George A. Romero brings us another installment to his zombie universe. He first brought us The Night Of The Living Dead (1968); its sequel Dawn Of The Dead (1978), which was just remade in 2004; and what we thought would be the trilogy’s last, Day Of The Dead (1985). The recent years have brought many zombie movies, each trying to tell a different story to how zombies are brought about and how zombies exist: Resident Evil, 28 Days Later, Undead, Shaun Of The Dead, etc. Each has its fine points and each has its setbacks. Romero wants to show the world what a “real” zombie movie is.
Land Of The Dead begins with a food and supply retrieval mission led by Riley (Simon Baker). The zombies have taken over the world and the last remaining humans live in a walled city, owned by Kaufman (Dennis Hopper), to protect them. The rich live in an enormous skyscraper while the poor live on the streets, simulating society before the zombies emerged – the wealthy on top and the not wealthy on the bottom.
Kaufman has trained soldiers to defend his city. One of these soldiers, Cholo (John Leguizamo), has also moonlighted as one of Kaufman’s dirty men. When Cholo tries to cash in on three years of loyal service, Kaufman tries to get rid of him and fails. Cholo then hijacks ‘Dead Reckoning’ – the city’s main line of defense, a super tank filled with missiles and many guns – in an attempt to ransom the city for the money that he wants. Kaufman turns to Riley in an effort to regain ‘Dead Reckoning.’
Unbeknownst to Kaufman, the zombies are evolving. Instead of being mindless walking things, the zombies begin to work together and use tools and weapons. Riley has seen these evolved zombies, and therefore must stop Cholo and use “Dead Reckoning’ to save the city and as many people as he can from the approaching creatures.
The interesting thing about all of Romero’s zombie movies is that when the humans seem to find a way to survive, it’s always other humans – not the zombies – that mess up the situation. The zombies serve as metaphors to humanity’s problems. The zombies could easily be disease, aliens or super bacteria, any of which would threaten the world to the same extent. The zombies, like any disaster, bring every person together for the common cause of survival. But, a new world will not happen if society reverts to how it was before. In the walled city, the rich dine on fine foods while the poor gamble their money away and starve. Take out the zombies and you would think this is the setting for any contemporary movie.
Were zombies mindless to begin with? Could there be a pattern to their madness? Romero delves deeper into zombie myth by suggesting that zombies could just be part of Earth’s ever evolving natural species. Although zombies are technically unnatural, who’s to say that they are completely different from anything else? Humans, on the raw side, merely eat and sleep. Take sleep out of the equation and you’ve got a zombie’s typical daily routine.
The last scene puts the entire zombie series into perspective. Big Daddy (Eugene Clark) – the supposed leader of the zombies – walks around the besieged city. Big Daddy turns to Riley, whom could have easily killed Big Daddy with a touch of button. Riley lets him go, saying that Big Daddy is just looking for a place to go, like them. The zombies are what they are, much like any animal that just wants to survive too. Do we get upset when we read stories of sharks killing swimmers? Of course, but we can’t blame sharks for doing what they’ve evolved to do – eat. The zombies are just like every other creature in the world, only humans can’t the benefit of the doubt because we “should” know better because we “are” better. But are we?
Video and Audio:
Romero’s film budget is larger than his previous zombie efforts, and Land certainly reflects it. The movie takes place exclusively at night and everything looks sharp. Somehow it doesn’t fit right in Romero’s zombie universe, in which those films had smaller budgets and less sophisticated camera equipment. Maybe digital film might have been able to keep the film’s look parallel to the previous ones? The audio is Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1 for those who have the equipment capable of the intense sounds and noises that humans make when being attacked by zombies. Very nice audio.
“Undead Again: The Making Of Land Of The Dead” is a short behind-the-scenes featurette with mostly interviews from the actors about what it was like to work with the legendary George Romero. “A Day With The Living Dead” is a personal tour by John Leguizamo of a typical day of shooting. “Bringing The Dead To Life” is a featurette on makeup artist Greg Nicotero and how work on Land has brought him full circle in Romero’s zombie universe. He previously worked on Romero’s Dawn Of The Dead.
“The Remaining Bits” is a montage of deleted scenes, mostly extra establishing shots of various scenes. Romero offers film insight with a feature-length audio commentary.
“Zombie Effects: From Green Screen To Finished Scene” is a montage of raw film footage followed by various stages of the same footage in CGI. Kind of cool to see which shots were CGI and which weren’t.
For those of you who like Shaun Of The Dead, bet you can’t notice where Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright are in Land Of The Dead? The featurette “When Shaun Met George” takes us behind the two Shaun filmmakers and how they got to be in Land Of The Dead.
Also included is “Scream Tests: Zombie Casting Call,” which is a pretty useless scene involving computer-generated zombies dancing in sequence.
Office Site: landofthedead.net
Bonus Feature Clip: Scenes Of Carnage