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Land of the Dead Review

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by AVForums Oct 1, 2005 at 12:00 AM

    Land of the Dead Review
    The dead, eh? Or the recently deceased have this odd habit of popping right back up, even if they are really slow. I think it's safe to say that most people are aware of the three movies that came before this, but if you've not seen them, it really isn't that important for you to view this movie.

    Some time after the original events from Night, we find a proverbial last bastion of humanity in City, which is a city split between the slums and the tower where the elite reside. Somewhere between these two are the group that kills zombies and fetches essential supplies, with the use of a vehicle called Dead Reckoning, which is particularly well armoured and well armed. Naturally, we have our hero, Riley (Baker), who wishes to just grab a car and head north, hoping the situation there is going to be better, but we also have our bad-guy character in Cholo, who is looking out for himself and pledging his allegiance to the main man, Kaufman (Hopper). Naturally, this alliance deteriorates to where Cholo has no longer got a useful function and is deemed expendable, but he's not easy to kill and steals Dead Reckoning, leaving it up to retrieve it. Meanwhile, one particular Zombie (Big Daddy) is showing marked signs of intelligence and communication, which leads him to begin a rally of Zombie power to take the city.

    I think it's fair to say that this probably got green-lit due to the double-whammy of the Dawn remake and Shaun Of The Dead, as it seemed to be in development hell for a few years. I also can't shift this niggling feeling that this is NOT the original script for Dead Reckoning either, due to certain lines such as "We don't negotiate with terrorists." which made the normal social commentary that underlines the previous movies seem more hackneyed. Ok, before we go there too much, let's answer a few questions - yes there's gore, yes the zombies are slow, yes Tom Savini cameos and yes Asia Argento is still hot. Ok the last one was for me purely, but after speed zombies in the Dawn remake (28 Days Later can't be a Zombie movie if the monsters aren't dead - kinda important condition for Zombie-hood), lumbering ones don't quite seem as threatening, although a group will make you run damn fast. The key difference in the zombies here is that they are more tactical than before which does give them more of a threat rating than shuffling along like a drunken hobo. But, for all the gore and cheap scares, of which only one worked for me, this seemed rather tame and plodding compared to both recent zombie movies and Romero's classic Dawn movie. As mentioned, even the sub-text isn't as obvious or notable here, even though it is supposedly taking a swipe at the Bush administration, which is a shame as Romero is normally very astute and clever with it, but here it's almost a passing thought and you just find yourself wanting more. I will say however, that for most people, Day was viewed similarly to how I see this and indeed, Day has grown on more people after subsequent viewings and a little time has passed.

    I'd be lying if I said the acting was superb, as it's strictly B-movie level with cheese supplied aplenty by Dennis Hopper - whasupwitdat? Oh how the once cool have fallen. Leguizamo just plain irks me, Argento looks great but has no real need to stretch thespian muscles here and Baker is ok, but forgettable. It's a sad day when you name the best acting to a zombie, but Big Daddy has a warmth to him in the same way Bub did and you find a level of sympathy here as well, but not to the same degree as Bub. Visually, it's quite stylish in a bleak, apocalyptic way, with some nice use of the dark/shadows to increase tension.

    Dialogue throughout the movie is frequently cheesy too, from “Well let's just....f****** blast our way through them” to “What was built to keep people safe is going to keep them inside”. It's just one step above another alleged blockbuster this year that has just as bad a script, although in fairness to this, it's not AS bad as that. There certainly seems to be a focus on spending the budget for movies recently on spectacle over substance and this does suffer from that which is unfortunate. Maybe if this wasn't or didn't feel quite so rushed, then I wouldn't feel as cheated as I do, but then maybe in 5 years time, I'll watch again and reflect that it's not as bad as I think it is currently.