Land of the Dead
I don’t have a whole lot of friends, and I have even fewer that enjoy horror movies. But
determined not to miss the newest Romero, I asked my friend Jonathan to join me. He is
about the only person I know who actually enjoys the horror genre. (And to my delight,
his good friend Warren was visiting from out of town and joined us.) As you all are well
aware, I adore gore movies and am terrified by zombies. Lord knows I can’t keep it to
myself. Something else I can’t keep to myself? My experience at the movies. In
particular, my friends who join me. Sometimes, they don’t approve of me reporting on
them as well as what we are watching. Apparently writing about someone getting a bit
girly is an off limit topic and not to be reported. So rest assured, my friend Jonathan is
the pillar of virility and manliness. And if you don’t believe me, he will flex his bicep for
you every time there is an especially bloody zombie kill.
Pre-show: I ventured over to Tampa for a weekend with my lovely mother and
recovering doxie. Excited to see a zombie movie on opening weekend WITH someone to
keep me company, I was in a pretty excellent mood. I people watched an amusing array
of inappropriately high heeled movie going ladies and their shiny shirted dates sweating
while I waited for the boys to meet me. Hugs and hellos given, Jonathan, Warren, and
me got down to dirty, zombie killing business. Well, at least the watching of it. After we
stopped by the concession stand and briefly chatted about the refreshment name that best
represented our personality, (two of us were “goobers”), we headed for our theatre.
For the pre-show, we had the trailer for “Serenity.” I felt a little dreamy and
comforted by Joss Whedon’s preview but was soon snapped out of that calm when I
realized there would be no other previews. Just straight into the zombie apocalypse. I
appreciate the black and white universal logo, but I’m too creeped out and unprepared at
this point to take note of the credits.
Movie: After a moment, I come to and realize Romero is jumping right into the
hot, decaying action. First thing I notice is that I am immediately comforted by the return
to shambling zombies. I find them creepier yet still feel safer knowing I won’t need to
outrun anything faster than the average 90 year old woman. If that woman had an
insatiable craving for my flesh. Second thing I notice is that Romero has once again
crafted some zombies with personalities. This is something that most of the recent
zombie offerings have neglected to do. There is the cheerleader babe who is missing half
her face and still clutches her pom poms. And Hey, Mr. Tambourine playing zombie!
Eat some brains for me! Who is joined by his gazebo haunting band. The list goes on
and on of course, but I have always loved how Romero crafts not only a fine social
commentary on the current or most recent decade, but he manages to amplify the
humanity of the zombies. You can’t forget these were once people like you and me.
They went to the store and bought milk. They cut you off in traffic. And they pumped
gas into their overpriced cars.
This brings us to our “hero.” The zombie Paul Revere of sorts. He tries to tell his
fellow zombies, “the dinner is coming, the dinner is coming” but the others are slow to
catch on. Instead, Zombie Revere stands on his lawn, basically moaning out what
amounts to “damn you, kids!” as the raiding humans do donuts around him and blow the
parts off his zombie comrades. Now I’d heard I was supposed to sympathize with the
zombies to some extent and I understand that. The humans are pretty pathetic.
Especially when we see the rich ones later, zombie baiting in nightclubs because they are
so bored with their lives or mindlessly taking a meeting in their glass tower while the
world around them is covered in flesh eating stinkies. I mean seriously, are you that
desperate to cling to the old world order that you would feel the need to stay in
businessman mode after the zombie apocalypse? I know the business of survival is
booming, but you would have to be one delusional fucker to casually eat a Cobb salad
100 yards from an army of the undead.
Anyway, I understand we are to sympathize to an extent with the zombies but at
the same time, we are both after the same thing: food. And there we are at cross
purposes. They have stockpiles of the food we need and we are the stockpiles of what
they crave. Cross purposes and for that reason, I will still cheer and hoot, even loudly in
the theatre, whenever a living human makes target practice of the undead. And to be
quite honest, gore hound that I am, vice versa.
That brings me to the special effects. Gorgeous. Some really lovely torso buffets
and finger munching. Overall, superior work from the crew. However, the make-up was
also the source of one of my few quibbles with the movie. The problem I had was that
there were a couple of lovely moments where an arm was ripped down the middle like a
wishbone and a whole spinal column was removed through the neck like it was a shrimp
deveining, that were not shown. Instead, those two moments, among others were shown
in shadow puppet form. Booooo! We would have liked to see that, George! Sure, I
appreciate the artistic aspect of it, but let us be honest here. Watching a human get ripped
apart is a lot less scary than imagining what the scene looked like. But then again, maybe
that was his intent. Nah! Probably a budgetary thing.
For those of you looking for horror clichés, Romero crams those in too. There is
a tough whore with a heart of gold (played by horror great Dario Argento’s lovely
daughter Asia), an asshole who screws everyone but manages to redeem himself
somewhat in the end, a gigantic asshole who never redeems himself but serves as the one
kill we all look forward to, and of course, gratuitous boobies. We can’t have a horror
movie without those. In fact, I hear that is the next Constitutional Amendment up in front
of Congress once the flag bill is out the door. Unburned flags and brandished boobies.
Like mom and apple pie.
What did I like? Loads. The make-up ruled. So did the return to slow zombies.
I liked some of the stupider people too like the soldier who inexplicably repelled directly
into the waiting arms of a hungry zombie mob. Or the people in the fancy mall who
managed to bounce around the furniture show room on the first floor but never actually
run to a less zombie populated floor of a 100 story building. You knuckleheads! I truly
enjoyed watching you get eaten.
What didn’t I like? I was a little mystified by the fact that Zombie Revere looked
so freshly dead yet was living out in a town far outside of the living populated zone.
Even people bitten during the movie looked a lot more decayed after death than head
zombie. Maybe his freshness was a side effect of his undead smarts? Perhaps he had
some sort of immune resistance to the zombie disease? I mean, he had no obvious
wounds and he looked so fresh and minty! So whatever the reason, I didn’t like that. In
the same vein, I was a bit addled by the ending as well. (And I’m sorry, but for once I’ll
have to spoil the ending to address the problem. So skip to the next paragraph if you
don’t want to know.) So, you are the head good guy. You recognize that one zombie is
incredibly intelligent and thoughtful and has the ability to organize a zombie union and
teach them to fight. If you have the opportunity to take him out, do you? Or do you say,
“Oh you minx! I respect your will to eat me” and let him go on his merry, intestine
munching way? I don’t know, maybe he took note of the fact that the head zombie never
snacked the whole movie. I certainly did. It would be essential for the audience to
sympathize with him if he didn’t have fresh baby between his teeth. But if the zombies
emulate their lives as humans, perhaps he is just anorexic, vegetarian, or just a picky
All in all, a fantastic zombie flick. It was very entertaining and had some artistic
quality to it that isn’t often present in the horror genre. But then again, count on Romero
to bring it to the table. Then again, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little disappointed by
the movie. I expected a little more and the audience definitely deserved a little more
length as well. Still, I enjoyed the hell out of it. And special thanks to the two gentlemen
who accompanied me and made the experience a lot less scary and lot more fun.