Land of the Dead

I loved this movie. I have been waiting and wishing for more zombie material and, as of late, have come across some good things to keep me satiated until Land of The Dead came out. Well, I saw it last night and boooooooooyyyyy was it awesome.

I am sad to say that when I first heard the story arc of this movie I was a bit disappointed. I mean, come on now! A bunch of rich people living in a tower and the commonfolk living on the streets below? Protected on all sides by water? Come on now, how good of a story could THAT be? Although the story sounded a bit hokey to me, I was still excited to see zombies again on the big screen (keep in mind I’ll give ANYTHING zombie a shot at least once).

After the movie was over with last night, I felt like if it was physically possible I should kick myself square in the groin. How DARE I lose faith in George Romero? How could I have EVER entertained the thought that the movie wouldn’t be great? I can say now that I think that certain trepidation made the movie even better for me. I went in expecting to see some gore and kind of a flimsy storyline. I am happy to say that it surpassed all my expectations. It was awesome.

For those that haven’t been following the build-up, this is George Romero’s first zombie movie since 1985’s Day of The Dead, a “flop” in every “business” sense of the word. George Romero has publicly stated that he felt that Day was his best film but zombie fans the world over (including myself), were always a bit disappointed with this third film. According to IMDB, however, it’s gained a cult following over the years.

According to other reports out there on “the internets”, George used some of his ideas for Day and carried them into Land due to the budget being halved back in 1985. Perhaps that’s why I found it so disappointing. Adam left a great comment on my review of Day where he discussed why he enjoyed it so much. Definitely worth checking out his comment.

Anyway, enough of the preamble. Land is the only film that has actors that have already established themselves as big names. None of the previous three had any “bankable” actors, and I think that might be what made the movies so good. You were more interested in the story and the film than you were about looking at an actor that you had already typecast in your mind. The cast list for Land includes John Leguizamo, Dennis Hopper, Simon Baker, Robert Joy, Boyd Banks, and an actress that had my jaw on the floor the entire time, Asia Argento. After last night’s viewing, I think that it may be necessary to reorganize my Hump Island. She has to be one of the sexiest actresses I have EVER seen. Besides the fact that she does a little asskicking in the movie, she was smokingly hot. Definitely one to keep an eye on. Tidbit of trivia for anyone who cares to know; Asia is the daughter of Dario Argento. Dario Argento was one of the producers for Georges 1979 Dawn of the Dead (one that I’ve seen a gazillion times but am too nervous to try and review…perhaps I should get over that and just DO IT!). There ya go, back to my undead ramblings.

Simon Baker and John Leguizamo play two mercenary soldiers, hired by Dennis Hopper’s “Kaufman”, who make runs into town and raid for supplies. John Leguizamo plays his character, Cholo, with a real asshole flair. I’ve never really given any thought to John Leguizamo, it’s always been a casual indifference. This movie changed that, I can safely say. Cholo is a prick who has toiled and risked his life for Kaufman and is now ready to retire and take his place in the towers he has spent his time protecting. Kaufman snubs him (“Sorry, there’s limited space here”) and Cholo gets angry and steals the vehicle they use to raid cities, Dead Reckoning. He holds the city hostage, claiming that he will bomb it and reduce all the protection to rubble, leaving the city open to possible (and inevitable) attacks by the “stenches” (they are called “stenches” and “walkers”) unless he is paid the money that is due to him.

Simon Baker is excellent as Riley, Cholo’s colleague who has retired as well. He has plans to head north, possibly to Canada. He spends his evening being followed around by Charlie, a mentally retarded burn victim played by Robert Joy. Riley and Charlie end up in a bar, talking to “a man about a car”, and that’s where Asia Argento *angelic sounds* comes in. She is a prostitute who has pissed off the wrong person. She’s been placed in a cage with two zombies (spray painted black and red, like a team!). All bets are placed as to who will win this sick little match and the “game” begins. Riley notices what is happening and he shoots both zombies and rescues Asia from the cage. This action gets him arrested. While in the slammer, he is offered a job from Kaufman. Get Dead Reckoning back and stop Cholo.

Riley accepts the mission but, unbeknownst to Kaufman, has his own plans for Dead Reckoning. The movie is somewhat multi-faceted, this being one storyline and the other being the zombies ability to evolve and communicate. The previous sentence is actually one of the reasons I was leery of the story line. Thinking zombies? Wha??????

It actually ended up being a pretty interesting premise. Led by a zombie listed in the credits as “Big Daddy”, the zombies from the nearby city make their way to this island inhabited by the rich AND the commonfolk. They begin to realize different methods for reaching their goals and that’s where it’s pretty interesting. Machine guns are discovered, “swimming” is discovered, and even zombie sympathy head shots!

There are several obvious cameos in the film. There were 4 that I noticed right off the bat; Tom Savini as his character from Dawn of the Dead (the biker), Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright (writer/star and director of Shaun of the Dead) as zombie entertainment in the bar, and Boyd Banks as a zombie listed as “Butcher”. Boyd Banks may not actually have been a HUGE cameo but I thought it was interesting seeing him due to his starring in the Dawn remake last year. Yeah, he was the redneck with the trucker’s cap.

The gore is definitely there as well. There is at least one (I think there were actually a couple) of Romero’s trademark intestines shot. There is plenty of biting and even some non-zombie violence! Humans killing each other without any assistance from the undead!

The humor? Yeah, plenty of that too. There are several chuckles throughout the film. One spot I thought was pretty funny was a scene where Cholo is talking to a soldier and says “what was that?” after a gunshot rings out. The soldier says “oh that? That’s just target practice” and then a series of screams ring out and Cholo says “So is that screaming practice?” Sorry, but I thought it was pretty funny. The Samoan nicknamed “Pilsbury” was a great addition as well. That guy was great in every scene he was in. Some great lines coming out of his mouth. The scene where he winked at his cohort and then smacked the shit out of her was pretty funny too.

The social commentary that is present in his previous outings? I honestly didn’t see anything like that in this one. Correct me if I’m wrong but it appeared to be a zombie movie and nothing too much deeper than that. One interesting thing was the zombie “anti-hero” was a Black man. If you’ve noticed, the previous Romero films have had black characters in the leads, as actual heroes. This one was a bit different, the tables were turned.

I have no complaints about the movie at all. The only thing I would have changed is the guy next to me. He giggled like a little schoolgirl everytime a zombie was demolished. It was pretty damn annoying. He was silent through the whole movie (a GOOD thing) but would giggle like a schoolgirl everytime violence broke out. What a friggin weirdo.

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