Zombies of the World, Unite

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As it appears to be dying at the box office, I'd like to give two fleshless, mouldy, ghoul-eaten thumbs way up for George Romero's Land of the Dead, which exceeded all my expectations—and I had fairly high expectations. Why is it failing? More about that in a moment, but here's a mini-review.

After several years of flashy, fast-moving, MTV-ready zombies in variable-film-stock extravaganzas like 28 Days Later and the remade Dawn of the Dead, Romero the classicist knocks all the young punks into a cocked hat. This is a straightforward Howard Hawks movie, with group dynamics, colorful sidekicks and an insider shoutout to Sergeant York, of all things.

Land's highly professional sheen has in fact put off some zombie movie fans, who complain that the movie's too formulaic (read "too entertaining"). But in my experience zombie zealots are notoriously hard to please: In a year or so they'll all be claiming they loved this movie the first time they saw it. With good-to-excellent performances all around (including Dennis Hopper's first strong work in at least a decade) and full contemporary polish and special effects, this is the perfect blend of a Romero picture and a professional Hollywood production—a marriage I wouldn't have thought possible.

Land manages to wring a wealth of imaginative and memorable imagery even out of that most familiar screen event—the inevitable cannibal holocaust when the zombies break in. If you thought the original Dawn was the last word in funny and horrific zombie stuff, this one pulls out a whole new bag of tricks. How is it that a director this energetic and inventive has barely worked in the last ten years? While it's not really scary in any particular scene, Land is full of disturbing implications and fully imagined creepiness; the many ways the humans have figured out to use the zombies for sport and entertainment (I refuse to ruin these gags for potential viewers) set a new standard for laughs that stick in your throat. The zombies are full of suprises without ever breaking from Romero's slow-and-stupid tradition, and in the movie's cleverest inversion, the obligatory righteous black man is now a zombie himself (and no less sympathetic for the change). Fans, fear not: Though the Tom Savini cameo is brief, it's unmistakable.

All the usual paradoxes of zombie logic apply: If you're a continuity stickler you will certainly be troubled by the way a certain group of zombies seems to appear in widely separate locations within a short period of time. There's still no explanation for why the zombies don't continue to decompose—if there's something in the zombification process that arrests decomposition, why do they smell? (Also, why don't the humans ever smell zombies who are sneaking up behind them?) If the zombies don't breath (an important plot device), how are they able to howl, grunt, play brass instruments, etc? Why, considering that the already-dead are the worst recruiting pool imaginable, are there so many able-bodied zombies, with no disabilities and no apparent causes of death? And a question that goes back to the original film: Considering that there are more people alive now than have ever lived, shouldn't it have been the zombies who were hopelessly outnumbered from day one? I give a pass on all these questions: Romero has always been shrewd in refusing to pin down specifics about the causes and effects of zombiedom. (He's the opposite of Lucas in that all the extrapolation on his fictional world has been done by the fans rather than by the creator.)

Reason readers may take exception to the politics, which continue the Romero tradition of spoofing consumerism and capitalist excess. Like all Marxist readings, this one can be taken as a libertarian reading with virtually no changes, but if you're going to stick with authorial intent, you have to be content with some strong though not doctrinaire lefty politics. I say if you're going to do an anti-market screed, this is the way to do it. The film draws on a Metropolis-style dichotomy of proles-vs-patricians, indirect allusions to post-9/11 paranoia (more artfully done than in the new War of the Worlds), and even a Baffler-style critique of cultural rebels as dupes or willing servants of the capitalist "culture trust" (one hipster girl gets her belly ring bitten out by a zombie, and Hopper's performance as the big-business villain subtly implies that the character is a former hippie). I have to admit, Land of the Dead reminded me of how invigorating full-throated lefty agitprop can be in an entertaining movie.

