Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Land of the Dead

LAND OF THE DEAD (George A. Romero, 2005)

Director George A. Romero is credited with creating the zombie movie genre as we know it with 1968’s NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD. Recent years have produced many variations on his work, including a remake of DAWN OF THE DEAD, 28 DAYS LATER, and SHAUN OF THE DEAD. Now Romero returns for LAND OF THE DEAD, the fourth film in his zombie cycle. The survivors in the post-apocalyptic world live in a zone where two converging rivers and electrified fences provide buffers from the living dead. The wealthy live in the posh private high rise run by the seedy Kaufman, played by Dennis Hopper. The rest scrounge in the streets, including the hired guns who fight the zombies while searching for supplies in the war zone. While on patrol, the mercenaries notice that the living dead are developing rudimentary abilities to think and communicate.

Among horror aficionados Romero is revered not only for his flair for gore but also his social satire and commentary. LAND OF THE DEAD follows in that tradition. Romero finds creative ways to stage zombies feasting on flesh while tackling subjects such as gated communities, war profiteering, and entertainment as a weapon of mass distraction. While Romero’s more ardent admirers insist that he’s injecting an incisive exegesis of modern life, the commentary’s depth is debatable, but nevertheless the political and social points add a distinct flavor to an otherwise familiar film. LAND OF THE DEAD is more contemplative than many of its cinematic siblings, but it still finds time for the humor and gut-munching that fans demand. Hopper is perfectly cast as the slimy head of the high rise. He delivers what is likely to be the film’s signature line while picking his nose, which is just the sort of oddball touch Hopper brings to all he does. 28 DAYS LATER is the latest, greatest zombie film, but with LAND OF THE DEAD, Romero has made a better film than most of his imitators.

Grade: B-

(Review first aired in a shorter version on the July 5, 2005 NOW PLAYING)

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