George A. Romero’s comeback
Monday 26 September 2005, by
1968... It was nearly fourty years ago that George A. Romero wrote and directed what is now considered to be a milestone in horror film history, the sinister and aptly named Night of the Living Dead. Ten years later came Dawn of the Dead, followed by Day of the Dead which were equally frightening... The Dead trilogy is now world renowned and has allowed for Romero to impose himself over the years as the master of horror and gore. Film buffs queue up for hours outside premières of his movies and when it was announced that he was working on Land of the Dead, they were queuing for a part as a zombie... So what of the master’s new film?
It took a while for George Romero to get back to his roots and decide that he’d make another zombie flick. And late in 2002 he had everything ready to shoot a follow up to the Dead series: Land of the Dead. Immediately after the announcement that Romero was back at work, the horror freakoid papers set out to glorify the upcoming movie and began raising expectations on a world-wide level. As far as I have read there was indeed a small group of gore fanatics that travelled from around the world to the studios where Romero was going to film simply to become one of the many in the zombie flock. Interestingly enough, both Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright, the autors of the brilliant spoof movie Shaun of the Dead, are amongst the cast of undead : you can even see them on the cover of the movie. Big Daddy is the big zombie in the middle and immediately on the left is Edgar Wright. Pegg is further on the right.
Anyway, here was a project that definitely got horror buffs - including me, some of my friends, young and old, goths and other weirdos - into a state of impatience. Romero had to be seriously under pressure as hoards of fans slumbered around waiting for the announcement of the release and a long overdue movie preview. And this isn’t including the newest release of a contemporary release of his old Dawn of the Dead which had been particularly successful.
The cast was announced to be fairly cosmopolitan: Tasmanian Simon Baker, Colombian John Leguizamo and Italian Asia Argento (who have all had successful carreers in the States... granted) would starring side by side with Dennis Hopper. The plot too was announced: in a not too distant future, the zombies are everywhere and the humans live in a walled up city. The wealthy find a way to leave the chaos of the streets in which the poor’s day to day lives are organized in trying to prevent zombies from breaking into the city for fresh food... And while crime hits the streets below, the rich settle into a humongous skyscraper.
After having seen the film, the metaphor is clear. Romero was in a mindset which was partially political - war between humans and zombies who now have minds, capable of learning and rebelling but most obviously the differences between the street and the skyscraper... Going into too much detail here would spoil some of the surprises that Romero has added to the film but references are mostly pretty obvious and one should have no problems decifering his view of current US policy.
The film as a whole is a success in as much as it does make an interesting political statement. I am, however, less convinced about the rest... The acting is not always up to scratch and Romero, in this movie, seems less inclined to get us all freaked out. There are many moments when the audience experiences the stress of the protagonists... but a lot of the dialogue is rather poor. This is not to say that a zombie picture should be judged on its dialogue. Rather, it seems that there was an attempt to make dialogue an integral part of Land of the Dead but a little too obviously. Hence, whole sections of the film are... a little silly and, to be honest, quite tedious to watch.
Having said this, it would now seem slightly sketchy to try and save Romero’s fourth part of the Dead series. Well, I would nonetheless recommend you going to see the film if (a) you are a zombie flick aficionado, (b) you enjoy Romero’s work and if (c) you think you should make your own mind up for yourself. I believe you shall find it entertaining and humourous at times. But don’t expect THE horror film of the century... Just don’t listen to too many critics.