Then again, if any man has reason to question the wisdom of the free market, it's Romero. He's done everything the right way—produced highly lucrative properties on tiny budgets, made all his pictures with non-union labor, carefully crafted his movies to chime with the prevailing national mood (the script of this one feels like it was written last week), attracted both a fanatical fan base and a mainstream following (is there anybody who hasn't seen and remembered at least one of the Dead movies?). But he's never gotten anywhere near the rewards he's deserved. He got ripped off by the distributor on Night of the Living Dead and saw none of that picture's vast profits. His movies have been repeatedly dumped on the market. Fascinating projects like Martin have disappeared completely.

And now, Universal gives Land of the Dead one of the most incompetent openings in movie history. They limited it to Thursday press screenings—a no-confidence vote just slightly above no press screenings at all. They've scrimped on ads to the point that several times this week I've recommended the movie to people—fans of the genre, even—who weren't aware it was playing. How is it that if you say this film is the latest entry in "George A. Romero's legendary Living Dead series," everybody in America understands you're referring to an iconic, hugely entertaining, enormously influential piece of American popular art—everybody except the minds at Universal, who are treating this movie as if it's the latest entry in the PuppetMaster series? Did they blow this season's promotional budget on cinemasominex like Cinderalla Man and The Perfect Man? Are they afraid they'll be seen as attacking American values? (Certainly the proliferation of zombie pictures in the last few years can't be a sign of a happy society.) If you can't make money on a zombie picture by the man who invented the zombie genre, can you make money on anything?

I hold out hope that the Living Dead pictures are too idiosyncratic to be pinned down to something as simple as an opening weekend take. Maybe Land of the Dead will turn out to be a surprise red-state hit like The Passion of the Christ. But at this rate you can't count on this movie to be in theaters much longer, and you should definitely see it on the big screen. Run, don't walk, and above all don't shamble mindlessly, down to your multiplex and take a bite out of Land of the Dead.

NEXT: Misuse Windshield Wipers, Go to Jail

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  1. Ah yes, no movie review is complete these days without a gratuitous, inaccurate slam on George Lucas/Star Wars….

  2. Tim- thanks for the review. Romero has been more or less hosed over the years, and I think a lot of his films tend to reflect his feelings about it.
    Bruiser was certainly that way.

    Personally, I think a lot of his social commentary tends to come across as a bit ham-handed at times.

    Still, I look forward to seeing this one.

  3. I hope there’s a scene where a zombie gives a wooden, emotionless performance of yelling “NOOOOOOOOO!”

  4. Where’s the inaccuracy, SR?

  5. is there anybody who hasn’t seen and remembered at least one of the Dead movies?

    I haven’t.

  6. Where’s the inaccuracy, SR?

    Where’s the slam? Lucas has put a lot of effort into fleshing out his back story and Romero hasn’t. How is that garden variety observation an insult?

  7. Blog entries like this explains why I waste lots of office time reading Hit & Run posts. Zombies rock. Thanks guys.

    Couldn’t one make the libertarian argument that the hero of the film wants to flee all organized government and society to live on his own, a free man? Sounds Reasonable to me.

    Land of the Dead is very good, but nothing beats the scene in Dawn of the Dead where the SWAT cop explodes a slum-dweller’s head with a shotgun. Massive explosion. Ah, the memories.

  8. That “wooden, emotionless performance of yelling “NOOOOOOOOO!” was the only truly entertaining part of the new Star Wars film!! Don’t slam it!

    I burst out in hysterical laughter at that moment in the theater (yes, I paid to see that movie. I was born and bred on Star Wars)

    Regarding the new Romero flick: Sorry, but it sucked too. Didn’t even get one hearty laugh out of it, sorry to say. I don’t believe that a “blend of a Romero picture and a professional Hollywood production” was a good idea in the least.

    What’s with the movie-making size-queenism going on? Either new improved monsters or an increased quantity of monsters (Last Matrix for example… The quantity of those men in black guys was, um, extreme overkill and sapped any interest out of those scenes)?
    Sorry this isn’t a very orderly comment, but I’m at work and have no time for editing… 🙂

  9. I’ve never seen one of the Living Dead movies either, but the whole zombie genre just creeps me the f— out. I was pretty much having nightmares from the ads for the Dawn of the Dead remake last year.

