Plot: What’s it about?
Lately, I don’t know what it is, but I’ve been seeing a lot of zombie movies. I’ve never really been much on horror movies (or in this case, a zombie movie) but I’ve certainly heard of George Romero. Some forty years ago he created a classic with Night of the Living Dead. Time has passed and now he’s offered up Land of the Dead (not to be confused with the recent Dawn of the Dead in which our heroes are stranded in a shopping mall). One thing that all of these movies seem to have in common, and even the very tongue-in-cheek Shaun of the Dead is that they don’t really tell why things happened the way they did. It just goes on the assumption that the audience will understand that something happened along the way and that there are now dead people walking around the Earth looking for human flesh to eat. Ok, I can accept that but we have to ask ourselves what’s really worse: being really “dead” or being dead and then being brought back to life as a zombie?
In Land of the Dead, we see that it’s been several years since the dead started walking the Earth and industrialist Kaufman (Dennis Hopper) has taken the initiative to restore peace to the world. When I say “taken the initiative”, I mean that he’s secured an office building, hired security to keep out the undesirables (zombies) and charges and arm and a leg for a luxury apartment. This seems to have been working well for him and his hired guns are good at what they do. Led by Riley (Simon Baker) and Cholo (John Leguizamo), the two are as different as night and day. Riley wants to go North and get away from everything and live a peaceful life and Cholo wants to get enough money where he can move into the high rise. Unfortunately Kauffman doesn’t see things that way. To add fuel to the proverbial fire, the zombies seem to be able to do something no other zombies are able to: they’re actually learning how to communicate with one another. The leader, Big Daddy (Eugene Clark), who communicates through a series of grunts and growls, is leading them towards the city though we don’t really know why. And Cholo has hijacked “Dead Reckoning”, a supped-up RV of sorts, which is Kauffman’s only way of escape. Can Simon and his entourage save the day, avoid the zombies and still manage to head North or is the entire world doomed (again)?
As I mentioned before, I’ve never really delved too deep into the world of “zombie movies”. Each one seems to have a particular flare. Do zombies only eat flesh and if so, why? Why don’t the people who aren’t zombies merely pretend to be zombies so they’re not recognized? I mean, how smart is a zombie really? They don’t have the capacity for logic, but they can tell a human being in the blink of an eye? Oh well, I suppose that some zombie questions are best unanswered. Romero shows us that he hasn’t really lost his touch. He’s older and supposedly wiser now and Land of the Dead does have its share of graphic violence. We see the zombies not only eat the humans, but we also see the ripping of body parts, faces and other appendages as well. Granted, we know it’s all fake but it might not be for the feign of heart. As far as zombie movies go, I’m not really sure how this one would rank but if you’ve seen one then you’ve seen them all. Right?
Video: How’s it look?
There are two different versions of the film, the theatrical cut and the unrated version. Both have received new 2K restorations and it shows – on a most literal basis. The 2.35:1 AVC HD transfer brings new life (sorry, had to be said) to the transfer as it looks very sharp and clean. The movie is dark, as most zombie movies should be, and though there are many opportunities for the transfer to falter, it rarely disappoints. There’s no edge enhancement to speak of and flesh tones, for lack of a better word, are on par as well. The film is dark, though contrast seemed strong and consistent. Both versions look spectacular and either version you choose will leave you with a warm and fuzzy feeling inside.
Audio: How’s it sound?
Both versions feature the same DTS HD Master Audio track and there are several instances of gunfire. Dialogue is very crisp and clean with little distortion, too. I found that the surround effects really added a lot to the soundtrack. How else can you experience a zombie movie if you can’t literally hear the flesh being ripped off the person? Exactly. You need those discrete sound effects that heighten the mood. Directional effects seem a bit more pronounced, especially when “Dead Reckoning” gets going and is mowing down the undead. It’s a good, strong track that’s sure to please.
Supplements: What are the extras?
