Land of the Dead (2005) – Movie Review

Land of the Dead movie poster art

Written & Directed by George A. Romero
Starring Simon Baker, Dennis Hopper, John Leguizamo, Robert Joy, Asia Argento, Eugene Clark

My Advice: Solid matinee.

Time has passed since the zombie outbreak began. What humans remain have walled and fenced in cities and hired folks with lots of guns to keep them safe. In one city, Fiddler’s Green is the luxury highrise that sits at the center, overseen by Kaufman (Hopper). He controls and pays for everything, including the squads who go out into the smaller towns for supply raids. However, there’s unrest in the streets, as those who aren’t in Kaufman’s favor are pissed at being fed table scraps. Also, the undead are getting pissed off as well…

Okay, time for some history. Twenty years ago, Day of the Dead hit. It was 1985. Romero threatened a fourth movie: Twilight of the Dead. I held out hope, even after hearing about rights issues and budget issues…even when Romero was unable to get distribution for Bruiser. When I first started at Corona’s Coming Attractions, that magnificent (and now very dead) website, this was the first movie page I ever drafted. So basically, I have been waiting…patiently…for twenty fucking years for this movie. And thanks to the efforts of those glorious Brits behind 28 Days Later and Shaun of the Dead, making zombie movies is profitable again. And here we are.

I cannot tell you the fear I felt as this film approached. It seemed like Romero would take the easy way out and ditch the (admittedly cornball) social commentary in favor of running shrieking zombies like those who have followed in his footsteps. I was wrong. It also seemed odd that he would change his pattern by not having a strong, black male as a lead in the film. I was wrong about that too. Can I tell you how refreshing it is to be wrong about a film for once?

The important thing to know about this film is you can’t go into it dry. If you are not familiar with the three films that have come before it, you’ll probably think it’s cheeseball. You also won’t understand the backstory of how things got the way they are. And, yes, Romero’s commentary on society is there and yes, it’s cheeseball and a bit wrong-headed. But going to a George Romero film and not expecting that is like watching a Jerry Bruckheimer film and wondering why physics have gone bye-bye. I’m not trying to be an apologist here, that’s just the way it is. And really, there’s nothing to apologize for. Romero’s original concept about how his zombie world would have evolved is nowhere near as ham-fisted as he made it out to be. You can dig on the haves vs. have-nots thing if you want to, or you can just enjoy shit blowing up and people being gnawed on. As Romero films should be.

The cast does their job well. And they know what they’re there for. Dennis Hopper gets some delightful scene-chewing moments. Simon Baker plays the perfect Good Guy. Leguizamo is Leguizamo, so of course he’s good. Asia Argento does well enough, although it’s worth pointing out that just about anybody could have played the part–not her fault. Still, it’s kinda nice to have Dario’s daughter in a Romero zombie flick, just for us geeks. And Robert Joy does some good things with his slow Charlie character.

All in all, I’m not displeased. I think the opening credits/setup for where we are in the series is a little heavy, but they didn’t do anything spectacularly wrong or that wasn’t in fitting with the world and continuity that Romero has created. Pains were taken to make everything Make Sense and not take what is already a suspension of disbelief and turn into a pinata of disbelief that can be beaten and kicked to pieces. I don’t have any problems with recommending a matinee to fans of the series. If you’re not a fan but just like the more “modern” zombie stories, you’re probably best waiting for video. At this point, I just want to buy Romero a drink and say, “Christ, George, what kept you?”

Click here to buy it on DVD from Amazon.

By | 2017-09-24T23:57:28+00:00 June 24th, 2005|Movies, Reviews|5 Comments

5 Comments

  1. Martin Schofield June 25, 2005 at 7:11 pm

    Havent’t seen it yet. May literally just shower and go see,it. Especially after double-shift. Do you know why it’s only 93 minutes? I know, stupid question, ’cause supposedly Universal constrained Romero somewhat, but doesn’t he have enough clout to say” I”m putting this scene or that scene in and there’s nothing you can do about it”?? Similarities between Romero and Lucas: Both are named George, both of their fourth installments were practically {and literally in the case of Romero} two decades apart {16 and 20 years respectively}, both redefined/revolutionized their respective genres, AND both of their third installments{Jedi and Day} were hailed as the “weak sisters” of their “original trilogy”s . Thought you may find that strange similarities/ coincidences. Hope i didn’t bore you. Peace.

  2. Widge June 26, 2005 at 1:16 am

    Martin: That’s a good question…I’m not sure why it’s 93 minutes. One very plausible theory is that they’re saving an extra X number of minutes for the you-know-it’s-inevitable UNRATED EDITION of the DVD. I can answer your question about clout, though: Romero has none. I mean, let’s think about it–it took him how long to get this film made? It wasn’t until zombie films came back into vogue that he could, and like I said, thank the Brits for that. His last film, BRUISER (2000), barely got theatrical distribution and his film before that? DARK HALF in 1993. So Romero’s had a hard path, which is a fucking shame because I think he’s a decent director. Hell, remind me to tell you the story about William Peter Blatty and why he hasn’t directed again. Anyway, I tried very hard to avoid ROTSith Syndrome with this (i.e., being so happy it’s even out that I overlook the warts) and think I succeeded. I don’t think it’s a classic by any means, but I think it’s a good solid zombie movie and a worthy fourth flick. And here’s some differences between the Two Georges as well, since you brought it up…the new STAR WARS took forever because of a divorce, whereas NOTLD4 was tied up do to lack of finances and rights issues. Also, one George owes his fortune to licensing, whereas the other George has squat. Wouldn’t just freaking love a complete set of DAWN OF THE DEAD action figures? Did anybody ever make any? I wonder who owns the rights. Anyway, not boring at all, Martin. Let me know what you thought of the flick. Cheers.

  3. The Hieb June 27, 2005 at 11:15 pm

    Right on with the review, Widge. I just got back from seeing it, and I was delighted beyond all means. There’s just something COMFORTABLE about seeing a Romero zombie movie again. Hm, I think maybe that sounds a little odd, but you probably know what I mean. The thing I can take away most from this movie, though: Scary zombie clown. Holy crap.

  4. Martin Schofield August 26, 2006 at 3:09 pm

    Whoa, i posted that comment a YEAR ago. Didn’t realize i had a response?! Where does the time go? Well, i saw the movie {LOTD} a year ago and liked it, seemed a bit more visceral somehow. Dennis Hopper was a hoot and i liked the analogy of someone in one “culture” seeing “how the other side lives.” {leguiazoma after he’s been irrepairably bitten}. Hopefully, Romero doesn’t wait ANOTHER TWENTY YEARS, in between Zombie pictures. if , he’s even planning on making another one. Has anyone seen “Season of the Witch”?? It’s on DVD now along with another “obscure” or lost film that Romero didn’t even release, i think. Cheers….

  5. Widge August 26, 2006 at 4:42 pm

    Martin: Yeah, well, it aged like fine wine. :) Yes, I’ve seen pretty much all the Romero flicks…except BRUISER, oddly enough, now that I think about it. Probably my favorite non-DEAD flick from George R. would have to be MARTIN. And I’m going to do my best to make the Romero/Savini panel this year at DragonCon to ask if there are plans for a ubermongo edition on DVD. And lastly, Hopper was a trip: “Zombies, man. They creep me out.” Awesome.

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