Film: One of the hazards I have encountered with starting my own genre-related movie blog after doing reviews for well over ten years is that eventually I am going to have to re-review a film that I did years ago. I have attempted to avoid that very thing where possible but I knew it would eventually happen, and I believe that this is the one!
One can’t have a zombie-film only month like Zombruary without a particular name eventually emerging: George A. Romero. He’s horror royalty as far as I am concerned, and with the influential Night of the Living Dead, gut-stompingly amazing Dawn of the Dead and epic gore-fest Day of the Dead, he nailed down his undead crown.
When this first came out, and I reviewed it for a site I once worked for, I totally was in love with it. I loved seeing Romero work again, and I’m not a guy who enjoys and uncovers subtexts about consumerism and stuff, I just love that first zombie trilogy!
Time can open one’s eye though, and my memory of this is false. It’s actually not as good as I remember, which actually struck me as sad that my thrill, a decade ago, is tempered.
Land of the Dead continues the evolution that we thought was finished 20 years previously in Day of the Dead, but now we see that society has devolved into three levels. The Dead exist with some kind of muscle memory of what and who they were alive, and tend to return to their regular locations to continue what they used to be, which was explored in Dawn of the Dead. The middle level is a destitute form of humanity, barely alive and with an almost Wild West self-governing state, which is where we find our hero, Riley Denbo (Simon Baker) who works for the upper classes, who live in a huge building with all the mod-cons, and run by Kaufman (Dennis Hopper).
To keep the upper class running at their pre-living dead era level, Kaufman employs Dendo and others, including his badly scarred sharpshooter, Charlie (Robert Joy) and rival Cholo (John Leguizamo), who leave the confines of the moated city to collect food from the suburbs, but it is a dangerous job as the Dead will emerge from their rut-like stupor to feed on the living.
Riley has a plan to escape though, and has been funding a car so he can leave the oppressiveness of the impoverish parts of the city and be free, but his investment disappears, and he confronts the crooked supplier, only to end up helping a captured girl who was to be fed to some zombies for entertainment, Slack (Asia Argento).
Cholo is also stiffed on a deal, but he wants to join the people in ‘high society’ so he steals the truck that is used to collect supplies from the outside world, nicknamed Dead Reckoning, and soon Kaufman employs Denbo, Charlie and Slack to get it back, but what none of them realise is that a zombie, Big Daddy (Eugene Clark) has become intelligent enough to form a plan of his own, and starts organising an army of zombies in this land of the dead….
Tragically, upon reflection, I am reminded of another George who perhaps should have left his legacy alone: George Lucas. Whilst upon rewatching I still had the same love for Romero’s original films, this just doesn’t hold up, and I was even struggling to see what I was thrilled about when I first saw it.
Honestly, it was probably Asia Argento, zombies and gore.
Format: The reviewed copy of Land of the Dead was the Australian bluray copy was presented in an amazing 2.35:1 video with a perfect Dolby digital DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 audio track.
Extras: A decent bunch of extras here:
The Remaining Bits is a look at the deleted scenes, most of which the movie doesn’t suffer for losing.
When Shaun Met George takes a look at Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright’s cameo appearance in Land of the Dead. Basically this was Romero’s way of thanking the guys for Shaun of the Dead.
Scenes of Carnage is just a summary of the zombie munching scenes in Land of the Dead. I don’t know why a violence summary was needed. It it’s definitely a waste of disc space, for sure.
Zombie Effect: From Green Screen to Finished Scene shows the raw footage of some of the scenes and then with the effects added, unfortunately with no commentary.
Bringing the Storyboards to Life compares the cool, comic-y Storyboards to the final result, again, unfortunately with no commentary.
Scream Tests: Zombie Casting Call is thankfully barely a minute long and shows some barely well rendered CGI zombies dancing the ‘Thriller’ Zombie dance. Stupid, and with commentary, has no relevance.
There is also a commentary with Romero, producer Peter Grunwald and editor Michael Doherty which tells a lot of behind the scenes stuff that the extras missed out on.
There is also a thing called ‘U-control’ which, when activated shows a bunch of proper behind the scenes stuff, in a picture-in-picture way. This extra and the commentary saved these extras from being totally terrible.
WISIA: Unfortunately, my enthusiasm for this picture has diminished over the years, and my rewatch has tempered by enjoyment, and quashed the memory of it being fantastic. I think if I have the choice to watch another Romero ‘dead’ film, it won’t be this one.