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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 Luke Pyzik

"Oh, Romero, what's in a name? A zombie pic by any other name isn't as sweet"
4 stars

There are so many things right about George Romero’s “Land of the Dead” that it is becomes hard not to forgive the few things that are very, very wrong with it. I mean, Romero created the zombie genre with “Night of the Living Dead,” perfected it with “Dawn of the Dead,” and made one of the great underrated classics with “Day of the Dead.” Now, after twenty years, Romero has returned to the series that made him a cult hero. It is the kind of fairy tale filmmaking story any true cinephile will appreciate. The fact that “Land of the Dead” even exists, and with a summertime wide release, no less, is cause for major celebration. But how is the movie? Well, it’s not as good as any of the other “Dead” films, but it is worthy of standing beside them, which is high praise indeed.

Romero’s “Dead” films have always been more about using the apocalyptic zombie epidemic as a way to satirize various aspects of modern American culture than they have about providing scares. In “Land,” Romero is at his satirical best, creating a post 9/11 allegory about fear, blind patriotism, and the plundering of the lower class. The film focuses on America’s attempt at rebuilding civilization now that zombies have completely taken over. Somewhere in the country sits Fiddler’s Green, a gigantic high rise in the middle of a city protected by rivers on three sides and an electric fence on the fourth. Fiddler’s Green is owned and operated by Kaufman (Dennis Hopper), an evil tyrant who only allows the rich and white to live in the building, while the rest of the population must live on the streets in utter poverty. Kaufman also owns and operates a group of pseudo-military men that travel to smaller, zombie infested towns to bring back supplies for people living in the luxurious tower.

Romero is clearly setting up the three-class system: the rich, living in luxury at Fiddler’s Green; the middle-class, living in poverty on the streets of the city; and the poor, living outside the city, where they are starving for food. In one of the more potent metaphors Romero has ever created, the pseudo-military men use fireworks to distract the zombies as they plunder the towns, gleefully blowing away the walking dead as they get their hands on all the supplies they can carry. The zombies look up and stare at the pretty “sky-flowers,” unaware that they are being robbed and killed. It’s not a subtle metaphor, but it is powerful and relevant one. In this film, Romero has resituated what the zombies are representing. In an extension of the events in “Day of the Dead,” the zombies are now beginning to gain cognitive skills. The first scene introduces us to a gas station attendant with the nametag “Big Daddy,” (Eugene Clark) who gains the ability to use tools and show rage at what is happening to his fellow zombies. Soon, he is leading an army of the dead toward the city. With this setup, Romero nails the social satire more effectively than he has in the entire “Dead” series. He gets his point across even more clearly than he did with his commentary on civil rights in “Night,” rampant consumerism in “Dawn,” and military fascism in “Day.” The allegory of class warfare is wonderfully fleshed out and coherent, and the point is really driven home without pretension or clumsiness.

While the satire works better than it ever has, there are some problems with the human elements of the story. A world-weary old soul named Riley (Simon Baker) is the captain of the pseudo-military men. He has had enough of Kaufman and Fiddler’s Green and wants to get out of the business and head North. Riley sees that the zombies are beginning to get smarter, and with the promise that his will be his “Last Job,” he soon finds himself captaining a mission to retrieve a military vehicle that was stolen by his second in command, Cholo (John Leguizamo). Riley sets off on his mission with an assortment of colorful characters including his loyal sidekick Charlie (Robert Joy) and a sexy outsider named Slack (Asia Argento). While the setup is a great one, once the characters set out to find Cholo, they are never in any real danger. Here, Romero misses a huge opportunity. With the character of Charlie, Romero has created one of the most human personalities in the entire series, but he fails to ever put Charlie, Riley, or Slack in any real danger. All the characters are usually expendable in these “Dead” films, and had that element been present here, we would be talking about a much better movie.

Sill, there are a lot of solid zombie kills and blood in the film. While some may have been worried that Romero, with the shackles of a bigger budget and an MPAA rating, would have to reign it in, he does not disappoint in the gore department. However, these kills all happen to the so-called “bad guys” or unnamed faces. This strategy is below Romero and is the most “mainstream” thing about the flick. Those stomach churning moments we have come to expect from a beloved character getting chomped in half are no where to be found. The other glairing problem with “Land of the Dead” is the general lack of climax. The movie seems to be barreling toward a real slam-bang conclusion, but instead ends abruptly and without much excitement. I’m not sure if it was a budget or time issue, but I hope the inevitable extended edition DVD will provide some much needed action in the finale.

Despite these flaws, there is a lot to like. After the zombie resurgence of “28 Days Later,” the “Dawn of the Dead” remake, and “Shaun of the Dead,” it is a pure joy to watch the man himself return to the genre. The pacing, style, and social commentary are all pure Romero – the kind of stuff that just cannot be imitated. The performances, too, are much better than we’ve come to expect from this series. All across the board from Simon Baker to Dennis Hopper, the actors fill out their roles and make this world remarkably real. Robert Joy, especially, creates a character so likeable that it is a shame more could not be done with the compassion he elicits from the audience. So yeah, there are flaws, and “Land of the Dead” is probably the worst of the series, but damn if Romero didn’t prove that nobody makes a zombie movie like he does.

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originally posted: 06/29/05 02:48:44
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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 couldn’t 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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