  10. Land of the Dead was terrible. There was no character development. For god’s sake they even made Asia Argento flat and unappealing. For a zombie movie to work you have to actually care whether the humans live or die.

    SPOILER—-
    The end scene where the hero says “Let’s not kill all the zombies with our kick ass rockets, they are only looking for somewhere to go” is unforgivable zombie movie sacrilege. Barf.

  11. “He got ripped off by the distributor on Night of the Living Dead and saw none of that picture’s vast profits.”

    If Romero is such and anti-capitalist, then why should he be upset that he did not reap the vasts profits? He got to produce his art, and thankfully he did not receive money which would have corrupted him in the process.

    If Romero has such a Marxist bent (maybe he does not), then he should have nothing to complain about. Profits are not something to be desired. If he truly is tired of getting ripped off, then perhaps he should get over his loathing of businessmen, and hire one to represent his interests.

    Sorry, I know this may a bit snarky and troll-like, but I find the inconsistency jarring, and Marxists annoy me. Obviously I enjoyed the post enough to comment on it. 😛

  12. NathanB: OMG!! I FORGOT that Asia Argento was even IN the movie!!!

  13. I love zombies, but I’m bored by zombie films. There is nothing new left. The plot of every zombie file:

    1. a handful of people hold up in some make-shift protected area
    2. zombies are held at bay, temporary peace
    3. zombies eventually break in
    4. people fear into the wild, leaving the audience to feel both fear and a sort of excite from the new found Wild West/frontier freedom

    For answers to all your zombie questions, I HIGHLY recommend Max Brooks’ book “The Zombie Survival Guide: Complete Protection from the Living Dead”. Max Brooks is a writer on Saturday Night Live and he is son of Mel Brooks, but don’t hold those things against him. The Zombie Survival Guide tells you how best to fight zombies and build a safe fortress. Sort of like the Anarchist Cookbook for the Zombie Age.

    In fact, the sales dude at my local bookstore said the bouncer at the neighboring bar bought the Anarchist Cookbook and the Zombie Survival Guide. The next day, the bouncer returned the Anarchist Cookbook because “The Zombie Survival Guide was much more informative!”

  14. From the “Zombie Survival Guide”: Top 10 Lessons for Surviving a Zombie Attack

    1. Organize before they rise!
    2. They feel no fear, why should you?
    3. Use your head: cut off theirs.
    4. Blades don’t need reloading.
    5. Ideal protection = tight clothes, short hair.
    6. Get up the staircase, then destroy it.
    7. Get out of the car, get onto the bike.
    8. Keep moving, keep low, keep quiet, keep alert!
    9. No place is safe, only safer.
    10. The zombie may be gone, but the threat lives on.

  15. “Profits are not something to be desired.”

    Marxists aren’t too keen on bosses profiting from the labor of the exploited working classes.

  16. I didn’t read it as anti-capitalist as much as pro-innovation – the survivors are those who adapt with the times and shift with changing conditions, applying old technology in new and creative ways, and the victims are those who try desperately to hold on to the old values and methods of getting things done whether or not it’s appropriate to do so.

  17. …and now that i think of it, that’s true of the zombies as well as the humans.

  18. Thank you for mentioning Martin…one of the most interesting and “realistic” vampire movies ever…one of the few movies that seems to get scarier after you’ve seen it…

  19. Couldn’t one make the libertarian argument that the hero of the film wants to flee all organized government and society to live on his own, a free man? Sounds Reasonable to me.

    Noted in the post, and you’ll be proud to know I made exactly this argument after seeing the movie: Hopper isn’t about business but about state monopoly on violence. Leguizamo and his gang are the real free traders, and the guy who gets killed on Chollo’s booze-looting trip knew the risks and accepted them. If they’re selling scotch for $1,500, well, that’s the value the society has put on scotch. And so on. And of course the hero’s revelation that even in a world overrun by zombies you can’t live behind barricades is all about the freedom. But going too much into the politics of these things is a mug’s game. I don’t think Romero is a doctrinaire leftist; he may not be a leftist at all for all I know.

