(Release Date: June 20, 2005)
And Kind Old King George is back in full form here, shoring up loose ends, sticking to his own mythology and, yep, scaring the hamster turds out of us. For those of you just tuning in, Ladies and Germs, allow me to introduce you to my other Uncle George... here's a bit of a recap:
[Cue subtle acoustic guitar]
'Bout forty years ago way over in Penn-Syl-Vania...
[Okay, Play the loud horn music and everyone dance around like a Gay Penguin gang!]
In those twenty years, though, fans have come and gone through imitator, homage and remake alike, and the advent of DVD has allowed each film to be analyzed, reanalyzed, psychoanalyzed and over analyzed to the point that they've been murdered for the purpose of dissection. And though in the Romero-verse all murdered things rise again, many have questioned Day of the Dead, even its true fans like me. Why the military commentary? Why spend so much time establishing the fact that Zombies can be taught to function like Humans? Why bother?
Well, Boils and Ghouls, I give you Land of the Dead, which answers all the hanging chads in spades, not to mention dismemberments and geysers of blood. Some time has passed since the world changed for the deader, and life has gone on in its own way in some of the pockets of civilization we've seen in the other three films. In one major city, an entire constituency of survivors has holed up, surrounded by rivers and gates. A gang of raiders led by Simon Baker's Riley and his rival John Leguizamo's Cholo steal out into the towns to split the skulls of the undead and to collect the supplies from the abandoned supermarkets and liquor stores.
But when Riley's Rough Necks hit a town filled with the imitative and resourceful zombies introduced in Day of the Dead, the dead walk again (thankfully they don't run), this time for revenge... well, revenge and Brains! But is the city they stagger toward even worth taking revenge upon? The rich, led by Dennis Hopper's Mr. Kaufman (more Donald Trump than Easy Rider), are still getting richer and running the grand-ma-ma of all protection rackets on the poor villagers from atop their, quite literal, Ivory Tower! And he's only too happy to play one faction against the other to stay in power! Yeah, that includes Riley versus Cholo! But if we've learned anything from the Romero-Verse, we've learned that when the good guys forget the enemy is out there, not in here they become the bad guys themselves... and, of course, we've learned that no fortress is impregnable!
So yes indeedy, fundalini, Romero is back in full-on social commentary mode here, and sometimes it's a lot more subtle than others. Would you expect anything else? All the Romero conceits are here, from an unconstitutional amount of spewing blood to Zombie Cannibalism, to action, to nudity, to scares, to shocks (legitimate shocks, not cheap), to intelligence, to great one liners. And he even throws in a huge amount of Easter Eggs in the form of cues from his other films. Lest I forget, the big bad ass trucks from the original Dawn of the Dead have grown to a fruition that puts the end of the remake and even some parts of Mad Max to shame... yep, meet Megaweapon's grand nephew: Dead Reckoning! Honorable mention has to go to Asia Argento's Slack (honorable HOT mention), Eugene Clark's dead on Big Daddy, and of course, Charlie played by Robert Joy, looking exactly as he did at the end of Amityville III - The Demon! Be on the lookout for Shaun of the Dead's Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright in a cameo as the Photo Booth Zombies! Is Tom Savini in this one? Oh, but hell yes, he is! It's a small but noteworthy cameo, and for you true fans out there who want to look for him... it's not a spoiler to tell you he plays the exact same character that he did in Dawn of the Dead! Ha, Ha, Ha! You'll see what I mean, Kemosabes!
Please note, this is an extremely violent and bloody movie with enough blood and munched body parts to turn even the most iron tummy into a butter churn. It's also not entirely without its flaws (by aaron pruitt). Romero relies on the "Timelessness" of the original film in that many a product and style from years after 1968 are seen all over the place. Any true fan will see some of the shocking and scary moments coming, and those who aren't fans may be lost by some of the not-so-self-contained references. Make no mistake, this movie is this good because it is an excellent chapter in a great series. Meaning, it might not stand alone! And though some of the shocks and plot points can be predicted by a lot of viewers, Romero seems to know this and succeeds in some talented bait and switch routines to keep us all on our clenched butt cheeks!
I had feared that the suits at Universal might have tweaked this one to death, but it's pure Romero, pure Zombie, pure coolness. It's not just a great entry into the Night of the Living Dead Series, it actually makes Day of the Dead a better movie!
Those that don't get it, shouldn't see it, but I'm giving George A. Romero's Land of the Dead Four Stars out of five. Of course, I'm probably the only one to give such high praise! Are great classicist horror flicks like this one dying? Other critics might not see how well it fits into the series and the genre, and audiences clearly are putting this one on the shelf with the rest of the "Cult Movies" where it just might belong. On opening weekend audiences only elevated this one to number 5 on the Box office top ten with a none too stellar receipt ($10.2 million), whereas the lame remake of Dawn of the Dead actually deposed The Passion of the Christ as the #1 movie on its $26,722,575 debut. Yeah, this is a cult film, and while Romero has done it again, and another week or two will more than make up the fifteen million dollar budget (DVD Sales might quadruple it), it would have been nice to see the old Horror Master get a #1 under his belt! Sigh! So until the new Return of the Living Dead movies Necropolis and Rave to the Grave come out and debut at the bottom of the list, I'll see you in the next reel! And this time, I promise not to sing!
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Guys, Guys, Joke for ya... How does a zombie with almost no body fat and no need to breath cross a river? He walks! Ah? Aaaaaaaaaaaaaah?