Disc One – Theatrical Version
- Cholo’s Reckoning: An Interview with actor John Leguizamo – I’ve always been kind of hit and miss with this guy. I’ll agree that he’s a very talented performer, but he’s always just kind of…annoyed me. I shouldn’t say that, but it’s my site and my review so I’ll do whatever the hell I want! That aside, Leguizamo gives a pretty solid commentary on the movie, his role and even gets a few jabs in at our 45th President. While that’s great, it’s also topical so I wonder what we’ll think 5-10 years from now (providing we’re still around, that is).
- Charlie’s Story: An Interview with actor Robert Joy – Mr. Joy has a lot of things to say and the kindest things about Mr. Romero. He tells of his work with him on The Dark Half as well as the expectations (or lack thereof) for the character of Charlie.
- The Pillsbury Factor: An interview with actor Pedro Miguel Arce – Arce gives us a bit of a backstory as to how he got into acting, his preparation for the role and the trials and tribulations that he went through before, during and since. It’s a pretty matter-of-fact interview and proof that actors are just like the rest of us, they’re people too.
- Four of the Apocalypse: An interview with actors Eugene Clark, Jennifer Baxter, Boyd Banks and Jasmin Geljo – Unofficially titled “The Zombies of Land of the Dead” this focuses on four of the supporting players in the film, what led them to their respective parts and how they prepared for their roles. It’s really no different than the above features, it just focuses on more of them.
- Dream of the Dead – Available with commentary by director Roy Frumkes, this is more of an homage to Romero and actor/makeup artist Tom Savini (who astute observers might recognize from 1996’s From Dusk Till Dawn). It’s a mix of some vintage footage combined with some behind the scenes footage on Land of the Dead. Quality varies, of course, but this is a pretty nice inclusion to have.
- Deleted Footage from Dream of the Dead – I’d say that’s about as self-explanatory as it’s going to get.
- Deleted Scenes – Just under 3 minutes’ worth are included, but with no commentary or titles, it’s a bit hard to follow. These were best left on the cutting room floor.
- Theatrical Trailer
- Photo Gallery
Disc Two – Unrated Version
- Audio Commentary – The “Zombie” performers: Matt Blazi, Glena Chao, Michael Felsher and Rob Mayr have all gotten together and have given us a new commentary for this version of the film. It’s the only new supplement that the unrated disc has and it’s actually not that bad. Granted, they’re not the main players in the film, but this is approached from a very enthusiastic point of view and it’s full of some interesting tidbits.
- Audio Commentary – Writer/director George A. Romero, producer Peter Grunwald and editor Michael Doherty combine for this commentary that was on the previous version. Sadly, Mr. Romero is no longer with us, so this will serve as a reminder to his last body of work. It’s a fun track to listen to and one that viewers will (and most likely have) enjoyed.
- Undead Again: The Making of Land of the Dead – A different take on the “Making of…” featurettes. This one has some substance, style and even history involved. Though we do get the obligatory behind the scenes footage and chats with the stars, this one feels a lot better made.
- Bringing The Dead To Life – A look at what it took to get some of the background players to look like the undead.
- Scenes of Carnage – A montage of the film’s more “gruesome” scenes.
- Zombie Effects: From Green Screen to Finished Scene – We get to see a raw version of a scene and then the finished product with CGI added.
- Scream Test – CGI test – This isn’t what you think – it’s actually some very crude CGI-based zombies.
- Bringing the Storyboards to Life – Like the Green Screen feature, we see some storyboards and then they’re finished versions as they appeared in the film.
- A Day with the Living Dead hosted by John Leguizamo – Leguizamo has a great humorous side (as evidenced in other films) and literally starts yelling at the fake zombies. Evidently he got mad at the zombie that bit him in the movie and he starts slapping and yelling at the fake zombie on camera.
- When Shaun Met George – Shaun of the Dead stars Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright make worlds collide when they meet Mr. Romero.
The Bottom Line
This was the fourth, and last, title in one of the most prolific series of zombie films ever made. While it doesn’t exactly live up to the iconic status as its predecessors, I still enjoyed it. Shout!Factory has done this one right with new transfers, new supplements and giving us two versions of the film. This one is worth the upgrade.