    Regarding the new Romero flick: Sorry, but it sucked too. Didn’t even get one hearty laugh out of it, sorry to say. I don’t believe that a “blend of a Romero picture and a professional Hollywood production” was a good idea in the least.

    and

    Land of the Dead was terrible. There was no character development. For god’s sake they even made Asia Argento flat and unappealing. For a zombie movie to work you have to actually care whether the humans live or die.

    Like I said, in a year you’ll both be claiming you loved this movie from the git-go. Unfortunately for you, the Hit and Run comments are as deathless as the zombies.

    I love zombies, but I’m bored by zombie films. There is nothing new left. The plot of every zombie file:

    Undoubtedly true. I thought LOD worked a lot of interesting stuff into that very familiar framework, and there’s no crime in the creator of the genre revisiting the form. It certainly had more going on than 28 Days Later, which once you take out the strobing and the overcranking, added little to the zombie literature. I suspect the valedictory line that irked NathanB was kind of an admission that the genre is now closed out, which is why it didn’t bother me the way it bothered NathanB.

  20. Longest. Blog. Entry. Ever.

    I quit after the first paragraph. No movie needs more than one paragraph to discuss it.

  21. Considering that there are more people alive now than have ever lived

    .. not true .. see

    http://www.snopes.com/science/stats/dead.htm

    .. “Any statement about the number of people who have died since time began is, of course, a rough estimate, and the answer is also largely dependent upon our definition of when “time began.” Estimates for the number of people who have died since the pyramids were built (i.e., about 5,000 years ago) are around 6 billion, which is fairly close to the current world population. But if we consider modern humans to have emerged around 40,000 to 45,000 years ago, estimates about the number of dead in human history vary widely ? anywhere from 12 billion to up to 110 billion. However, most demographers peg the number of dead at approximately 60 billion, which means that there are several dead ancestors for each one of us, and we’re not likely to catch up for a long, long time ? if ever.”

    .. Hobbit

  22. To answer Tim’s question first, I saw it as a slam because Romero is described as “shrewd” followed by the observation that Romero is the “opposite of Lucas”, which strongly implies Lucas is not shrewd. While there are many legitmate criticisms that can be made of Lucas, including whether or not he is shrewd, I just get tired of film critics who think that by writing the equivalent of “Star Warz is teh suXXor!!! LOL!!!11!!1!” in a film review that otherwise has nothing to do with Star Wars, Lucas, space opera, or even science fiction blockbusters, they are making a rigorous and trenchant analysis of modern American cinema.

    If I misread your meaning, Tim, I duly apologize.

    To answer Jesse’s question, the inaccuracy is that fans have always played a major role in promoting and fleshing out the greater Star Wars universe. I would ask you to examine the incredible body of fan films that have been put together over the last decade as just one example of fan efforts to explore the Star Wars universe beyond that portrayed in official LFL materials. (See, e.g., T.R.O.O.P.S..)

  23. The zombies in this one were not runners like in the DOTD remake or 28 days (I know, not technically zombies) but they did seem to walk pretty fast, just kind of stiffly. I’ve also always wondered why the zombies don’t finally lose energy, they never seem to stop and relax so they must always be moving, and if energy can be neither created nor destroyed, where are the zombies getting this energy to constantly walk around?
    And…(possible spoilers ahead, I guess)

    Was it me or was the triangle not that well protected? Two rivers and an electric fence, that was it. Maybe I have the benefit of having seen zombie movies, but I figured that once they set up a perimeter they might go and try to reinforce it, like maybe building walls along the rivers, a wall behind the electric fence perhaps, anyway those were my comments.

  24. I didn’t ask for my money back, which I’ve been known to do, but I don’t think I’ll be embarrassed lookin’ back at the comments and seein’ that I gave Land of the Dead a so-so.

    By the way, my favorite Zombie film is Return of the Living Dead. Given numerous attempts, Romero never out-produced a 1985 homage to Romero!

