Land Of The Dead – A Re-appraisal

So, I just watched Land Of The Dead after a gap of around 3 years. ..and you know what? I still like it. Let me break it down into timescales.

The Anticipation and Expectation

As a child of the 80s living in Britian, Dawn was the first Romero film I saw. This was due to being a kid, and videos becoming available in the early 80s. My parents were horror fans, and when video came to our shores we used to love going to the video shop, as a family, and picking up a couple of new films to watch of a weekend. Having only really seen UK and US studio films to date, needless to say our eyes were opened fucking wide by the surge of (mostly) Italian splatter zombie films that suddenly filled our screens. …and damn, did we love them 🙂

Not knowing the history and genesis of the series, we watched Day as a stand alone film. Oh my word. For me, this was a formative experience. Anyway, moving on – after many years, and having seen Night, Dawn, and many many others since, when I heard that Land was coming, I very nearly came in my pants. Never, ever, have I been as excited about a forthcoming film.  I was old enough to know it might disappoint, but damn I waited for this like I waited for my first shag – for a long time, and hopeful that it wouldn’t be crap.

The Experience

From memory, I’d met a couple of workmates in the pub and turned down the offer to go out for more drinks as my DVD had just arrived, and nothing could shake my plans. Admittedly they were both male so the offer wasn’t a great challenge – it’s not like I turned down a night of lascivious sexual hedonism – but still, my course was set.

So, when I finally got to see Land, I really liked it. I mean, REALLY liked it. This was before Twitter, and before we got millions of spoilers and (p)reviews before we saw a film, so I can safely say I was impressed.

I gather this wasn’t a universal feeling. So, in the next section, I will try to quell the doubters. I may fail, but fuck it – it’s my blog and I’ll do what I want on it 🙂

The Film itself

This is based on having watched it in the last few hours, for the first time in around 3 years. I’m not going to be universally unapologetic about it, but will concentrate on the positives 🙂

As in the earlier films, Day particularly, the main characters are a little OTT – but probably not more than any other studio horror film. It allows you to make opinions about them, and whilst you may never fully invest, you know you choose your “I hope he/she dies/doesn’t die” ones pretty quickly. There was a risk casting a “name” like Dennis Hopper, but he doesn’t go mad or seem unrealistic (considering the position / scenario) and so at no point takes over the film or makes it seem hokey – like in Speed. You know he’ll die, it’s a given. It’s the “good” characters in which the interest lies…

…like Cholo. Is he the hero / anti-hero? He’s basically a greedy bastard, but feels hard done by and is still the underclass. Compared to Hopper’s  character he’s good, but the lines are always grey in these films. Be honest – if you had the chance, wouldn’t you want to be in the nice, shiny, protected tower block with the “luxuries” you are used to? It’s all well and good feeling sorry for the people outside, but if you’re honest and were given the choice, you all know where you’d choose to be…

Like with the earlier films in the series, no-one is guaranteed survival. Ok, to a certain degree if you’re a woman who is not a complete arse then your chances are higher than most, but everyone is flawed, and everyone can be bitten. The “a main character gets bitten and ends up facilitating the ending”  theme is firmly in place, but there are more characters in this than in the earlier entries, and they all have a role to play. Some, admittedly, as filler / fodder, but we all know that is a legitimate place in a zombie flick 🙂

Moving on from the characters – the film looks fucking excellent. I watched the Blu-Ray tonight, and it shines in a good way. Yes there is CGI for the first time, and we all love practical makeup effects more than CGI, but it’s not ridiculous. The advances in makeup mean that the zombies look better (as they looked better in Day than in Dawn – come on, admit it) and I don’t doubt that the studio providing the budget leant on the use of CGI over practical – because hey, it’s cheaper. This sounds a little apologetic, and may be a weakness in this review, but I’m realistic about what Romero had to work with and can accept this.

It’s very gory! For a film that got a reasonably wide cinema release (for a hard R / 18 rated horror) there is A LOT of blood and guts in this film! Entrail eating, many head shots, close up biting – it doesn’t hold back. This is a good thing 🙂

It retains the satire / commentary on modern life aspect. Come on – the human urge for consumerism and luxury is massive in this film. What is ramped up, and places the film in a more modern timeframe, is the blissful ignorance /unacceptance of the danger that is on the edges of their shuttered existence. It’s like the zombies never happened for the residents of Fiddler’s Green. More fool them.

There are some truly beautiful, and for me series iconic shots. First and foremost, the scenes of the zombies’ heads breaking the surface of the water once they have crossed the lake. Also the subsequent wide shot that shows the scale of the endeavour. Zombies breaking water will always give me a lovely shiver.

