George A Romero's Land Of The Dead

George A Romero's Land Of The Dead

***

Reviewed by: Scott Macdonald

It's almost sad to see the great horror maestro continue to consume himself, as his appallingly developed characters and situations decay and rot onscreen, like walking mounds of animated flesh. Land Of The Dead is a fairly entertaining continuation of his zombie trilogy, an effective example of his own genre - with George A Romero learning tricks from Danny Boyle's 28 Days Later and other modern horror flicks, coupling them with his dry humour to expected effect. Everything else is decidedly old school, including the Universal logo, which opens the film.

Romero's chief zombie Big Daddy (Eugene Clark) learns from those he meets. Like Bub from Day Of The Dead, he's sick of being pushed around by these pesky humans and galvanises the walking dead into a horrific force. And with every single human who dies, they will be reborn as a zombie within a few hours, hence the population of humans to zombies has gone cataclysmic.

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Some of the last surviving humans live in a small city, impervious to attack, protected by electrified fences, heavily armed soldiers and river moats, with only a few access points heavily guarded. It is run by Kaufman (Dennis Hopper), a CEO-like leader with George W. Bush political leanings. Every now and then, supply vehicles are sent out to get food, medicine and illicit black market goods. A behemoth called Dead Reckoning, a 70ft long armoured truck provides cover and support for the looters. Kaufman runs a city within a city, Fiddler's Green, where only the elite and super-rich stay. The rest of the human population live below, dreaming of a better life.

This is all reasonably fertile ground for social commentary, with the tripartite classes of humanity squaring off against each other, but writer/director Romero doesn't really deal with it, other than tossing a couple of juicy lines towards Hopper and giving the zombies a potentially intelligent leader. The rest of the plot is pretty much dead on arrival, with Romero padding out with ham-fisted shocks and cheerfully ostentatious bloodletting. There's surprisingly little tension, with the relentless horror of previous instalments replaced with occasional jump moments. There's only so many times you can run the "it's behind you" gag and still have the intended effect. Indeed, the only reminder of the disturbing horror of Night Of The Living Dead is the chilling poster-shot moment of the zombies emerging from the river.

Hopper is beautifully cast, relishing the moment, delivering an engagingly nasty performance as the cowardly leader with fingers in every pie. "If you can drink it, shoot it up, fuck it or gamble it - he owns it", complains Riley, the decidedly bland protagonist. John Leguizamo is considerably better as the scheming Cholo, desiring entry into Fiddler's Green and, when denied, blackmailing Kaufman.

In spite of the 15 rating, be assured that Romero hasn't held back on the gore quota. The zombies are superbly disgusting and immensely creative. Greg Nicotero and the makeup department earn their money with even better zombies, rivalling those famous Fulci films in terms of gruesome delight. Gore fans will have a blast as I did, relishing the creativity and sheer gross-out factor.

Reviewed on: 21 Aug 2005
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Director: George A Romero

Writer: George A Romero

Starring: Simon Baker, John Leguizamo, Asia Argento, Dennis Hopper, Robert Joy, Eugene Clark, Joanne Boland, Tony Nappo, Jennifer Baxter, Boyd Banks

Year: 2005

Runtime: 93 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US

Festivals:

EIFF 2005

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