Finally- George A. Romero’s highly anticipated fourth zombie flick Land of the Dead! It looked like a Romero flick, it felt like a Romero flick and it smelled like a Romero flick- but it ended without the bang.
After such a long and horrendous wait, it’s only natural that people’s opinion of this movie will vary to such an extent that no matter how I review this film- I’m bound to become the bad guy. That’s why I’m dreading writing this and sharing it with you- but I’ve got to do what I’ve got to do and there’s always the comments section below where you can share your thoughts on the flick.
20 years have gone by, as have dozens upon dozens of zombie flicks- and without the recent success of them we might have never seen Land. So where do you view this movie from? The ideas of Romero 20 years ago or the recent come back of the zombie genre? What’s sad is that the originality in this story piece is watered down because of other films carrying the same idea- zombies evolving.
In Land mankind is on the brink of destruction and is barely surviving by living “safely” behind the walls of a small town. In this town there are the rich who live in a tower called ‘Fiddler’s Green’ and then everyone else who is barely surviving homeless on the street. Zombies surround the area but are kept at bay by a hunt group and their bad-ass tank Dead Reckoning. Fireworks keep the zombies distracted as they sweep through the town and mow down all the zombies in their path. But on this one night of chaos- a zombie stops looking up, and takes his first step towards “zombie evolution.” While the zombies are evolving, other problems are at hand in our little town. Kaufman (Dennis Hopper), the owner of Fiddler’s Green, has ripped off a member of the extermination crew Cholo (John Leguizamo). Cholo is a fit of rage steals the Dead Reckoning and is planning on shooting down Fiddler’s Green if he doesn’t get 5 million dollars- why money’s important still in a land of chaos is beyond me. Anyways, so Riley (Simon Baker) is sent out to retrieve his creation (Dead Reckoning) only he has other motives, to steal it for himself and leave dodge for good- go to Canada and be alone. An ex-marine and prostitute Slack (Asia Argento) and a mildly retarded and half burnt man named Charlie (Robert Joy) embark on the mission with Riley.
The good in Land definitely outweighed the bad, but the plot and conclusion really ruined the movie as a whole for me. Although Romero’s latest statement is a noble one (man ignoring the threat outside of their own world) the entire plot itself doesn’t carry over well. The main device mixed into the plot is that the zombies are evolving and getting smarter- they are remembering things from their past life through experience. Through this process Romero picks an African American gas station attendant for his “hero zombie” who leads the pack of the dead to town. At the beginning it’s for food and revenge- at the end it’s for “their own place.” Yeah that’s retarded I know. Even better, this “hero” zombie gets so smart that by the end he fills a car up with gas through the front windshield and then rolls a canister on fire towards the car- KABOOM! Smart zombie! The last thing that drove me bonkers was a scene where Riley orders missiles to be shot at a giant heard of zombies, everyone in Dead Reckoning looks at him like “just leave it alone”. He then orders it the attack- and yet at the end he stops an attack on the zombies because of this “their just looking for their own place” theory. F-cking stupid. Empathy for a zombie? Come on! Romero even goes as far as to show emotion and pain in the “hero” zombie’s face when his zombie friends get killed- oh oh oh and get this… the hero zombie kills another zombie to stop the pain when it gets lit on fire! I can go on and on, but what would be the point?
But enough bitching, this movie is still a flippin hoot of a good time and the zombies [minus the hero zombie] are such a treat only Romero could have given us. I think the first five minutes are easily the best of the movie, having new Romero zombies grace the screen for the first time in 20 years gave me shivers. They are so incredibly creepy and realistic. Some are puppets/animatronics and the others are humans in make-up. The ones that are human all walk like a Romero zombie (minus hero zombie) and give us the real reason why Romero is the zombie king and always will be. These are zombies ONLY Romero could do. I loved the amount of practical effects Greg Nicotero and his KNB crew used in this movie- I think I even caught a scene shot in stop-motion!!! One animatronics zombie was as bad ass as the one on Return of the Living Dead and the amount of blood was ridiculous for a R rated movie. People are torn apart from the inside and out, and the zombies feast like there’s no tomorrow- I was giggling like an eighth grader all over again during numerous attack scenes. It still was a shame they had to throw in some CG effects because they came out sub par and were very noticeable- but at least they were used in some very unique and clever ways (some sweet surprises await you!).
The acting was fabulous as well. I was nervous about Leguizamo who ended up being one of my favorite characters in the film. Dennis Hopper was hilarious and put on such a great performance- I don’t care what the other critics are saying about him. Asia Argento was a very nice treat and was a great choice to be cast in a supporting role. The best surprise of all was a cameo by Simon Pegg (Shaun of the Dead) who made an appearance as the infamous BUB!!!
One last thing that sticks out in my mind. I just want to dwell a little bit in the glorious scene where all of the zombies have made their way across a huge body of water. It has been branded in my mind as one of the creepiest images I’ve ever experienced on the big screen- thousands of zombies just appearing out of the cold black sea moaning- it’s truly an “epic” sequence and the defining moment of the film.
With the fantastic camera work, editing, score and acting, Land of the Dead takes the cake as one of the better zombie movies made in recent years- only the plot and evolution of the story take much away from this self proclaimed “masterpiece”. In the end, the world is always a better place with another Romero zombie movie… so bring on the zombies!!