Other big moments? The “head snapping back” zombie, the soldier with the grenade having his arm severed by Big Daddy and and falling on his own grenade, and as much as any of these, every moment when it is clear that the zombies have “learnt” something new. I love that Big Daddy has an almost constant companion in the “fucked up face” woman zombie, who he teaches to use a machine gun. In an ideal world, they have would live happily ever after as a lovely zombie couple 🙂

Wow, this has become a long post, so I’d better wrap it up. In conclusion – I like this film, and feel it was unjustly criticised because of unrealistic expectations from people who, like me, see the earlier entries as landmark films. Realistically, it was never going to have the impact of Night, Dawn, or even Day – but I feel it did a decent job and is worth a re-appraisal.

…and hey, if nothing else – it gives us the first look at a pair of living human female breasts in the series 🙂


12 Responses to “Land Of The Dead – A Re-appraisal”

  1. Jon Walmsley Says:

    Really well written comment on a movie I too feel has been harshly treated. Yeah, the zombies out of the water moment is brilliant (remenicent of Shock Waves) and the gore is pretty top drawer. Sure, Hopper was a weird choice, but it’s kinda obvious that’s a studio decision and not a director one but still he plays it well.
    I also love the gore in this. Something you didn’t mention is the numerous scenes of zombie fingernails ripping off. Urgh, that shits me up! – also the hand ripping silhouette scene was just awesome / gross!
    Finally, glad you also noticed the nudity! After the first 3 films I was beginning to think George was anti-nork!
    Great write up, even made me pause my movie on a Saturday evening just so I could reply! (that takes some doing!)

    • dpm74 Says:

      Thanks man, yeah there were many other scenes I could have mentioned, and you’re so right about the hand silhouette scene. I was just worried about the length of the post! I think it suffers from the sheer beauty of the earlier films in the series, but taken in context and of its time, I stand by my opinion that it is a worthy film.

  2. Shauna Says:

    I didn’t like Land the first time I seen it! After watching it more I got a liking to it, its ballsy and Asia Argento..hubba hubba..but I HATE DIARY more than any of them!

    • dpm74 Says:

      Thanks for the comment – yeah I think it’s worthy of a re-watch for anyone who has only seen it the once when it comes out. …and if you didn’t like Diary, you may want to give Survival a swerve… 🙂

  3. shauna Says:

    I actually seen Survival like 10 times..once in the theater. Its clearly not his best but I can’t even watch Diary ever again!

  4. dpm74 Says:

    That’s interesting, I’ve never been able to see any of them in a cinema / theatre. I need to re-watch Diary and Survival again, from memory I thought Diary was alright. Each to their own I guess 🙂 I appreciate the comments, I know you’re a Romero fan so am always interested to know what you think.

    • Annette Says:

      The first time I saw Dawn of the Dead, we went to a good old fashioned DRIVE IN! So the screen was HUGE and although the sound in those places was very poor, the movie hooked me on the genre FOREVER! Romero got a lifetime fan from there on out. I loved the water scene from Land, and also was impressed at the range of human emotion it invoked in me, something which I hadn’t felt before and a daunting task for one as detached and cold as I am. Ha.

  5. shauna Says:

    have you ever seen Knightriders? If so, interested in what you think.

    • dpm74 Says:

      Yeah I saw Knightriders but it was many, many years ago, to the point where I hardly remember it. I should watch it again, as my faint memory is that I liked it. I will now seek it out 🙂

  6. Keri Says:

    Good to see a review, Dave! I saw the UK premiere of this at FrightFest…even met Romero afterwards…and at the time I was completely buzzing.

    It’s fair to say that wore off pretty quick though! I liked your review and the fact that you saw so much good in it, but to me this film is the real end of Romero’s directorial career. It’s a fucking mess. Dreadful, dreadful script, lacklustre performances – even from Hopper – and social commentary so hamfisted you’d think a sixth-former had devised it. Crowbarring in that direct Dubya quote (“we don’t negotiate with terrorists”) seemed cynical and trite to me, and the ‘sky flowers’ thing was an absurdly black-and-white way of viewing the media from a man who once expressed his critique of the world order in a clever, complex way. Before he was aware of his reputation as a director who utilised social commentary in his horror, we were all better off.

    Still, it looks subtle and slick compared to the rest of the ‘Dead’ films he’s dredged up.

    Just my opinion of course – opinions are like arseholes, everyone’s got them.

    • dpm74 Says:

      Cheers Keri, obviously we disagree on this one but those are all well made points, and you don’t exactly sit on the fence about it, which is fine with me 🙂

  7. shauna Says:

    Its one of my favorite Romero flicks! Revisit it for sure 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: