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Comics 101 for 06/30/2005
Movie Review - George Romero's Land of the Dead
This week's feature contains spoilers in my review, so check it out in the theatre first and then come back to Comics 101 and read my thoughts on this movie. In short, I thoroughly enjoyed it. It's a solid film and if you are a horror movie fan you should enjoy this flick too!Zombies seem to be popping up, or rather rising up, left and right at the local cinema these days. 2003's highly enjoyable and frightening 28 Days Later from Danny Boyle really kicked off the 'New Zombie Revolution' in high gear with speedy zombies no less. In the months since we've had a revoltingly rancid renaissance of horror flicks featuring our favorite kind of mindless monster from the superb Dawn of the Dead remake and even Shaun of the Dead. But for every movie of their caliber we get sucker punched with another lackluster Resident Evil or House of the Dead.
Fianlly, we've come full circle with the fourth entry in George Romero's (the man who invented the genre) 'Dead' franchise, Land of the Dead starring Dennis Hopper and John Leguizamo playing right now at a theatre near you.
I like it when horror movies make me think, but I think I like it when they scare me even more. If they can balance both equally, then I'm not sure if it can be defined as a just scary movie, it becomes something better and different. Romero's style and storytelling is capable of this so I'm glad I'm familiar with and enjoy his previous movies. That fact allowed me to second guess some of the initial reaction and problems I had with the Land of the Dead simply because most modern action/horror films usually hit you square in the chest like a train at 200 mph. But upon reflection I realized this was old school Romero, a horror movie that actually had subtlety.
The usual Romero social commentary is there on different levels which is intriguing to analyze and allows the material to rise above the usual horror dreck. What it may be lacking in superior action set pieces, hyper editing and drawn out character displays and interactions, it makes up for in its message and overall depth and vision. It's somewhat comparable in its allegory to 28 Days Later, not a 'true' zombie movie I know but a horror film I really liked regardless.
I'd give Romero's Land of the Dead movie a solid 7 on the 1-10 Zombie scale. Not as scary as Night of the Living Dead but just as timely and socially conscious. It's as epic as Dawn of the Dead but with even better effects. It's definitely filled with more scares than Day of the Dead with better acting and visual style as well.
On just 'scary movie' terms, in comparison to the recent Dawn of the Dead remake, which I would give a solid 7 as well, I actually felt for the characters there more. They felt more real and human to me than the more comic book type characters of Land of the Dead (Dennis Hopper for example, that Pillsbury solider guy, etc). I think because of the fact that I enjoyed and bonded with the Dawn remake characters more, the movie genuinely scared me more often than Land.
My thinking is that Romero wanted us to identify and feel more for the zombies and their plight this time around, as opposed to the outnumbered humans, which would be a tough sell to any typical audience member. I enjoyed how he utilized the lead zombie, Big Daddy, it's just hard to empathize with something as frightening and scary as a seven foot tall zombie who looks like he could bite your head off with his teeth. He was more successful with this idea, which he laid the ground work for in Day of the Dead, with the character of Bub. Something about the makeup and acting there helped allow for the necessary empathy from the viewer to rally for the monsters.
Though, successful or not, I did admire Romero's efforts to take the motif to the next level in this one and even have it end on a positive note for once which is usally uncommon in his apocalyptic films. The 'skyflowers' were a nice end note as a symbol for hope and another chance at a new beginning (not just for the characters in the film but as a reminder for today's America as well) but the Dawn remake also built to a better, satisfactory climaxe overall and had a more palpable sense of dread like the original. But Land is still a solid and entertaining horror movie on par with some of the recent entries of the genre. It proves Romero can still stand shoulder to shoulder with today's new visionary storytellers. He is the original innovator afterall. This film had heart, style, vision, solid acting, great, dark humor (like any good horror movie should) and to top it off John Legui-Zombie. You can't really beat that.
Do yourself a favor this weekend and check out Land of the Dead. Not only is Romero back and in true, undead form, you'll be supporting a maverick film maker who could potentially provide us with plenty more great entertainment long before his career is over. Even if you can't stomach the gore (and this movie does relish in it's gore) or identify with his message, there's at least plenty of Asia Argento to tide you over.
And remember, screaming, zombie Hell comes to YOU!
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