Death, Dating, and Dexedrine.
Land of the Dead
George A. Romero
It’s been a long time since George Romero made a good movie. In fact, most would argue that it’s literally been an eternity, and I tend to agree. While I love some of his films dearly, I wouldn’t go so far as to suggest that any of them are actually good. Some of them are intelligent, some of them are creepy in an accidentally way, like when you watch a David Bowie video at 1 in the morning after having been up for two days solid, and some of them are Knightriders, which is simultaneously the best and the worst movie about motorcycle jousting I have ever seen. Romero scored a legendary horror hit with 1968’s Night of the Living Dead, and introduced the world to the non-voodoo zombie, an innovation akin to the birth of the romantic comedy and the invention of the Schick Quattro razor. Prior to that film, zombies were slow moving Haitians under the spell of either a houngan or Bela Lugosi, but afterwards, freed from the tyranny of servitude and powdered tetrodotoxin, they were finally able to wander around aimlessly and attack women running in high heels.
The rest of the films in the series followed the basic formula of the first, namely lots of over-the-top gore worthy of an early Peter Jackson film, ham-fisted social commentary stolen directly from 11th grade creative writing exercises, and apocalyptic endings. Land of the Dead does little to depart from this formula, sticking to the basics, and although it’s the weakest of the series, it has enough going for it to keep Romero fans happy. Granted, Romero fans are generally Romero fans because they dropped out of high school and vent their frustrations at pretty women and people with non-service industry jobs by imaging the world ending at the hands of cannibalistic hordes and poorly written dialogue, but that’s not important right now. What’s important is what made the zombies so terrifying in Romero’s early films, which was not their speed, savagery, or tendency to attack alongside loud music cues and bad MTV cutting, but rather the slow, inexorable and unavoidable progression in which they wipe out the human race. This is an element that I found lacking in Land of the Dead. Where the prior films showed a clear progression from a contained incident to the absolute destruction of society, this film has civilization rising from the ashes to a certain extent, which I found disappointing, though I suppose whether or not society survives this imaginary apocalypse, that cute girl from Videotron is still not going to sleep with me.
Aside from that, the film contains all the Romero landmarks, including a ridiculously obvious subtext, this time focusing on class struggle and commercialism, and terrible lines delivered by terrible actors, here led by John Leguizamo and Dennis Hopper, who has apparently reverted to his pre-rehab days as an actor who will do pretty much anything so long as it pays for yellow jackets and white lady. Tom Savini has a hilarious cameo as the zombie version of his character from Dawn of the Dead, or rather it would be hilarious if you haven’t fallen asleep already. The problem with the film is that, despite its strict adherence to the Romero formula, it’s not actually scary. The remake of Dawn of the Dead replaced intelligence with action, and 28 Days Later just cut all the boring bits out of Romero’s first three films and added a bunch of extras hopped up on Dexedrine. Land of the Dead is an intelligent film, at least comparably, but the smarts come at the expense of thrills, and sadly, intelligence is something wasted on guys with Evil Dead lunchboxes and unrequited crushes