    …That would drive me to drink.

  25. Hell, I nearly became undead myself trying to get to the end of Tim’s treatise.

  26. Interesting, Hobbit. I figured that was a bogus statistic, but everybody seems to cite it so I thought it would be fair game. In practical terms-ie, zombie-fighting terms, the only terms that matter-the living still obviously have the numbers on their side. Almost all the stiffs you mentioned would have turned completely to dust and thus be useless as zombies. Let’s presume that modern embalming techniques have preserved a lot of 20th-century corpses beyond their shelf dates: The world population only reached two billion in 1927, and reached six billion just a few years ago. That’s six billion fresh living bodies. Granted, many of those living-very small children, very old retirees-won’t be in fighting trim, but the point is that even the best of the already dead will be in worse shape than almost any living human. So at the very best they might be able to field about two billion bodies, virtually none of which would be any good in even a mano-a-mano fight, let alone one where the living have every advantage in weaponry, smarts and speed. So we’re already starting out with a three-to-one numerical advantage against an enemy that’s feeble, dumb, and almost totally vulnerable. Let’s give the zombies a head start by saying many people will get bitten and become serviceable zombies themselves-that’s still not likely to be a large number since we would all resist being bitten even by live people under any circumstances. But let’s say there’s a certain number of people who get turned by former loved ones, suprise attacks, etc. At most, what could the zombies turn-maybe 20 percent? That’s still not getting them to the numbers they need. Now they’ve got three billion to our five. A grim scenario, but if another famous (possibly apocryphal) statistic, that there’s a handgun for every man, woman, and child on earth is even remotely accurate, the zombies are still not getting anywhere. Beyond that, the phenomenon of people turning is naturally self-limiting, since the zombies’ preference is to devour the entire corpse rather than increase their own numbers. And the conversions would be entirely limited to the early stages of the battle. Once living people got wise, the zombies couldn’t land their teeth on anybody.

    So I’ve given the zombies a bigger head start than they probably could get, and rounded up their numbers at every turn, and we’re still not close to zombie domination. I know this is no time to turn bearish on the living dead, but I think they’re going nowhere.

  27. Chris,

    Try Return of the Living Dead. It’s, uh, a little different, at least.

  28. Just a point to clarify: Romero isn’t anti-capitalist, pro-Marxist. He’s anti-rampant capitalism, anti-screw everybody in the name of profits, and judging by much of his past work very pro-keep the government’s nose out of my life.

  29. The reasons zombies are so prolific is because they’re not just the dead returned to life. If a zombie bites you, you become a zombie. The Living Dead movies mention that people are somehow “attached” to the dead that then rise up and get them. People become zombies because of shear stupidity.

    (I need to get out more…)

  30. Well, it seems to me that the natural environment for a zombie flick is a drive-in theater. Maybe if there more of those still around, Romero’s flick would be doing better at the box office.

  31. (I’m about to show just what a huge dork I really am…)

    Tim- the problem is that most people would be caught unaware. Even though statistically there’s around 1 firearm for every person in the USA, the assumption is that they’re evenly spread out. This would be pretty much untrue, most people don’t actually own guns (somwhere around 40% in the entire country) which means that the firearms are owned by a minority of people.

    On top of that, employing a firearm against the living dead takes a certain amount of proficiency. In order to kill a zombie, only head shots count, which means that you have to be able to hit a moving target roughly the diameter of a paper plate every time.

    For the old-school shambling zombies that’s not too difficult of a feat for a semi-proficient shooter at close range, until there’s a crowd of the undead. At which point you better hope that you know how to reload really quick.

    You don’t want to get into a fist fight with a zombie, or use a blade because the chance of getting bitten is much higher, and once you’re bitten you’re hosed.

    The other big problem is that the zombie infection will spread exponentially, or semi-exponentially, assuming that most human victims aren’t caught by a group and completely consumed.

    Zombie Infection Simulator

    On a side note, I really liked Max Brooks’ book. It’s very well done, except for his gun stuff, he doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

  32. It will be interesting to see how LotD stacks up against “Shaun of the Dead,” which I enjoyed very much, more than any other zombie movie in memory since “Dawn…” As an extra perk, I am told that the stars of “Shaun” cameo as zombies in “Land.” Sweet!

  33. That Zombie Infection Simulator presumes that every human who comes in contact with a zombie will be turned. That might work in the 28 Days Later universe, but in the Romero universe it’s absurd to think that if you put one zombie in a room with fifty humans, you’ll end up with 51 zombies. I’m sorry, but any model you make using the Romero pattern, the humans win every time.

  34. Saw “Land of the Dead” in downtown Denver just last Tuesday. I really enjoyed the film, myself. But my considerabley younger and drunk friend left the theater complaining of how the film lacked something. I discounted his gripe when he stumbled on his face while we walked the 16th Street Mall. For one, the film shows how people made innovations in anti-zombie hardware. This is a must. They discover zombies are facinated by fireworks and that this can be used to distract them. Neat little details like this make the story very enjoyable. The big Samoan guy is great, too. I recognized the main character from the TV drama “The Guardian.” Congrats on a real role, dude. Ha ha ha!

    Anyway, I’m a big fan of “NOTLD” and “Dawn…Dead” but “Day of the Dead” was pretty much crap. Only good part in that is when the guy’s voicebox gets ripped out as he screams. The rest? Feh.

  35. By the way, I have a lot of respect for the original.

    The first bit with the girl in the graveyard and zombie number one…

    …Great sequence. Pure gold.

  36. Zombies live among us we only know them as politicians and government employees.

    As far as zombie picks go night of the living dead has nothign on Evil Dead, Evil Dead II, and Army of Darkness.

    The one liners are classic:
    “It got into my hand and it went bad”
    “So I lopped it off at the wrist.”

    “This is my boom-stick”
    “Shop smart shop S-Mart”
    “That was just pillow talk baby”
    “Shut up she-bitch”

  37. Ash – “Here’s your new home.” is also great, especially when he puts A Farewell to Arms on top of the bucket.

    I loved Return of the Living Dead. Saw it a bunch of times. Even saw it in Spain once. My then-girlfriend cracked up. “Cerebros”, the zombies would say. It just means brains, but for some reason she found it highly amusing…

  38. James Anderson Merritt,

    For what it’s worth, my daughter tells me that the going to work sequence in Shaun of the Dead is based on a sketch in one of the first six Monty Python shows.

  39. Anybody ever see a musical parody from the seventies called Night Of The Dawn Of The Dead, or did I just dream it (I’m a little fuzzy on that decade)…

  40. Was it me or was the triangle not that well protected? Two rivers and an electric fence, that was it. Maybe I have the benefit of having seen zombie movies, but I figured that once they set up a perimeter they might go and try to reinforce it, like maybe building walls along the rivers, a wall behind the electric fence perhaps, anyway those were my comments.

    Too true! And by the way, where are the neocons, or just the old-fashioned hawks, of the post-zombie world? After four failed efforts to keep the zombies at bay by barricading a group of bickering humans in a small area, isn’t it clear by now that we need a forward strategy of anti-zombieism? Starting with air power-screw driving Dead Reckoning up to Canada: Drive it to Willow Grove Air Base and start turning the tide from above.

  41. W/r/t the questions of how the dead end up with numerical superiority: In all four of the Romero Dead films, much of the point is how humans turn on each other through the Dead crisis. In Dawn, for example, much of the killing is human-on-human violence, thereby creating more recruits for the armies of the dead. So while a 1 zombie/50 humans room might not end up as 51 zombies, a 10 zombies/20 humans room would, because 10 of the humans would kill the other 10, and then get overwhelmed by the now-20-zombies.

    Also, let’s not misrepresent Romero’s politics—he’s an old-fashioned anti-authoritarian lefty, not a Marxist (he’s got none of Marxism’s romance with state power). He doesn’t hate the rich because they’re rich, he hates them because they’re powerful.

