I decided to finish out the week with this entry from Romero, the fourth in his zombie series, Land of the Dead.
The big draw when this movie came out was the fact that George Romero was going to be in involved. This was going to be seen as his great return to the genre that he helped create.
Unfortunately this movie seems sort of out of touch with the world. By the time this movie came out in 2005 28 days later was already three years old having come out in 2002. For audiences “28 Days Later” was not your typical zombie movie. Zombies moved faster and more crazily than we had ever seen before. They were maniacs, they were psychotics, they were wildly unstoppable and just full of rage, literally! The zombies in Land of the Dead seem tame by comparison. Granted the special effects are a lot better and more realistic than they were in any of the previous three movies and there’s some amazing gore in this film, the actual zombies themselves just aren’t that compelling and neither is the story.
28 Days Later reflected the general fears people had about disease and epidemics which we see in the news all the time with things like N1H1, swine flu and mad cow disease. It matched the culture at the time. This is also one of the things that made night of the living dead such an amazing movie. The fact that it really wonderfully played on the cultural aspects of what was happening in the world at the time it came out. It was relevant.
You could make the argument that Land of the Dead does reflect modern culture at the time it came out if we see the wealthy survivors in their luxury tower representative of the upper classes of America keeping most of the wealth to themselves with the poor downtrodden masses outside the walls forever scrambling and trying to get in. The image of a tower as a symbol of power and wealth was definitely in the public consciousness immediately following 9/11. However you could also argue that the walls represent the border between Mexico and the United States with illegal immigration being the real issue and the poverty of those people trying to gain control of or share in the riches of the wealthy people behind the walls.
Even as I write this I could almost convince myself of that. But having seen the other movies I think this is just another story about people hiding inside of a building and zombies trying to get in. We’ve gone from a tiny little house to a shopping mall to a government bunker to an entire portion of a city. The story has barely changed. And the reaction of survivors hasn’t really changed much either. The zombies as I mentioned in an earlier post continued to get smarter and more powerful. In this case being led by an actual zombie seems to think and take real control of the situation. Even teaching other zombies how to use tools.
So what’s the point of even making this a zombie movie? If they’re just going to be monsters to shoot guns and use weapons and everything else then you’ve basically got any other kind of monster story on your hands.
Unfortunately this movie also isn’t very scary either. there are some pretty fantastic scenes or blood and guts which are much more realistic and better looking than in the earlier movies. In fact one scene where some zombies are feeding on some of their victims shows a zombie actually reaching into one of their mouths down their throat and pulling out their guts! Wow! That was horrible. But scary? No, not really.
For the most part the film was unrealistic. Early in the movie we see how some of the survivors are partying and having a good time watching a sort of cage match between some zombies and a female survivor. The entire show is run by a midget in a big hat. This just strikes me as a carnival, sideshow, a freak show. Nothing against little people. I don’t think they are freaks. This is just the tone that the movie is giving us. This doesn’t seem like real people surviving in difficult times. Why do they have zombies inside the wall at all? Doesn’t that seem like it’s kind of crazy? Plus the giant armed vehicle with missiles and everything else on it, although really badass, seems more like something a high school boy would dream up. It doesn’t seem real. It doesn’t seem like people surviving in a post-apocalyptic world as in say, The Road.
So I’m sorry to say Land of the Dead is a further step down the ladder from the previous three movies. Having gone back to watch them all recently I really feel that night of the living dead was a groundbreaking and fantastic film and is much better than any of the subsequent sequels.
Check out the trailer on Youtube: