Romero does Zombie Land
Whilst it may sound harsh, if you've seen one zombie movie you've seen them all, characters and locations may change but when it gets down to the nitty gritty it's all about a group of humans trying to save themselves from the living dead. And as such George A. Romero's "Land of the Dead" is very much just another zombie movie as we watch a few humans trying to save their butts from becoming a night time snack for some lumbering zombies. But what is interesting is that whilst stereotypical "Land of the Dead" has some clever developments such as the dead basically living in their own community and starting to learn basic things. And at the same time you have the humans living in their own secure community where an opportunist man has got rich from the zombie disasters. It delivers a slight other level to the storyline which embellishes all the running away and destroying the living dead antics which fill the majority of the running time.
With the zombies now in the majority the living have move into secured communities where they are protected. One such community is run by Kaufman (Dennis Hopper - Waterworld), an opportunist who has got rich off of the zombie disaster and who employs a couple of men, Riley (Simon Baker - The Devil Wears Prada) and Cholo (John Leguizamo - The Fan), to lead dangerous missions into zombie territory to get supplies. But when Kaufman tricks Cholo he goes renegade and tries to hold him to ransom and so Riley has to go after him but are Riley's motives what they seem and will they and their friends survive the latest zombie attack lead by Big Daddy (Eugene Clark) who shows signs of low level learning.
So as already mentioned "Land of the Dead" is on one level just another stereotypical zombie monster movie. Strip away any storyline embellishments and what it boils down to is humans trying to protect themselves from the living dead. And as such there is scene after scene of zombie action as they get shot, crushed and destroyed in any way imaginable. It is entertaining and there is some clever death scenes as they get electrocuted or have their heads chopped off but it is very much your normal zombie movie action.
But what makes it nice is the developments that occur in "Land of the Dead" and most notably the divided communities. We are introduced to the zombies basically living in their own town and you could say they keep themselves to themselves as they start to show signs of low level learning. And you wonder if they hadn't been raided by a team of humans then they wouldn't have made their way to the human safe zone. At the same time you have the human safe zone where the opportunistic Kaufman has got rich from exploiting the situation by creating luxury accommodation for the rich whilst the rest are left to live in the slums. And at the same time he exploits the zombies using them in a carnival show which leads to amusing cameos from Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright as a couple of zombies in a carnival picture booth. All of this makes for another level which makes "Land of the Dead" more interesting even if it at it's heart is just another zombie movie.
So whilst there is this other level "Land of the Dead" ends up being a case of the action which comes from the zombies tracking down the humans and the battles which come from their meetings. Now what for me is missing is that relentlessness you expect from zombies just lumbering after the humans, single minded in their endeavours and it makes it more like a zombie action movie rather than a frightening zombie movie. But the action is good with some great special effects and a few standalone frights but it all feels too obvious. Even the supposedly clever moments such as Big Daddy, the sort of zombie leader, learning to use a gun doesn't fill you with a sense of fear that it should have. Although the scene where the zombies discover that water holds no fear for them is great especially when we watch their heads appear from beneath the surface of a river.
As for the acting well it's solid but not spectacular. Dennis Hopper puts in the most enjoyable performance as the opportunistic Kaufman because he gives his character dimensions, we get that he is opportunistic and has got himself to a point of power but in fact is quite a wimp and it makes him interesting. Sadly interesting is not what you would call the other characters or performances with Simon Baker doing a good job but coming over to nice whilst John Leguizamo as Cholo ends up as annoying as hell. And as for Asia Argento as Slack well she is sexy in a feisty way but the character seems confused as to whether it should be a serious one or a comedy one. And that is probably part of the issue as all the characters have an element of comedy about them but it often feels too forced especially when it comes to some of the names such as Pillsbury and Chihuahua.
What this all boils down to is that whilst "Land of the Dead" has a stab at progressing the zombie story with them exhibiting signs of low level intelligence it all ends up a stereotypical living dead movie. This means we get action and zombie deaths as a group of humans try to survive various zombie attacks but sadly the fear of relentless zombies coming after you never really materializes making it more of a zombie action movie than a horror movie.
Tags: Zombie Movies