Land of the Dead Image

Land of the Dead

By Film Threat Staff | June 25, 2005

And there’s the problem. It’s impossible to judge “Land of the Dead” without taking into account the legacy of the previous “Dead” films, and from that point of view, “Land” falls well short of the greatness of Romero’s previous zombie efforts.

How many of the film’s problems can be attributed to studio interference? We may never know. Aside from moving production to Canada for monetary reasons, Universal also reportedly slashed Romero’s budget midway through shooting (causing him to walk off the set during production allegedly). The final round of TV spots for the movie is enough to make casual horror fans think twice. They also bumped the release date up from fall to summer, which some might take as a vote of confidence, but seems to be more like an attempt to bury it. In September or October, “Land” would have stood out. As it is, Romero finds himself sandwiched between Batman Begins and “War of the Worlds.” Hardly an enviable position, in retrospect.

More importantly, unlike the first three “Dead” films – which we still discuss decades after their release – “Land” lacks any coherent underlying social commentary. The other movies were all of an era: “Night” made a statement about racism and civil rights, “Dawn” looked at America’s burgeoning consumer culture, and “Day” examined the dangers posed by the military-industrial complex. “Land” takes a few stabs at the Homeland Security state (fleeting shots of American flags on the scavengers’ motorcycles, Statue of Liberty ads, Kaufman’s insistence that they “don’t deal with terrorists”), but nothing sticks. Ten years from now, we’ll be discussing “Land” as an afterthought, not as an equal partner in the “Dead” canon.

“…with real scares and some of the most inspired gore I’ve seen…”

Ironically, “Land” With the success of the Resident Evil movies, the Dawn remake, 28 Days Later (not technically a zombie movie, I know), and Shaun of Dead, “Land” feels less like the latest effort from a groundbreaking horror filmmaker and more like just another imitation, even if this particular imitation also features loops of intestines spilling from abdominal cavities.

Too many aspects of the plot set-up fall on their face as well. How did the surviving humans clear out the city? How did they build a perimeter fence and fight off the zombies at the same time? Where does Kaufman come from, and why is he the big cheese? “Land of the Dead” clocks in at a spare 88 minutes, and I can’t help thinking a little more exposition would have gone a long way to making the movie more enjoyable.

Horror fans are going to be at odds over this one, I suspect. Personally, I wish I could have come into this film without the baggage of being a 30+ year horror fan who’s seen the films in the original “Dead” trilogy upwards of 20 times, but no dice. “Land of the Dead” features top-notch gore, some inventive deaths, and decent performances by most of the principals, but it’s hardly the magnum opus for which Romero fans have been waiting.

Land of the Dead (2005)

Directed and Written: George A. Romero

Starring: John Leguizamo, Asia Argento, Simon Baker, Dennis Hopper, etc.

Movie score: 6/10

Land of the Dead Image

"…suffers from the recent popularity of the genre Romero himself spawned."

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