Saturday, 30 October 2010

Land of the Dead

Year: 2005
Director: George A. Romero
Screenplay: George A. Romero
Starring: Simon Baker, John Leguizamo, Dennis Hopper, Asia Argento, Robert Joy, Eugene Clark
Running Time: 93 minutes
Genre: Horror, action, survival

Summary: The dead have risen up and are attacking and eating the living. Anyone who dies becomes one of them, and anyone left alive after being botten by one will also shortly become one of them. The only way to destroy them is by destroying the brain, usually by shooting or stabbing in the head. The Earth has been pretty much completely overrun by these zombies. However, a community of survivors exist in a fortified enclve in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The community is ruled by the vicious and corrupt Kaufman (Hopper) who lives, along with the rest of the wealthy and elite in a luxurious high-rise apartment complex, while the rest of the people live in abject poverty, kept docile by the many vices that Kaufman lays on for the purpose. Frequently a team led by Riley Denbo (Baker) make forays into the outside world in a heavily equipped armoured vehicle known as "Dead Reckoning" in order to get urgently needed food and medical supplies. However, Riley is determined that this will be his last run. However, shortly after they return from their most recent expedition, Riley and his sidekick Charlie (Joy) are arrested after they break up an event involving two zombies fighting over a woman, Slack (Argento). Meanwhile Riley's second in command, Cholo DeMora (Leguizamo), whose dreams have been shattered when Kaufman denied him a place in the Fiddler's Green complex, has stolen Dead Reckoning and is threatening to open fire on the comples. However, in the city outside, one of the zombies (Clark) is beginning to show signs of regaining some of his human intelligence and is starting to organise the others.

Opinions: This film is the fourth in writer-director George A. Romero's Dead series and was preceded by Night of the Living Dead (1968), Dawn of the Dead (1978) and Day of the Dead (1986), and it has so far been followed by Diary of the Dead (2007) and Survival of the Dead (2010). It's fair to say that Romero's films have pretty much created the popular image of the movie zombie: a shambling mindless walking corpse forever chomping on the flesh of the living, which has now become one of the most popular horror movie tropes. The film, which was produced on a higher budget than any of the other Romero zombie films, is a fast-moving, action packed affair full of impressive special effects and well-designed action scenes. It is also full of gruesome set-pieces and the zombie make-up is suitably gross. However, as with the others in the series this movie is also quite satirical and full of quite savage social commentary, in particular the community's division between rich and poor, with the wealthy living in luxury more or less as if nothing has changed, while the poor live scrabbling for existence by any means necessary. In fact, the question could be who is worse: The zombies who are just acting on instincts and their own need for survival or the likes of Kaufman who casually exploit and destroy people for profit. The acting is good, with Dennis Hopper being particularly effective as the evil, but soft-spoken, Kaufman and Eugene Clark giving an affecting performance as the lead zombie. The movie's female lead is well played by Italian actress Asia Argento, whose father, legendary horror director Dario Argento, helped finance Romero's Dawn of the Dead. Despite the amount of gore and violence in the film, there is a strong vein of playfulness and humour running through it, and there are a number of in-jokes and references. Watch out for a cameo appearance by actor Simon Pegg and director Edgar Wright, whose Shaun of the Dead (2004) was heavily influenced by the Romero series.

Eugene Clark (centre) and friends in Land of the Dead

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