Published Jul 01, 2005When Danny Boyle's 28 Days Later hit screens in 2002, it opened up a huge can of, well, zombies. Though Boyle may have tinkered with the zombie formula, it brought the horror sub-genre back to life and undead films have since become chic and daring. But now the master has returned. Nearly two decades after his last zombie feature, Romero is back to show how it's done. Kind of.
Land of the Dead is an anticipated film, staying true to the Romero blueprint. By mixing an ideal post-apocalyptic setting with the struggle for human survival, it gives us the scenario we've been waiting for: a world where the living are in the minority and the walking dead rule. Of course, zombies are mindless corpses and never posed a threat except with their bite, but Romero has chosen to give them an extreme makeover, allowing the dead to learn. This has caused a great disturbance between zombie fans; honestly though, it doesn't work.
Romero heads in an interesting direction, one that should be explored some day, but it feels rushed here, lacking the stark realisation from the humans that zombies can fight with weapons, which in turn strips it of its terror. The choice to include a zombie leader - gas station attendant Big Daddy - grows tiresome, as he constantly grunts and yells, showing that zombies would rather communicate and shoot guns than feast on guts.
Despite these blemishes, it's still a juicy no-brainer for horror fans. Dennis Hopper is a fine all-powerful-industrialist villain with some great one-liners, and the rest of the cast pull their weight (though John Leguizamo's services feel wasted). Romero may take some chances and fail in spots, but it stands nicely as the sequel to Day of the Dead.
Romero hasn't forget how to make his zombies look genuine, mix humour with some great looking gore and fit in a "hefty" social message. Best of all though, he recognises Canada as "a place of nothing" (aka a sanctuary). Obviously it's a thankful nod for letting him shoot the film in Ontario. (Universal)