Land of the Dead
Directed by George Romero
Were it as acceptable as standing in line with a light saber, I'd stand in a movie line wearing full zombie make-up gnawing on fake human flesh. Upon learning that Romero's fourth installment in the zombie series, Land of the Dead, was coming like a horde of relentless walking corpses, I was elated. It was to be my Revenge of the Sith, my Batman Begins-a glimpse into the lost reel of The Magnificent Ambersons...or something.
Night of the Living Dead started it all, Dawn of the Dead perfected it and Day of the Dead, well, was not the best effort but a lot better than most imitations. A fourth film, twenty odd years after the last, was bound to pale in comparison to its predecessors but it was still something to get excited about. And it is.
Romero uses his creation as a vehicle for social satire, this time focusing
on issues of class. The plot which supports this class commentary is thin--nothing as well thought out as Dawn of the Dead and nothing as fresh as the original. Still, the film manages to make its points and offer some damn disgusting moments. Zombies are used as target practice, as novelty, and as a mixed-up metaphor for social revolution. There is something here meaty enough to sink one's teeth into, but ultimately this works best as a gore-fest. And it is gory. Lots of zombie heads go splat. Lots of zombies rip the flesh from human bones. A girl's bellybutton piercing gets ripped from her stomach by the teeth of the undead. Yes, vintage Romero. And this time around the zombies have begun to think. Is there anything as frightening as zombies with the ability to operate weapons?
All things considered, there was no way I or any Dawn of the Dead geek would rank this anywhere near that masterpiece. And it is hard not to compare it to those earlier films, much the way one has to compare all the Star Wars films to each other. Ignoring the other movies becomes damn near impossible and as a result, Land of the Dead feels as though it is lacking something. Perhaps I was most upset when no one died that wasn't supposed to. Part of the effectiveness of the earlier films was the idea that any of the heroes might get bitten at any moment. I never expected any of the good guys to get devoured, even Asia Argento who, hot though she may be, was completely superfluous in this film.
I suppose waiting 20 years, and suffering through some abominable zombie films (that last Resident Evil movie was worse than anything I've ever seen), made me hunger for a tasty bit of classic Romero. Well, it tried and it was pretty agreeable fare. To be sure, this is not a terrible film. If George feels like resurfacing every once and again and giving us something like Land of the Dead, I won't complain. His best work is surely behind him, but that is no reason why he should stop making enjoyable, gory films to satisfy zombie geeks. I prefer them to another George's movies; at least Romero knows a bit about directing and writing.