Sunday, April 19, 2015

MR Land of the Dead

After the Night, the Dawn and the Day.. the Dead have now taken over our Land!

... That's all I could come up with, sorry. The title doesn't have as good a ring to it as past films, granted. But it was definitively another decent entry in the series.

When there's no more room in HELL, these reviews will walk the BLOG:

Movie: George A. Romero's Land of the Dead also known as Land of the Dead or just simply Land also tentatively titled Twilight of the Dead, Dead City and Dead Reckoning
Directed by George A. Romero
Release date 2005
Genre Post-Apocalyptic Horror/Zombie film
Country USA/Canada/France

Following the immense and surprising success of Edgar Wright's Shaun of the Dead, the entire zombie genre was basically brought back from the dead (pun obviously intended).

What followed was Hollywood's attempt at cashing in on this old B-movie genre. Dozens or so zombies movies were produced every year, the undead invaded every possible medium from books to comics and even video games - almost to a point of complete saturation. While we definitively got a few cult classics like The Walking Dead series or Zombieland, there's also been a lot of questionable blockbusters attempt at big budget Zombie flicks like the World War Z film.

Immediately after Shaun, the "Dead series" was resurrected with the 2004 Zack Snyder/James Gunn remake of the classic Dawn of the Dead. The next year, George A. Romero brought back his own half* of the franchise with Land of the Dead, a 2005 "sequel" of his post-apocalyptic horror film franchise.

Land stars several famous faces of the horror genre including Simon Baker, Dennis Hopper, the always gorgeous Asia Argento, Robert Joy, Eugene Clark and the great underrated John Leguizamo.

*While Romero would go on to produce five more "Of The Dead" films, John A. Russo would do his own "Living Dead" series after they split off following the original Night of the Living Dead.

The story takes place in what appears to be Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Many years after some the zombie apocalypse, some unexplained zombie infection that spread through contaminating the entire world.

The living dead have taken over the world. The government is now long gone, instead a more feudal system is now in place. In this town a city sanctuary has been put in place in "Fiddler's Green", the rich and powerful can still live in luxury while the rest of the survivors are forced to remain in this shanty town below. The survivors are separated in different classes, behind these electric walls they call "The Throat", while rivers protect them from the zombies nearby.

Fiddler's Green is ruled by this man Paul Kaufman (Hopper). They have developed an heavily armored vehicle to travel to the zombie infested areas for supplies run. The "Dead Reckoning". It's equipped with machine guns, cameras and whatnot.

There's a growing friction amongst the two factions. The scavenger team of the Dead Reckoning put their lives in danger every time they bring food and medical supplies from abandoned stores, yet they get very little recognition from the powers above. 

The zombies have been starting to show some dangerous signs of possible thought process. One they dub "Big Daddy", apparently an ex-gas station owner, appears to be rising amongst them . He learned a few tricks and is slowly showing some signs of intelligence...

One time, the man commander and designer of the Dead Reckoning, Riley Denbo (Simon Baker) saves this hooker being exploited in a zombie cage match, Slack (Asia Argento). He doesn't like zo see people being used in these "zombies entertainments". 

The safety of Fiddler's Green is finally threatened by one of Kaufman's soldiers when the second in command of the Dead Reckoning Cholo DeMora (John Leguizamo) is refused an apartment in the sanctuary. He decides to attack Fiddler's Green with the vehicle. 

Meanwhile the zombies lead by Big Daddy find out they're able to cross over the water... An incoming zombie attack is set after the human city. And it turns out these electric fences might actually trap the people inside as the zombies are coming there way...

Land of the Dead was the fourth film in this "Of The Dead series", while not traditional Hollywood sequels but rather spiritual successors in both tone and themes. Following Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead and Day of the Dead. While the story is not directly followed upon in each episode, all stories being independent from one another, we do get a sense of continuity in the worsening of the situation and the state of the world. Each film allowed this way to be set in its own era, showing an evolution of the current technologies available at the time (which would not be possible if the zombie apocalypse first happened in the 1970s.). What is interesting with that is that it attempts to portray this zombie apocalypse as real as possible, how actual people would react to this situation and try to live in a world with an increasingly number of living dead roaming around.

Like most of the films in this franchise, Land was written and directed by George A. Romero. And received a huge success, easily the highest entry in the entire series.

