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Overall Rating

Awesome: 27.22%
Worth A Look48.89%
Average: 10%
Pretty Bad: 6.11%
Total Crap: 7.78%

15 reviews, 90 user ratings

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Land of the Dead
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by Scott Weinberg

"The Godfather of Gore delivers some more!"
4 stars

The arrival of another George Romero-directed zombie flick is, to the horror freaks, not at all dissimilar to a fourth "Godfather" film from Franky Coppola or a new "Star Wars" chapter from Uncle George. Say what you like about the oft-maligned genre of horror, but "Land of the Dead" is an absolutely monumental release. Too bad the movie's only "pretty damn good" instead of "amazingly great."

Working with a much larger budget than he's normally accustomed to, George Romero returns to the genre he created with Land of the Dead, a whip-smart and fast-paced tale of human greed, gory action, and zombie apocalypse. It's the sort of movie that genre fans will devour ... not unlike the titular zombies would devour your intestines: greedily, hungrily, and with their fingers.

So it was with much excitement and a healthy dose of Romero reverence that I sat down to experience Land of the Dead, the fourth chapter in a series that includes true-blue classics like Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead, as well as the reasonably admired Day of the Dead. I tried to keep my expectations at a rational level, but ... c'mon! This is George Romero doing another ZOMBIE movie! For a full-fledged horror freak (such as yours truly) there's just not much that's bigger than this.

Cutting right to the point: Land of the Dead works, and at times it works amazingly well -- but it's no classic, and I seriously doubt it will ever be considered as such. The movie's biggest asset somehow manages to create its largest problem: it's the pacing.

Land of the Dead rockets by at an amazingly brisk clip; a whole lot of plot background is told in an extremely efficient fashion, and the numerous characters are introduced in fine form. But it seems that while the set-up was given extra care and attention -- it came at noticeable expense to the second and third acts.

But I'm getting ahead of myself here.

As the movie opens we learn that pretty much all of our planet has been overrun by the cannibalistic undead. Apparently there are still a few isolated pockets of humanity still remaining -- although I use the word "humanity" lightly. One such outpost of human survival is Fiddler's Green, a gleaming tower that lords over the rotting husk of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Scattered throughout the urban sprawl beneath the tower's shadow are the dregs of humanity, the undesirables and the poverty-stricken. And inside the shiny skyscraper are the rich, the powerful, and the spoiled rotten. The man in charge of this arrangement is a guy called Kaufman, and all you need to know about Mr. Kaufman is that he's played by Dennis Hopper at his most amazingly evil.

Kaufman has a cadre of blue-collar grunt-workers under his thumb, and it's these folks who do all of the dirty work: body disposals and the acquisition of supplies from the "outside world," more specifically. But when Kaufman decides to play the elitist card to the wrong henchman ... well, let's just say it's the first step in a series of mishaps that ultimately lead to (all together now) zombie invasion!

Romero cobbles his fourth Deadventure together from a variety of colorful sources: plot-wise, much of Land of the Dead feels like a remake of John Carpenter's Escape from New York (only Carpenter's flick didn't have the ravenous undead), and the hero characters are painted in a distinctly Dirty Dozen-esque brush-stroke. The social commentary, of which there is plenty, focuses on the wide gap that exists between the haves and the have-nots, only here it's broadened into a metaphor that involves the frequent chomping of human flesh.

Regarding the people-eaters, Mr. Romero has decided to bump his zombies up one level on the evolutionary scale. After spending so many years as mindless eating machines, the shuffling corpses have slowly become able to think -- and the first thing that occurs to a creature after being able to reason? Why, the insatiable desire to wreak vengeance upon those who've been nasty, of course!

As lead hero Riley, Simon Baker does a bang-up job; he creates a swaggering hero-type who's a lot of fun to watch, but the character is broad enough to remind us that, hey, we're watching a zombie movie, after all. The background is populated by several successful performances, and each of the remaining humans are colorful and intriguing in their own specific ways...

But this is where the problem comes in, and while it's a relatively minor one, it's something that nagged me through the entire final hour of Land of the Dead. This is a movie in an awful hurry to hit those end credits. I'd bet a bag of money that there's at least 25 minutes of character development, subplot threads, and story payoffs that didn't make it into the final cut. Not only is our first glimpse inside the world of Fiddler's Green entirely rushed and somewhat cursory, but Land of the Dead makes it a point to introduce several fascinating characters ... only to end up giving them practically nothing to do. There's a butt-kicking femme fatale anti-heroine, a scar-faced crack-shot of a sidekick, a goofily likable and massive Samoan solider, and several random henchmen -- very few of whom are allowed to do anything even remotely interesting.

