A few nights ago, I watched Land of the Dead for the first time in years. I remembered liking it, but the memory wasn’t solid enough to really know why anymore. After this most recent viewing, I can confidently say that this movie kicks all kinds of ass, and as such, it deserves a little tribute. It’s different than most zombie movies, so if you’re looking for a non-stop gore-fest, you’ll have to go elsewhere. But if you’re in the mood for cool characters and a story that resonates, I think you’ll enjoy this one.
Firstly, all of the leads work well together. Simon Baker, John Leguizamo, Asia Argento, Robert Joy, and the inimitable Dennis Hopper round out a great cast that really sells the notion of living in a post-apocalyptic shit-hole.
You’ve got a sensible leader for whom you’d gladly work; a sidekick with earnest one-liners and impeccable aim; a gorgeous girl who’s loyal to noble causes; a total prick bad guy; and another total prick who you actually end up cheering for after a certain point. All of them add up to, let me calculate it really quickly…a bunch of awesome.
The story is one that is still very much relevant today, 8 years after the movie’s release. The zombies become self-aware and begin to fight back against – from their perspective – the humans committing genocide against them. It’s really about how the poor are held captive by the rich who value wealth and status above all else. The zombies becoming self-aware is meant as a wake-up call for people to band together against the way our society treats those who are less fortunate. It’s good stuff, and while it’s not subtle in any way, it doesn’t need to be.
Like I said, it’s not about non-stop blood-and-guts, but it gets hilariously gruesome when it wants to. And isn’t getting eaten alive by a scary, fat clown just about the worst death imaginable?
Romero’s return to the zombie sub-genre after a twenty-year absence is a success as far as I’m concerned. I thought I remembered it getting shit on around the time it came out, but IMDb and Rotten Tomatoes both have it pretty highly rated. I’m not endorsing aggregate sites, per se, but they can sometimes be useful as a starting point for actually looking into quality. Anyways, check out Land of the Dead if you haven’t. It’s a fun hour-and-a-half with the signature Romero social commentary underneath.
Also, a Tom Savini sighting!