    Glad to see Martin got a shout-out above, but the Romero movie that should really be of interest to Reason readers is The Crazies—a terrific portrait of how a well-meaning military operations can go terribly awry under the pressures of bureaucracy (not to mention the complications of rural gun ownership).

  42. Roger: It’s…Season One, Episode 6, “The Dull Life of a City Stockbroker” sketch. Definitely an influence on Shaun.

  43. Evil Dead II was a fun film, and I thought of it for my list and then dismissed it as unqualified. …It’s a demon possession film, not a zombie film per se.

    Army of Darkness may have a moment or two–maybe even a sequence or two. …But taken in its entirety, the film was sheer crap. …and as for one liners, I’ll take, “Brains! …More Brains!” and “Send more cops!” over anything in Army of Darkness.

  44. Land was really two movies. The first was a zombie movie, which was clever, funny, fun, and a respectable cultural satire. The second was about Dead Reckoning, and was a formulaic and uninspiring action/thriller filled with forgettable characters, plot holes, and a plot that kept stalling and required random injections of zombie to maintain itself.

  45. Shaun of the Dead actually had a good solution for the slow-zombie numbers problem: the ‘zombie disease’ affected the vast majority of the population, killing and converting them into zombiehood. Of course, even with this advantage once the machine-gun equipped army got involved the zombies were whipped.

  46. The best zombie movie I’ve seen is “Night of the Comet.” Pure 80’s cheese. High hair, valley girls, over-the-top acting by soap opera “stars,” “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” and other classy 80’s tunes booming in the backround virtually the entire 90 minutes…what’s not to love?

  47. “Daddy would have gotten us Uzi’s.”

    😀

  48. I don’t know about the new movie. I mean, there were some parts that were definitely funny, and I do like the idea of a semi-prosperous society existing in the midst of zombie hell. Incidentally, this article contains spoilers.

    My beef was more about the “zombies are people too” attitude that the movie took, particularly at the very end. Notice that the big black zombie never does much more than lead his fellow zombie brethren against those horrible humans. You certainly never see him eating people. If we did, we might lose empathy for the zombie that cries out in pain when his buddies die. Poor guys. All they want is to eat people. Is that so wrong?

    My other beef is that the zombies seem to develop personalities and abilities over time. Part of the archetypical horror of the zombie movie is that once normal, nice people become zombies, they lose their personalities and get sucked into the big people-eating collective urge. It’s scary because you realize that if you get turned, you would become one of ‘them.’ Now, there’s just a sense that if you get turned, well, you’ll still kinda be you in zombie form, and you’ll sorta get better. If they’d limited the zombies to mindlessly performing routines that they used to, that would be creepy. But the longer that they go on, the more intelligent they seem to become. How long before they start designing buildings and writing plays? For me, that was the movie’s biggest mistake.

    And as for bashing 28 Days Later, I would argue that it returned something to the zombie genre. It actually had times when it was scary and not just campy. Since the original NoLD and arguably DoD, when did zombie flicks actually manage that?

    All that said, I thought that LoD was alright. I liked the fireworks idea, and as I said, a safe semi-normal city managing to exist was overdue, I thought. The characters weren’t all that bad. The big tower turning into a big buffet for the zombies was nice. And Dennis Hopper did a good job. The pro-freedom message of how barricades lock people in as well as cutting people out is positive. The film certainly exceeded my expectations, which weren’t particularly high in any case.

    But to laud it for its insightful social commentary is going a bit far. And why am I supposed to feel bad for John Leguizamo’s character? He was perfectly happy to dispose of bodies until he found out that he wasn’t going to get a real cut of the action, then he just threatens to kill a couple hundred people because he wants to get paid. “Leguizamo and his gang are the real free traders”? They’re thugs!

    And lastly, Tim, could you condescend a little more to those of us that like zombie flicks? Why don’t you tell me what other movies I’ll like in a year’s time. I’m curious. I’m perfectly willing to return in a year’s time to discuss my feelings on the movie, if you’d like to set a date.

