Worth A Look: 48.89%
Pretty Bad: 6.11%
Total Crap: 7.78%
15 reviews, 90 user ratings
|Land of the Dead
by Doug Bentin
Was it worth the wait? I dunno. Can any movie you’ve been waiting 20 years to see really live up to your hopes for it? Yeah, it’s a heck of a zombie thriller and a worthy successor to George A. Romero’s earlier zombie trilogy, but it’s certainly not the kind of cross-over success, like “The Ring” or “The Sixth Sense,” that will attract people who don’t usually patronize horror movies.Too bad for them and too good for the rest of us. Name one thing that’s more annoying than listening to some Suzy Creamcheese whining, “Euew, that’s so gross” while clinging to her smirking boyfriend’s arm as they sit through a splatter-thon that neither of them has any real desire to see. Name just one. Go on. I’ll wait.
"Most non-fans probably won’t see it, which is too bad."
I wish the picture could be a big hit for Romero—but then again, I don’t. More money in the till would get him another deal, but would he remain our old beloved George if Hollywood began to pay attention to him?
Okay, not a huge hit, but Jeez Louise, box office dropped off 73% from the opening weekend to the next one. That’s a greater drubbing than any other flick in the top 20 took. There have to be more zombiephiles in the world than that. There just have to be.
Should you see it? Don’t be stupid.
Simon Baker stars as Riley, an adventurer who makes his living by foraging in an armored truck called “Dead Reckoning” for food and necessary items in demand by the still-living who reside in a fancy Trumpian tower called Fiddler’s Green. Outside the tower, the regular folks live in a ghetto. The entire metropolis is protected on three sides by rivers. (The film was shot in Toronto but the city is a version of Pittsburgh.)
Working along with Riley for Kaufman, the rich guy who controls the wealth and the wealthy (Dennis Hopper) is Cholo (John Leguizamo), who has ambitions to move into the Green and let others do the food collecting. When he is blackballed by Kaufman, Cholo steals “Dead Reckoning” and threatens to destroy the city unless he’s paid a quick five million.
“I don’t deal with terrorists,” snarls Kaufman, who then sends Riley to retrieve his truck before the walking dead, who have evolved to the point of simple communication, planning, and use of tools, invade the city and pull down the tower.
Romero, who wrote and directed, says that he began shopping the script around three days before the terrorist attack on New York, and then had to put the project on hold for 18 months while Hollywood made nothing but “ice cream movies.”
Note here that “ice cream” doesn’t mean “cool.” It means touchy-feely.
Anyway, he must have been tweaking the screenplay all that time because the finished film plays like a deliberate satire of Dubya’s America. Romero’s zombie films have always commented on the American lifestyle of their era of their production, but the socio/political subtext has never stood in the way of a splattery good time.
The makeup effects by Greg Nicotero and Howard Berger are nothing less than awesome, and it’s unbelievably nice to see mechanical gags used in preference to CGI. Romero knows that this is decidedly retro, and it may be part of the reason why the film isn’t doing better box office, but it works just fine. (He begins the movie with the 1930s version of the Universal logo, the one with the plane circling a slowly spinning globe.) There’s an especially nice moment when an apparently decapitated zombie throws his chest forward, snapping his dangling head back onto his neck as he goes into attack mode.
You may also be surprised by the cleverness and sincerity of some of the dialogue. When Riley snaps off a life-saving shot to a zombie’s forehead, his companion says, “Nice shot.” “No,” Riley replies, “that was a good shot. There’s no such thing as a ‘nice’ shot.”
As the living dead become more human, the living become more brutal. Picking up from the end of “Night of the Living Dead,” Romero pictures the breathers as a pack of murderous thugs. The film’s trailer featured Hopper, standing with his arms to his sides, mumbling, “Zombies, man. They creep me out.” The line is used in the film, but the take chosen is a different one. As he says the line in the movie, Hopper is picking his nose.
If Hopper weren’t a rich Republican in real life, you’d swear he was making fun of them. If “Dawn of the Dead” skewered mindless consumerism, “Land” takes a satiric look at the kind of capitalists who make consumerism possible.
Terrific support is offered by Asia Argento (daughter of famed Italian horror director Dario Argento), Robert Joy, and Eugene Clark as Big Daddy, the zombie who is taking the living dead to the next level of existence. No, Asia doesn’t get naked or indulge in zombie sex. Hey, you don’t suppose, on the Director’s Cut DVD . . . Naw.Most Romero fans won’t be disappointed with “Land of the Dead.” They may have hoped for more, but this is a Universal picture and that’s the studio that gave Rob Zombie so much hell over “House of 1,000 Corpses.”
link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=12288&reviewer=405
originally posted: 07/08/05 23:55:15
|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.