The film was originally possibly going to be titled Twilight of the Dead, Dead City or Dead Reckoning - after the idea of this unstoppable vehicle Romero had in mind. While personally I would have personally preferred Twilight of the Dead, to be better fit with the rest of the series, the studios wanted the title of the film to be again Night of the Living Dead (which is available in the public domain), which Romero didn't like and simply refuse. They also almost settled for Night of the Living Dead: Dead Reckoning at one point.

The script itself was actually mostly based on original elements Romero wanted for Day of the Dead. Specifically what revolves around the zombies evolving and the way humans holed up in these fortified cities.

The film is really gory, moreso compared to the original films. They filmed several alternate cuts to provide both a different theatrical and R Rated cut of the film, Romero had to shot a couple of alternate less gory scenes and have the film digitally altered to obscure the blood more black then red.

It marked a landmark in the series, being the first episode to rely on digital effects. Since the film was produced in the early 2000s they're not all perfect and a couple of special effects aren't that perfect, but far from detracting you from the overall experience.

Land was released two decades after the last episode. It marked the return of George Romero to the genre. It's a really fun post-apocalyptic film with some great ideas. The opening of the film places it years after the rise of the undead. It's a really gorgeous film too, thanks to a great picture.

A film basically made for the fans of the zombie genre thanks to all their support all these years through, with the return of the creator of the genre no less!

The film has a few great cameo like Tom Savini back as Blades the Machete Zombie, an allusion to his previous character last seen in Dawn.

Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright, the co-creators of Shaun of the Dead also get to have a cameo, since this whole zombie revolution was mostly thanks to them, a way to have Romero give them a well-deserved something back in return.

With Land, George A. Romero really wanted to try doing something different.

The zombies slowly evolved through each of his films, we saw Bub learning to speak in Day, but even back in Dawn they were shown using all kinds of tools already.

The film has a different tone from the previous entries too, closer to an action film. It's also bloody violent.

The Dead Reckoning is certainly the most memorable aspect of the film and one of the better new ideas he came up with. The best way to survive in this new world, this heavily armored and armed post-apocalyptic ride can protect a dozen people and shoot fireworks to distract zombies (which appears to be working less every day). It's a real rolling fortress.

Finally the music composed by Reinhold Heil and Johnny Klimek is perhaps not my favorite score of the series, but the music is tense and perfectly fits the unique atmosphere this time. It's a bit more hectic and feels less focused than Dawn's cult classic score. But it works.

If Day of the Dead marked a conclusion in George A. Romero's classic Dead trilogy, Land of the Dead can be seen as either a final epilogue or a send off for a possible new series. Too bad what followed never reached the potential only glimpsed in Land...

Overall, Land of the Dead is certainly not perfect in my eyes, but it comes quite close to it.

Romero went back to the genre he helped craft and play around with the established elements we're all used to. Which help make this film not yet another boring classic simple zombie film. There's a  lot of good in the film. It has a tone closer to Day's dark satirical approach rather than the other previous two films. It's a brilliant attempt at modern horror. With plenty of gore and great special effects. Great performances especially from our main characters John Legiozomo, Dennis Hopper and Asia Argento.

Thanks to being released only a year after the well-received remake of Dawn of the Dead it helped boost the awareness of zombies by then, and made Land the highest grossing entry in the series to almost exclusively positive reviews, even if most people like to diss it nowadays. I mean, even Roger Ebert himself liked the film at the time and called it Romero's most skillful film yet. The film plays the satire back, there's some clearly apparent allusions to the war in Iraq.

The film has great makeup work and it's quite gory. It's a well made zombie film all around. With a lot of funny moments here and there, more than Romero ever did in the past.

Highly Recommended! It's probably a guilty pleasure of mine, one of my favorite zombie films, but I wouldn't really call it near as good as past Romero films. The whole story feels a bit weaker compared to what he used to do, and it's a bit too clean and "Hollywood-ified" to be a good horror film. But it's certainly fun and original.

Originally Romero wanted to produce a whole new trilogy of films picking up where this episode left. A first follow-up was rumored to be titled Road of the Dead, followed by a last episode World of the Dead. But sadly he would instead ditch this entire storyline after some troubles working with the studio film model and go back to his independent film roots for the fifth episode Diary of the Dead which was closer to a reboot or prequel to the Dead series in 2007, going back to much simpler zombies from the original Night of the Living Dead film.

I give it:
2.5 / 3 Necronomicons!

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