Fri June 24, 2005
Land of the Dead
An enjoyably scary rehash.
By John DeSando, WCBE's "It's Movie Time"
Resurrection is the operative idea for all zombie films, both in the lore of the living dead and the recurrence of films in the genre. The master himself, George Romero, who started it all with his 1968 Night of the Living Dead, resurrects his original and its progeny with a modern version called Land of the Dead that includes jabs at corporations and class distinctions while still frightening the willing audience, who know quite well that these unfortunate zombies need to feed off human flesh to keep going: "They kill for one reason. They kill for food."
Land of the Dead joins the current satire of corporations whose chief officers pillage the coffers and leave the companies penniless while committing mayhem of various forms. In this case, an underplaying Dennis Hopper as Kaufman, the head of a ruling corporation with a tower just waiting to be breached by the increasingly more ingenious undead. The besieged city, looking like New York, enjoins a group of mercenaries to save them; the instrument of deliverance is Dead Reckoning, a tank-like monstrosity originally made by Kaufman but now ironically turned against him. The zombies, headed by a lug named Big Daddy (another of Romero's black avengers), still move slowly and dimwittedly, but more effectively than ever as they apparently have developed their reasoning power.
And so it goes--You can guess most of what happens. You should delight in Romero's contemporary references, such as Kaufman saying they "will not negotiate with terrorists," as well as the population being led blindly into war. In no way is this film the equal of the successful 28 Days Later (2002),an intelligent and scary story of survival by a small band who evade an HIV like virus that turns people into zombies. Land of the Dead also lacks the humor of the 2004 Shaun of the Dead, which is scary enough to make you pause before you go into the streets of London.
Land is an enjoyable rehash of all the other undead movies. The fact that the originator himself wrote and directed makes it worth seeing if only to witness the ingenuity with which an artist can resurrect even his most hackneyed ideas.
John DeSando teaches film at Franklin University and co-hosts WCBE's "It's Movie Time," which can be heard streaming at www.wcbe.org Fridays at 3:01 pm and 8:01 pm. Contact him at JDeSando@Columbus.RR.com.