them…not to say that reduced my enjoyment of them, but they were not technically brilliant films, be it acting, editing, music, etc. With that said they did invent and redefine the genre and provide some very pointed social commentary. For those reasons they are great fun and important horror movies.
So, how does Land stack up? Not very well at all. I had lowered expectations knowing much of what I said in the previous paragraph. I was not expecting Schindler’s List here, not character development and dialogue like some Altman film, but I was at least wanting what these films have always provided…good scares/mood, gore, social commentary, etc. Land failed on almost all of these counts.
First of all, the film no longer feels like a B movie. It is polished, well acted, musical score is good, opening credits are well done and sufficiently creepy (ironically GAR has complained some about the remake of DOTD yet his opening credits are very similar in tone to the new DOTD, only not as good in my opinion, not to mention the trailer that cops the same editing style and music). The funny thing is by losing that B feel it loses some of what made the original 3 kind of fun…it now feels like the movie should be much better because it has the big budget look to it, despite only costing like $15m. Also the inclusion of well known actors now has taken something away from the feeling of these being just some ordinary people…it is painfully obvious that you are watching Dennis Hopper, JL, etc…just didn’t work for me.
Horror/Gore: Well this is probably where I was let down the most. I read all kinds of stuff saying this was pushing the MPAA envelope for R rated movies…frankly I don’t think it was very gory at all. There were a few scenes but sadly most of them are the same ripping flesh effect GAR pioneered in the ’70′s with DOTD, repeated over and over and from different angles and on different body parts. Once you’ve seen it, it loses effect. There were probably 3 interesting gore scenes at most, spinal cord zombie, hand in mouth zombie and splitting arm zombie. You’ll know ‘em when you see them. Other than that, everything else was painfully ordinary. In terms of scares, he has finally resorted to what he did not have to in previous films, cheap jump scares…probably about 4 or 5 in the movie, all stages and pretty obvious to the audience as to what was coming.
In terms of overall mood/dread, it lacks completely. First of all for a movie called Land of the Dead, I never had any sense that the Land was overun. By focusing on the evolution of the zombies GAR has handcuffed himself. He is forced by his own plot device and direction to now focus on and follow a small group of zombies as characters. So now they are humanized and no longer scary. Additionally this forces his camera to follow them, not branch out to show the hordes of zombies that have supposedly overun the planet, save maybe 1 or 2 scenes, including the river scene (this scene is well done and creepy, as well as the ensuing aerial shots of the city streets with stenches walking around). They also do not show, if I recall, these ‘hero’ zombies really attacking anyone or doing anything to make us fear or loath them. They are simply not scary because we are being spoon fed the commentary-that they are just like us in many ways. Screw that, I want them to lumber, chomp on people and scare the crap out of me, not for me to feel sorry for them and hope they make it to the closing credits!
Social Commentary: This started out well with small symbolic and metaphorical references to the class structure, however as the movie crept along this was shoved down your throat more and more to the point where , as I said above, the zombies were no longer scary…we were so forced to make the social commentarty connection that GAR wanted us to that we completely ignore that these are mindless eating machines…of course since he pull the mindless part from the equation, he has also removed one of the great elements of his own genre…that they are simply instinctual eating corpses. Now they can reason, which makes them more akin to animals than roving death machines…weak.
Logic: One of the worst mistakes any filmmaker can make can make in a film requiring a hard suspension of disbelief is to break the rules and conventions of the very world they created. GAR does that here, repeatedly. He has some zombies that are somewhat agile and move quicker. Some that emote. Some that sort of sprint (not run, but move much faster). Some move slow as hell. Some make no noise and some actually growl/scream like animals (?). A couple of minor characters are shot by main characters and then they turn their backs on them (?)…do they forget they will get up and chomp on them? Why does one character act suprised when one person comes back as a zombie??? Why do they need millions of dollars in ransom money (too much to explain) in a world where there is supposed anarchy and chaos, what are they going to do buy a condo on the beach with it? Why do the main characters watch in complete disgust one orgy of a feeding scene, launch their attach to blast what they are viewing in complete disdain and horror, then literally a few minutes later make comments about how they are like us, “just looking for a place to go”…excuse me? If I saw that crap I’d nuke everything including me, not make some profound statement and then go away, about my business like nothing happened?!?! Oh yeah, lesbians? Why? No purpose whatsoever…
The film runs about 88 minutes and it feels like it. I blinked and it was basically over. I won’t go so far as to ruin the ending but let me just say that when the final few scenes ran, there was an audible release of air from the audience, as if to say “give me a freaking break…at least it was free.”
