LAND OF THE DEAD
Review by Michael Jacobson
Simon Baker, Dennis Hopper, Asia Argento, Robert Joy, John Leguizamo
Director: George A. Romero
Audio: DTS HD 5.1, Dolby Digital 2.0
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Features: See Review
Length: 97 Minutes
Release Date: September 30, 2008
man...they creep me out."
long last, after a string of imitators, some pretty good, some not so good, the
master is back doing what he does best. For
almost 20 years, George A. Romero had been planning his next great chapter in
the lives of the dead. And
ironically, it was probably the success of the imitators that gave him his
of the Dead is
his first large-budgeted zombie tale, and it delivers most of what you'd expect
from one of his films. The carnage
is gruesome, the mayhem frequent, the sense of apocalyptic doom certain.
But Romero's films also lent themselves to a certain social commentary
that set them apart from the schlockmeisters, and unfortunately, that's where
his vision gets a little questionable. Puzzling
dead are still feeding on live flesh, and humanity still seems to be losing the
battle against them. Now, what's
left of society has organized itself into a rigid class structure.
The rich dwell in an upscale urban condominium called Fiddler's Green,
led by Kaufman (Hopper). The less
rich and undesirable either fend for themselves outside the doors of the
building, or serve those who dwell in it.
is an army of sorts, led by Riley (Baker), the cool and collected one, and Cholo
(Leguizamo), the angry hothead. As
the movie opens, they are on a raid for supplies using a monstrous, heavily
armed truck dubbed Dead Reckoning. But
even with all the firepower on their side, the dead manage to inflict
casualties. Unlike before, the
zombies seem to be beginning to think, communicate, and solve problems.
That could mean the city, even with all its defenses, is in jeopardy.
wants to live at Fiddler's Green. The
ungrateful Kaufman won't have it. In
desperation, Cholo steals Dead Reckoning and threatens to lay siege to the city
unless Kaufman gives in to his demands. It
becomes up to Riley to find Cholo and take back the truck before all hell breaks
loose. But Riley, accompanied by
his slow but sure friend Charlie (Joy) and a hooker/warrior Slack (Argento), has
some plans of his own.
in Dawn of the Dead, Romero sees a vision where man turns against man
when they should be uniting, and it some senses, that notion is even more
frightening than that of the dead feasting on the living.
Yet his premise seems a little flawed.
What purpose does money actually serve when there's not much to own and
nowhere to go? What really
motivates Kaufman? He may be making
millions, but what does he intend to do with his cash?
is an avowed liberal, but if I didn't know that about him, I would have gotten a
completely different impression of his statement than he intended.
I assume he meant Land of the Dead to be a reflection of
capitalism run amuck, but what he's created is the ultimate socialist nightmare.
What we see is exactly what Fidel Castro's Cuba is like, or Saddam
Hussein's Iraq WAS like. It's a
world where the masses are all equal in their misery and destitution, and only
the ruling class flourishes. Their
subjects exist only to serve, live and die at their pleasure.
also comments in the supplements that his idea was that of an
"administration" who tried to pretend the world hadn't changed when it
had. Then he says it's basically
the Bush administration. Huh?
Regardless of what you think of Bush's handling of the current situation,
he certainly isn't the one that's failed to recognize the change that's come
over our world. Again, before I realized Romero's intentions, I had them
completely wrong. I assumed Kaufman
and his cohorts were a reflection of Clinton and company, who for eight years
refused to acknowledge the threat to our nation and allowed it to grow
the final shot, where Riley refuses to take out the hoard of zombies that just
ravaged the city and left everyone for dead, was a striking parallel to the war
on terror. "They're just
looking for a place to go," he comments sympathetically. And we know the army of the dead will proceed into the next
town, killing and devouring every person they see, until the living are no more.
That's scary enough for a horror movie, but to think there are those who
would capitulate equally in the face of a similar unstoppable and uncompromising
enemy is what keeps ME up at night.
might have unintentionally made the ultimate statement in favor of the war on
terror with his movie. But he
actually wanted to do the opposite. Whether
he meant to or not, he clearly demonstrated what taking the weak position would
mean to our lives and our societies. Yet
he somehow still seems to be arguing in favor of that.
It's so perplexing, I completely forgot to enjoy the fact that I was
seeing the Romero zombie movie I'd been clamoring for over the last twenty
years. That's a shame, because
there's plenty of good old fashioned gore and gusto at play.
There are unforgettable scenes filled with action and fright that rank
amongst the best work the director has ever done.
his inability to make a coherent political statement is the movie's ultimate
downfall. What we see in the film
is out of phase with reality, and worse, out of phase with what he was really
trying to say. What could have been
a stark final chapter in one of the greatest franchises in horror history ended
up a perplexing discourse in which Romero paints a picture of how he thinks the
world should be and doesn't seem to realize he's created a monster.
TRIVIA: Look for Simon Pegg and
Edgar Wright of Shaun of the Dead as zombies, as well as the return of
Tom Savini as the mustached zombie!
I'm really developing an appreciation for what Blu-ray means for horror...in a movie where dark scenes and the ability to make out images through murky details is critical, high definition really brings it all out. Romero's vision is strikingly preserved in 1080p format, with terrific contrast levels, strong detail, and good coloring. Especially the red. Yeah!
The DTS HD track makes the most of what horror has to offer...it's a dynamic track, filled with action, dynamic range, explosive music and frequent scares. The uncompressed audio makes for a thoroughly enveloping and eerie experience, with great ambient sounds emanating from the rear channels and the .1 signal giving lots of extra punch along the way.
is a great package, starting with a commentary track from Romero and his
associates...he's always enjoyable to listen to. There are deleted scenes,
a short video
compilation of the really grisly scenes, a look at the green screen effects,
storyboard comparisons, a look at the zombies, both real and CGI, and a video of the Shaun of the Dead stars
and their experience on the film!
And what Universal Blu-ray experience would be complete without "U-Control"? One click while watching the movie will bring you to extra interviews and more in-depth behind-the-scenes experiences. You can choose what you want to see, as well as bookmark your favorite scenes as you go.
There are thrills, chills, and spills galore in George Romero's Land of the Dead. The horror is fine, but the social commentary is even sloppier than the gore. Nevertheless, Universal has really brought out the goods with this stellar Blu-ray release, with a terrific transfer and plenty of easy to access goodies along the way.