There's a point about 70 minutes into Land of the Dead where the movie seems ready to rocket forward on all cylinders, and instead it just sort of ... wanders off into the distance. Just as the movie seems to be rolling towards a phenomenal finale, Land of the Dead trickles to an end with all the inertia of deflated beach ball. Frankly it seems like Romero was asked to snip scene X and scene Y ... but in order to do that he also had to cut scenes R, S, T, and U. It's a somewhat disconcerting way for such a devilishly entertaining movie to finish up, but I suppose this gripe is similar to complaining that "this rather delicious steak is simply too darn small." Needless to say, I look forward to the Unrated Director's Cut on DVD -- which you just know is bound to happen.

But all things considered, it's just great to see Mr. Romero hop back on to the zombie bandwagon that he created back in 1968. "Land of the Dead" has more jolts, more gore, more canny subtext, and more bullets to the head than just about any "studio" horror flick you'll ever see, and I applaud Universal for giving the hero of horror a chance to bring this latest chapter to the screen. This one might not live up to the standard set by "Dawn of the Dead," but ... c'mon. Did you really think it would?

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originally posted: 06/24/05 16:01:48
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 CineVegas Film Festival For more in the 2005 CineVegas Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Edinburgh Film Festival. For more in the 2005 Edinburgh Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

9/13/17 morris campbell decent the original is still the best 3 stars
10/13/10 Josie Cotton is a goddess Through numerous sequels and rip-offs, Romero manages to keep the corpses fresh. 4 stars
12/27/09 art THE 1932 film WHITE ZOMBIE was the best walking dead FILM! 2 stars
8/31/09 Chad Dillon Cooper Better than Diary, not as good as the first three. 4 stars
12/19/08 Craig D. There's a lot more here than a political subtext, Danny. Go watch your Transformers DVD. 4 stars
8/13/08 Shaun Wallner Bloody Awesome!!! 5 stars
6/11/07 Danny.G Ignore the Romero grovelling reviews, this is TV movie stuff.."oh wow, a political subtext" 1 stars
6/07/07 fools♫gold I loved "28 Days Later" much greater (a film I underrated), but this is cool. 5 stars
12/12/06 Angela Saunders Surprisingly better than expected. I actually loved it! 4 stars
11/24/06 David Pollastrini good gore with a little irony. 5 stars
8/25/06 havthat You'll never look at belly button piercings the same way. 4 stars
8/09/06 Dragon The Artist One of the best zombie films since Night of the Living Dead!!!!! 5 stars
7/17/06 mark fun to watch-romero needs to complete this, however, this seems like a build-up 5 stars
7/15/06 drydock54321 lots of gore 4 stars
5/08/06 omar it was ok. the violence was awesome though 4 stars
3/18/06 MP Bartley Lack of doomy finality (unlike the others) makes this seem like a very good tv movie. 4 stars
3/07/06 matt mediocre, the ending was a huge letdown 3 stars
2/25/06 ali profasion 5 stars
2/21/06 Agent Sands Not scary at all. It is action-packed, though, and Dennis Hopper is fucking hilarious. 4 stars
1/14/06 ALDO Feel incomplete....bad character development. 2 stars
1/05/06 Indrid Cold The complete waste of Dennis Hopper is one of this stinker's less eggregious crimes. 2 stars
12/29/05 chris f a very good film 4 stars
12/21/05 JJ now i know how star wars fans felt when they saw phantom menace. romero should be ashamed 1 stars
12/16/05 JeromeBosch P.S. all that money and they couldnt buy a helicopter? 3 stars
12/13/05 Jeanne Pittsburgh it really kind of sucks 1 stars
12/12/05 gray could have been better 4 stars
11/29/05 JeromeBosch Prompted me to take another look at 'DAWN' and appreciate that film even more. 3 stars
11/27/05 Lord Durvok II Romero + big, ostentatious budget = crap 2 stars
11/23/05 Guy Pretty lame all around. 1 stars
11/19/05 Sam Justus A super enjoyable zombie flick by George A. Romero, the man that started it all. 5 stars
11/15/05 Danny Disappointment. Gore for the sake of gore. Disgusting and not EVEN scary. 1 stars
11/05/05 MAttIFUL Painfully stupid! Dawn of the Dead was so much better... god that was awful 1 stars
10/30/05 K. Sear I don't know, maybe I expectected too much? 3 stars
10/27/05 deadwiz Gotta love zombies. Not romeros best, but it will do. 4 stars
10/26/05 Richard Brandt Who can see zombies being tortured without being reminded of Abu Ghraib? 4 stars
10/26/05 Linda Richardson "Zombies, man they creep me out" sums it up for me. 5 stars
