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The Cinematic Katzenjammer: Oct 16: Land of the Dead


Oct 16: Land of the Dead

"The living dead have taken over the world, and the last humans live in a walled city to protect themselves as they come to grips with the situation."
Directed by: George A. Romero, Rated: R, 93 minutes

George A. Romero is one of THE masters of horror. He revolutionized zombies in film and helped create the sub-genre everyone knows about today. In 1968 he gave us Night of the Living Dead, a film considered by many to be the best zombie movie of all time. Since then, Romero has made countless other films, from Dawn of the Dead (another epic movie), Day of the Dead, and more recently, Land of the Dead, the film I watched today. Unfortunately, after Night and Dawn, Romero fell down a slippery, gory slope and his more recent flicks are just not as good. Land of the Dead has its moments, and the zombies look great, but there's too many problems preventing it from being a little masterpiece. 

Almost 50 years later and this movie is still scarier than most of the shit that comes out today. 

I'm not sure if Land of the Dead is set in the same universe as his earlier films, but the story picks up well after zombies have taken over the world. The walking dead are everywhere, and the last survivors have walled themselves into a Pittsburgh turned-fort, run by the greedy Kaufman (Dennis Hopper) who has housed himself in a penthouse suite in the rich part of town called Fiddler's Green. Day to day life for the rest of the population is very hard, and the large majority of people live in slums and have little possessions. Riley (Simon Baker) works for Kaufman but is tired of the dangerous living he's kept up with for the past couple of years and wants to head out on his own. Cholo (John Leguizamo) just wants to live in luxury, but Kaufman screws him over so he vows for revenge. As all three men try to survive, thrive, and kick ass, an evolved swarm of zombies make their way to the city, threatening the safety of the masses. Led by a former gas station attendant turned brain-feaster, Big Daddy (Eugene Clark), the zombies begin learning how to use tools and even guns. All sorts of crazy shit goes down and a lot of people are eaten. 

Almost called Zombies with Toys, Romero realized what a stupid idea it all was. 

Land of the Dead is a departure from the zombies and violence we expect from Romero. For the first time in his career, he utilizes digital effects for most of the gore and it's a rather large disappointment. The best parts of his older films were seeing real props, effects, makeup, and what not as each zombie ate the flesh off of a victim or a bullet slammed through its undead head. In Land of the Dead, each kill, wound, bite, and scratch just don't look as genuine (I think that's the best word?) and it's pretty distracting. In this switch over, Romero has turned a movie that could have been great into something that's like everything else out there. The story is lacking as well, with no real continuous plot ever seeing its way through the film, with characters jumping in and out, motivations questioned, and no real linear story you can focus on. Also, the added idea of giving zombies a higher intelligence and weapons is so out of place. I'd much rather see hordes of them piling up on a sad victim as opposed to them shooting like mad men with just a few stray bullets hitting their targets. 

And Asia Argento has a small role because her daddy (Dario) knows people. 

Land of the Dead has plenty of death, blood, gore, and all sorts of zombie kills to keep the die-hard fan satisfied. Unfortunately, when such a film is made by the Dr. Zombie himself, you have much higher expectations for what the final product should be. A large part that's lacking in the film is the desperation and suspense that made Dawn of the Dead and Night of the Living Dead so successful. Never do you fear for the characters and the situations they're in, as they're riding around town with a pimped out Jeep or a tank-like machine that has more firepower than the German army. Mixed with a lacking story that's too muddled and spread out, Land of the Dead is something I'd only recommend for a rainy day. As a zombie film, I have definitely seen worse, but when comparing it to the classics Romero is known for, it's quite the undead buzz-kill. 

The Good:
plenty of blood and gore to satiate any horror fan's appetites
The Bad:
that same gore being mostly digital, with each blood splatter clearly made on a computer and not with practical effects
The Ugly:
the film has very little plot or story and the continued sense of dread that made Romero's previous films so scary is absent entirely

Overall: 5.7/10


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At October 16, 2012 at 3:29 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good review. I think I enjoyed it a bit more than you did. Just marginally though. I agree with all your points especially about the digital bloodletting. I was disappointed by that big time. Did you enjoy the follow up "Dead" films by Romero?

At October 16, 2012 at 3:30 PM , Blogger Nick said...

I got Diary of the Dead and that was just a joke... so bad. And I've heard even worse things for Survival of the Dead.

At October 16, 2012 at 7:15 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh man, don't get me started on "Survival" just plain awful and lazy horror-movie making.

At October 16, 2012 at 7:18 PM , Blogger Nick said...

It's just so disheartening seeing someone go downhill so fast. Technology has gotten better, you'd think he'd embrace it and do wonders.

At October 16, 2012 at 7:42 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I completely agree. It's happened to so many prominent horror directors even Dario Argento. That Dracula movie he made still has me shaking my head...

At October 16, 2012 at 7:44 PM , Blogger Nick said...

I've avoided that like the plague. Refuse to accept such things.

At October 19, 2012 at 6:25 AM , Blogger alienxphile said...

Ugh. I have seen this a few times and can't remember a damn thing worth remembering. (4.0/10)

At October 19, 2012 at 11:00 AM , Blogger Nick said...

Yeah, lol. Not a very great film.


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