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Land of the Dead
Universal Pictures, 2005, Rated R, 92 minutes
Big Daddy (Eugene Clark)
Slack (Asia Argentovy) and Riley (Simon Baker)
The zombies attack!
This wouldn't happen if stores would stay open later
In Land of the Dead, we see that zombies have been slowly but steadily growing and now dominate the streets of most cities. In a fortified city, urban skyscrapers have been taken over by opportunistic well-to-do non-zombies, who are guarded by mercenaries trained to battle zombies. Unfortunately, the zombies have begun to slowly evolve – these are no stand in front of a gate and can’t figure out how to open it zombie - these ones have begun to think for themselves!
In 1968, George A. Romero hit us with a low-budget zombie horror picture called Night of the Living Dead. This was probably one of the scariest movies that ever was – its stark cinematic quality, its palpable desperateness, its freshness all made it unforgettable. This new movie shows us that Romero is still the master of this genre in many ways as a triple threat director, producer, and screenwriter. Romero seems to have understood that there really was no way to equal the fright we felt from his first zombie movie, so he created a dark world for his zombies to roam and filled it with state-of-the-art makeup, visual effects, and mordant wit. And happily, Romero has also given us a horror movie that’s rated R. Too many times lately movies of this genre have softened things up for that most coveted PG-13 rating – to the detriment of the genre, the emotional impact, and the plot of the movie.
In Land of the Dead, Romero takes us to an unnamed city some years after the “plague”. Zombies have invaded deserted towns and seem to be struggling toward a higher consciousness. They are led by an imposing gas station attendant named Big Daddy (Eugene Clark), who becomes agitated when he sees the slaughter of his fellow comrades, who are used for target practice. Similar to Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead, in this movie Romero again uses an African-American as his social conscience and Clark is a strong, captivating leader that elicits sympathy for the zombies.
The most hatful villain in the movie is the super-capitalist Kaufman (Dennis Hopper). He walls off wealthy white people in a high-rise condominium called Fiddler’s Green, which looks down upon the less fortunate of the city’s inhabitants who struggle to survive in the dangerous streets. Granted, the city is protected from the dead by water on three sides and an electrified fence on the fourth. But Kaufman keeps himself sequestered in the Green while hiring a group of mercenaries, led by Riley (Simon Baker) and his second-in-command, Cholo (John Leguizamo), to run retrieval missions beyond the electrified fences for luxury items (namely high priced booze). Romero splits his focus between the dead stalking humans and humans screwing each other over. Riley and Cholo have different reasons for working for Kaufman. Riley wants to help people and Cholo is in it for the money. Together, these two go on raids of nearby cities and towns in an indestructible armored vehicle known as Dead Reckoning. For Riley, canned goods and medicine are top of the list – for Cholo, it’s liquor, which he sells in the streets. Both men have a falling out with Kaufman – Cholo because he thinks he can buy his way into Fiddler’s Green and is told that basically he isn’t “white” enough; and Riley when he saves a condemned woman (Asia Argentovy) from being mauled in a cage match with two zombies. Riley ends up hunting Cholo, who’s blackmailing Kaufman, while the dead close in. Even when faced with zombies, we can still find time to bicker amongst ourselves…
Hopper is well cast as the scheming Kaufman. Simon Baker (The Ring 2) is fine as Riley (in more ways than one), although a little bit too much of a do-gooder. The surprise here was Leguizamo, who isn’t quite “over the top” as usual and is actually quite enjoyable.
Fast-paced, gory, and violent this movie will keep you watching!
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Reviewed by: Boolicious, Special Contributor to Haunted Bay 09/05/2005
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