I write this as I said with low expectations to begin with, but damnit, you go to films like this for a reason…and this one did not deliver any of what I was looking for. It’s especially since it is sitting in the shadow of the last flick I caught, Batman Begins. Not apples to apples by any means but at least that movie did something different while balancing with what people want to see to perfection. LOTD failed the same task miserably.
Land of the Dead (aka George Romero’s Phantom Menace)
A review by Brian Myers.
I know now that this film will not meet people’s expectations. Not because it is a bad film, but because the expectations for it are set all too high. It reminds me of the hype and expectations in the genre community when Phantom Menace came out, everyone had been waiting years for the film, and when it hit, it wasn’t what people expected. People had already formed ideas on what the film would be about, what kind of creatures, how the effects would be, etc. Thusly, Land of the Dead suffers from the same thing.
The story is centered around a team of people, lead by Riley (Simon Baker), who go out and find supplies to bring back to Fiddlers Green (which is this film’s Zion to bring in a Matrix reference), after a raid on a deserted town, a large group of Zombies starts heading for this fortified city, but these aren’t ordinary Zombies, they are learning. But all is not right with the team, Cholo (John Leguizamo) has been doing things, bad things, in order to earn his way into Fiddlers Green, when his hopes are dashed he steals the massive, Zombie killing tank,” Dead Reckoning” and proclaims Jihad on the Green. It’s up to Riley, his mildly retarded guardian Charlie (Robert Joy) and hooker Slack (Asia Argento) to get “Dead Reckoning” back. This isn’t the strongest of plots out of the series but it’s coherent and entertaining enough that it’s still better than 90% of the garbage Hollywood usually poots forth in the genre. There is some social commentary there, but it seems much more subdued than the previous films, and I have my reasons for believing that Romero was overrun with studio execs looking over his shoulder trying to make sure there was no strong political subtext. One thing that might bug people is how fast the Zombies learn, it’s quick, almost too quick. They go from being completely mindless, hypnotized immediately by fireworks, to being un- phased and using firearms. The ending is anti-climactic, which when I started writing this review I was going to blast, but after the big reveal by the producers that this is a spring board for more films the ending is appropriate.
The stand out performances come from John Leguizamo (Cholo), Denis Hopper (Kaufman), and Robert Joy (Charlie), these characters are defiantly the more interesting of the group. These are the character I’d like to know more about, I want to know how Kaufman came into power, what happened with Charlie, and hell I could go for a spin off film on the back story of Cholo and his crew rolling around on motorcycles killing Zombies, like Easy Rider with Zombies. The other performances aren’t bad, but they are cookie cutter characters, Simon Baker (Riley) is good and gives a solid performance, but there’s nothing new there. Not that there needs to be something new but how many times can we do the whole regretful hero routine. Something bad happened to him and now he just doesn’t feel it anymore. Sure it’s functional, but for someone who’s been living in a Zombie infested world, I’d expect one to be a bit harder edged. Asia Argento (Slack) is under-used and in a series with some of the strongest female leads in the horror genre it’s kind of sad to see her being nothing more than a mere sidekick, hopefully if the other films get maid we’ll get more of her character taking charge.
The Zombies for the most part are classic Romero Zombies. The make-up effects are spectacular as always and there are some amazing kills, disembowelments and other bits of gore that are great fun. I was shocked by how much they got away with for an obviously R rated cut, and I can’t wait to see a directors cut of this film. One thing of note with the gore is how it’s cut out, I’ve not seen a trimmed up gore movie in decades, so it’s very interesting to see the harsh cuts when a gore scene has been edited. The only thing that didn’t fit is how the lead Zombie, Eugene Cook (Big Daddy), looked. While all the other zombies in the film have the classic Romero look, Big Daddy did not, which is unfortunate as he has the most screen time of the zombies. He doesn’t even really move like a Romero Zombie, he moves like a regular person, which I guess I can see the point as he’s the “teacher” so to speak, but it still doesn’t really fit.
Overall, I recommend this film; I also recommend that you dash your expectations. Look we all do it as horror/sci-fi geeks, when our big franchises come back around, our expectations tend to go through the roof, especially if it’s been a long time between films. So if you check your lofty expectations for the film at the door, you will dig this film. This is a fun, gorey, Zombie flick and if we all get out to see this in the theater it looks like we’ll have more Romero Zombies flicks, really quick, more on that when I post my interview with Romero!