    Anyway, I’ve ranted long enough. Enjoy.

  49. Spoilers:

    This is the conversation that lead to “Land of the Dead” being made:

    1- “A new George Romereo Zombie movie…”

    2- “Holy shit, he made the very first one! He can’t possibly make a crappy movie!!”

    1- “Exactly. Here’s the premise: Zombies everywhere”

    2- “Yeah, sounds good”

    1- “Its been a couple years since they first started rising from the dead. There are now more dead people than living”

    2- “Interesting”

    1- “We’ll show how people have managed to cope.”

    2- “Cool. Kind of like Road Warrior”

    1- “Except, a few years into it, the zombies start getting a bit smarter. They used to just mimic their former selves, but now they seem to actually have some limited reasoning power, and seem to have goals. The rules of the game are changing, and shit’s going to get out of hand.”

    2- “Excellent. Kind of like 28 Days Later – a twist on the typical Zombie-movie situation. Could be good. Real good.”

    1- “Yeah, exactly. And, so, um, there’s this guy, Dennis Hopper, who runs things. He runs a big skyscraper like a corporation-run city, and he’s a real greedy bad guy. The audience will really want to see him get his come-uppance.”

    2- “Cool! Dennis Hopper is sooo cool.”

    1- “Yeah, and there’s this other guy, he’s a good guy. He’s the white guy from that TV show, you know, the one you’ve never seen, but he looks familiar?”

    2- “Oh yeah, that guy’s good. Real good!”

    1- “He fights Zombies for city, and he has a retarded friend. Everyone in the movie is an excellent shot – they can run and shoot handguns, hitting zombies right in the head. But the retard, he’s a super-duper good shot. They save a girl from getting eaten – eaten by Zombies! So they’re a team now. And then there’s John Leguizamo… ”

    2- “Oh man, he’s GREAT!”

    1- “Yeah, and he’s another guy that fights zombies for the city. Except he likes to use a mini spear-gun, and he plays by his own rules. He’s a bad apple out for himself. He doesn’t like the familiar white guy from the TV show you’ve never seen. And there’s this big truck, kind of like a truck, kind of like a tank. It’s got all sorts of computers and rockets and guns. It belongs to Dennis Hopper, but John Leguizamo steals it, and tries to use it to attack the city, to get back at Dennis Hopper for being a dick. And the Dennis Hopper guy gets the white guy to go after the tank and get it back for him. Except the white guy has his own plans to use the tank to escape with his retard buddy and the girl, and go to Canada. Shit blows up, and zombies eat a bunch of people. At the end, Dennis Hopper gets blown up, and the white-guy and friends go to Canada. Along the way there’ll be some funny one liners, some shitty-ass writing, crappy special effects, lame characters no one cares about, boring interludes with no zombies, bad make-up, bad special effects, a plot no one cares about, shitty production value, inane situations (a guy on the lookout for zombies at night, who wears headphones playing loud music so he can’t hear anything until its too late), basically, there’s a steamin’-pile-of-doody feel to the whole thing along the way – the kind of movie you get halfway through and start wanting your money back…

    2- “Oh man, this could be the best movie ever made.”

  50. I think the reason that zombie movies are so popular is that most actors are so bad these days that can be outacted by the undead. Why pay lots of money for a big-name actor who is horrible at actually acting when you can just have lots of zombies shambling around.

  51. “My beef was more about the “zombies are people too” attitude that the movie took, particularly at the very end.”

    The idea that we’re no better than the zombies is central to every Romero zombie film, and considering that, the skyflowers idea was extremely effective.

  52. Good points. I made some comments on LOTD on my blog, here.

  53. Mr. Shultz hit it on the head. In the original “Night…” only one character, the wife, is actually killed by a zombie, and that was her own damn fault. The zombies are the twisted mirror. Alternet had a great interview with Romero last weekend. On a side note, ever since seeing NOTLD, I’ve never been able to live in a house without an attic. If you got an attic, you can wait out the zombie invasion, if not, you’re F’d.

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