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DVD Review

DVD cover

Land of the Dead (2005)
(2021 Reissue)


Starring: Simon Baker, Dennis Hopper, Asia Argento and Robert Joy
Distributor: Fabulous Films Ltd / Fremantle Media Enterprises
RRP: £12.99
Certificate: 18
Release Date: 15 February 2021

George A Romero has used his loosely connected series of zombie movies for social commentary, gags and gore. Land of the Dead (2005. 1 hr, 32 min, 52 sec) is the fourth in the series.

The zombie apocalypse has been let loose on the world, but even so, pockets of humanity remain. In Pittsburgh, the human population is protected by three rivers and an electric fence. Pittsburgh has been turned into a feudal society, where the rich remain in glass towers, enjoying a lifestyle no different to the one they enjoyed before. This tower of wealth is ruled over by Paul Kaufman.

Below the general population live in relative squalor eking out a subsistence living by scouring the surrounding towns for supplies that they can sell.

One such scavenger is Riley Denbo, who is also the designer of the Dead Reckoning, the only vehicle which can traverse the zombie-infested countryside.

Denbo (Simon Baker) is unhappy about life in Pittsburgh and wants to leave, especially when a young man is attacked and killed on his last run due to the negligence of his number two, Cholo (John Leguizamo).

On his return to the city, he discovers that his car is gone and that Cholo has stolen the Dead Reckoning over a dispute with Kaufman (Dennis Hopper). Kaufman gives Denbo a mission to retrieve the Dead Reckoning and kill Cholo…

The main protagonist of the film is Big Daddy (Eugene Clark), although he is not named in the film. He is the first of the more evolved Zombies we meet and goes on to lead a zombie army against Pittsburgh. The dynamic here is very reminiscent of I am Legend. You’re expecting to see a film about a bunch of heroes taking on the dead and winning.

What you also get is the Zombies perspective. Clark howls with rage as the humans storm through the town like barbarians indiscriminately killing any zombie, whether they were a threat or not. Through his prosthetics, you can see his growing anger at the violence being metered out. You also see his capacity to learn, as he quickly masters using a machine gun. He is not the only one, as the film progresses, the rest of the hoard appear to begin to become more intelligent.

This creates an interesting dynamic in the film. You can root for the Zombies, you can even root for the populous that is sent out to confront them. The real villains of the film are the rich in their ivory tower preying on both humans and zombies alike, Romero’s indictment on the George Bush-era America.

By this point the films were getting bigger budgets, admittedly not Hollywood levels, but still not chump change. Land of the Dead cost around fifteen to nineteen million to make and brought a healthy return of a little over forty-nine million. The extra money shows on the screen, both the special effects and prosthetic work holds up well today, hardly dating at all.

Bigger budgets meant better actors as well. Baker as Denbo makes for a good leading man and our invitation into the story. We see his disgust not only over how Pittsburgh had changed but over how humanity has become brutalised. He even shows sympathy for the dead by the end of the film. Hopper puts in a suitably subdued performance as Kaufman, who he portrays as immoral, but not over the top crazy, like many of his other roles.

Being a Romero film and one of the best of his Zombie films, Land of the Dead contains all the elements you would expect. You can come for the social commentary, be thrilled by the action sequences or be a little sick in your mouth from the over the top gory special effects. This is the R rated uncut version. There is a tamer version, but this is not it.

In the end, Romero, once again shows he is the master of his genre as well as a great filmmaker.

The disc is pretty well packed with extras, starting with a full-length commentary with director George Romero, producer Peter Grunwald and editor Michael Doherty. There is the option for English subtitles throughout.

Undead Again: The Making of Land of the Dead (12 min, 56 sec) with behind-the-scenes material as well as lots of talking heads of cast and crew saying nice things about George. There is also George talking to the camera.

A Day with the Living (7 min, 34 sec) is a tour behind the scenes, hosted by John Leguizamo, which offers a whistle-stop look at the film’s creation.

Bringing the Dead to Life (9 min, 31 sec) looks at the creation of the zombies with Greg Nicotero.

The Remaining Bits (2 min, 56 sec) are small scenes cut from the film.

When Shaun met George (13 min) Edger Wright and Simon Pegg travel to Canada to do their zombie cameos in the film. Can you spot it, I didn’t?

Scenes of Carnage (1 min, 43 sec), a montage of the goriest bits, set to a 'Requiem'.

Zombie Effects: from green screen to finished scene (3 min, 18 sec) showing some of the green screen work.

Bringing the Storyboards to Life (7 min, 55 sec) shows a comparison between the original storyboards and the finished film.

Scream Tests: Zombie Casting Call (1 min, 04 sec) is an animated zombie dance routine.


Charles Packer

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