10/25/05 chris fox (the god) good movie worth watching 4 stars
10/20/05 tatum Quite the unpleasant little gore FX resume film, twenty years too late 1 stars
10/19/05 othree sucksallass, Dawn of the Dead 2004 was better, Resident Evil2 was even better, *bleh* 1 stars
10/17/05 Vince Very enjoyable zombie flick by the man who started it all 4 stars
10/14/05 conker_99 Land of the dead was one of the best movies i have ever seen. But it was a little to short. 5 stars
10/14/05 carmen fratto He never explained how the zomie's got there in the first place . 3 stars
10/01/05 Phil Interesting idea........ but no! 3 stars
9/28/05 alvin crap***great effect make up, but the story is borng n no excitement at all, sucks*** 2 stars
9/22/05 Fritz Romero's brand of zombie-ism is old and tired. 2 stars
8/25/05 Tiffany Faye Hawthorne A fairly ineffectual and banal-retentive effort at making a horror flick 2 stars
8/19/05 ES An ok movie, cool premise, but the zombies are as unscary as can be 3 stars
8/17/05 alice very average, never suprised me 3 stars
8/13/05 Mark Louis Baumgart So-so FX & make-up. A heavy-handed, illogical & pretentious social message movie. *Yawn* 1 stars
8/10/05 John excellent. anyone who disagrees is wrong. 5 stars
8/06/05 Pierre Masterpiece! 5 stars
8/02/05 Ric Good cinematography, but that's about it. 1 stars
7/21/05 Shena Johnson It was an okay movie, but I think it can be better.Use your heart. 3 stars
7/11/05 the untrained eye sorry guys, disappointed 3 stars
7/10/05 asina better than any of that wes craven crap. 5 stars
7/09/05 ROY L. CAIN Nobody scares the hell out of you like Mr. Romero ! 5 stars
7/08/05 KingNeutron Some good "jump" moments, good FX, and good acting all around. 4 stars
7/08/05 lucas completely reinvents the genre of horror movies 5 stars
7/07/05 Dave Pretty Good movie even if its not up to par with Dawn or Night. 4 stars
7/07/05 Cedric It's AMAZING, go see it! 5 stars
7/06/05 Ole Man Bourbon Completely and utterly asinine. Looks like it was written by a 4th grader. 1 stars
7/04/05 ajay not really a gore fan, so this movie was laugh-out-loud bad. 2 stars
7/04/05 ART This film has the underlying theme of class struggle. 4 stars
7/03/05 Joe This movie sucks trust me, dont trust the high ratings on this movie 1 stars
7/03/05 Malcolm this was whack 2 stars
7/02/05 Eric Rollins Glossy revisionism - totally unnecessary 2 stars
7/01/05 eleni the unrated dvd will be the REAL version. still good, though. 4 stars
6/30/05 Caiphn Disappointed, pretty crazy gore however. The last bit of dialogue extreme cheese. 3 stars
6/30/05 John Gruber Social Commentary on political situation in USA... with zombies! 5 stars
6/30/05 Gray Could have been better 4 stars
6/30/05 John A Zombie film done right - great! 5 stars
6/29/05 dolemite Pretty sweet gore. I'd give it 5 just for that 5 stars
6/28/05 Kankasaur Zombie films satirizing social decay have been reborn in an era of ivory tower arrogance 5 stars
6/27/05 carlos r guzman Romero still has it(1978's Dawn still best), a bit hurried; still great - DVD maybe better 4 stars
6/27/05 Agent Sands The best American movie I've seen in the theater in 2005. No gratuitous formulaic subplots. 5 stars
6/26/05 vagile Better than worth a look if not really quite awesome. 5 stars
6/26/05 Sarah Reece I really did love this film. It's a shame that the movie did go by in a hurry. 5 stars
6/26/05 Lord Jiggy Swiftian satire it is not...easy shots at Bush...oh, so original (NOT). 2 stars
6/26/05 Darren Shea Satisfying, if a bit obvious and heavy-handed. Better acting than usual for a Romero flick. 4 stars
6/26/05 malcolm everything a zombie movie is supposed to be. take a lesson copycats. 4 stars
6/26/05 Uncle Phucker Would like to see MORE of the good stuff. Hopefully a DVD will reveal this. Worst of the 4. 4 stars
6/26/05 DennyRoss Zombie fans (like me) rejoice in spite of the cliche dialogue from the main characters. 4 stars
6/26/05 asina romero's swan song is also his masterpiece. 5 stars
6/25/05 K. Sear The weakest one yet, but still not a terrible film. 4 stars
6/25/05 maysin willie aames It's no DAWN, it's not even DAY but it's still better than the imitators... 4 stars
6/24/05 Trenchtown Awesome, Except Dennis Hopper Did his Water World Character all over again 4 stars
6/23/05 David Hollands Note quite Dawn, but well-acted, with excellent tonal balance, and wonderful direction. 5 stars
6/19/05 payback Finally, this is how you make a zombie flick 5 stars
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  24-Jun-2005 (R)
  DVD: 18-Oct-2005



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