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Land of the Dead (also known as George A. Romero's Land of the Dead) is a horror film by director George A. Romero, the fourth of Romero's five Living Dead movies. It is preceded by Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead and Day of the Dead, and succeeded by Diary of the Dead. It was released in 2005 and became a success, grossing over 40 million dollars, and had a budget of 16 million dollars, the highest in the series.
Land of the Dead deals with the fictional zombie assault on Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where a feudal like government exists. The survivors in the film have fled to the city. The city is protected on three sides by a large river and on the other by an electric barricade. Like Day of the Dead, Land of the Dead plays on the theme that humanity is a greater danger to itself than any outside threat. The film ends with the zombies destroying the class system created by Kaufman by killing most of the city's elite ranks, leading to a more democratic government.
Released on June 24, 2005 in North America, Land of the Dead received mostly positive reviews from film critics. Some praised Romero for his skillfulness and creativity.
Plot[edit | edit source]
Some time ago, a catastrophe destroyed much of human civilization. The recently dead, for an unknown reason, had returned to life and took the lives of the living. These "zombies" multiplied rapidly by adding to their ranks with every new victim. Several years later, the dead greatly outnumber the living. Many of the living in the vicinity have fled to the city of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where a feudal-like government has taken hold. Bordered on three sides by a large river and on the other by an electric barricade, the city has become a sanctuary against the undead threat. Fiddler's Green, the center of this city, is where the rich and powerful live in luxury while the rest of the population in the city lives in poverty. Paul Kaufman (Dennis Hopper) rules the city with an iron fist and overwhelming firepower.
Kaufman financed the construction of Dead Reckoning, a heavily armored vehicle that can venture out into the world of dead with relative ease. Armed with heavy remote-controlled external machine guns and video cameras to spot zombies on the sides, Dead Reckoning primarily functions as a moving fireworks display base: zombies are fascinated by fireworks, and, just like humans, will stare up at the sky gaping at them while ignoring the humans moving through the streets around them. Riley Denbo (Simon Baker), both the designer and commander of Dead Reckoning, has recently retired. Unlike Kaufman, Denbo is respected by the citizens of the city for his work to protect them from danger, as well as bringing them critical food and medical supplies, things which they can no longer acquire for themselves. This is the purpose of the "Dead Reckoning," and the teams that accompany it. However, Denbo discovers that the man he got a car from Chihuahua (Phil Fondacaro) is responsible for the car's disappearance and then discovers him trying to feed Slack (Asia Argento), a hooker, to zombies. Angered at this Riley and Charlie (Robert Joy) save Slack and kill the man Riley was to get his car from so he could travel out of the Green. The three are soon arrested and taken to jail, here Slack reveals she was to be killed by zombies on Kaufman's orders, because she is actually an agent for Mulligan(Bruce McFee). Mulligan is an Irishman who once worked with Riley, but now has turned against Kaufman's class society and tries to gather rebels among the poor. Part of his anger may be that he has no way, aside from Riley's supplies, to gain antibiotics for his infirm son.
Meanwhile, Cholo DeMora (John Leguizamo), the second in command of the Dead Reckoning team, having been turned down by Kaufman from buying an apartment in Fiddler's Green, has gone renegade. Having his dreams shattered by Kaufman - for whom he has been secretly employed (among his tasks the disposal of the corpses of Kaufman's murdered enemies) — Cholo is out to even the score. He threatens to destroy Fiddler's Green with the Dead Reckoning, which he manages to hijack the vehicle, along with Pretty Boy (Joanne Boland), Mouse (Maxwell McCabe Lokos) Anchor (Tony Munch) and Foxy (Tony Nappo) who all believe in his cause. His threat stands unless his demands are met. Zombies attack as he is leaving, but Cholo doesn't care and orders his crew to drive away without intervening. Kaufman turns to Riley to stop Cholo from exacting his revenge. He is assigned three other officers, Manolete (Sasah Roiz), Motown (Krista Bridges), and Pillsbury (Pedro Miguel Arce), all of whom work for Kaufman and provide escort. After Manolete is bitten, Riley interrogates the other two, making his position quite clear to them. He has a tracking device, so that he knows where to find the "Dead Reckoning." They get there, and wait. He goes only with Charlie, leaving the other three behind. Motown wants to stop him, but Pillsbury betrays her and knocks her out, then gives Slack safe escort to follow Riley. When Riley finally catches Cholo, he is very nearly killed by Cholo, while the crew caught in the crossfire, including Slack, who moves for Riley's defense. Motown arrives, and is attacked by a zombie. Her death provides a distraction, so Riley shuts down "Dead Reckoning's ability to use its weapons. With that, Riley convinces him to allow him to take Dead Reckoning and leave the city to head north. Cholo elects to take the Woody, another jeep and to go west, Foxy decides to go with him, however shortly after this Cholo is bitten by a zombie. Cholo leaves for the city, wanting to finish off Kauffman, Foxy takes the Woody and drives him to the entrance, before heading to Cleveland. During this, Riley and his crew then notice fires in the city and head back to try and save the city.
Meanwhile, zombies seem to have resumed aspects of their past lives: a former brass band blows ineffectively on their aging horns, a cheerleader carries her pompoms, a dead couple walk hand-in-hand. A leader has risen among their ranks; "Big Daddy" (Eugene Clark), a former gas station owner who continues to amble out to the pumps every time a fellow zombie causes the bell to ring, takes center stage as the undead protagonist. Unusually aware and intelligent, Big Daddy (in a continuance of the "Bub" plot-line from Day of the Dead) directs some of his fellow zombies to use firearms and overcome the more rudimentary human defenses. The zombies are beginning to learn, adapt, and even to communicate with primitive moans and grunts. In retaliation for the constant raids carried out by Dead Reckoning, Big Daddy ultimately leads the zombies in a massive assault on the human city when he realizes that the zombies can simply walk on the bottom of the riverbed underneath the water to reach the humans. The center of the carnage takes place at Fiddler's Green. Kaufman witnesses his kingdom coming to pieces before his very eyes as the zombies overcome the humans in a bloody massacre. As the zombies overtake the city, the humans discover that the electric fence defenses previously used to keep the zombies out have now become a wall to keep them in.
As retribution after being shot by Kaufman, Big Daddy trails the fleeing despot to an underground garage where Kaufman plans to escape in a Lincoln Continental. Big Daddy finds Kaufman's car next to a gas pump and, in a moment of revelation, Big Daddy begins pumping gas into the cab through a hole in the windshield. Apparently satisfied, he lumbers out of the garage. Cholo, now reanimated, manages to track Kaufman down. He confronts him in the garage and uses his trademark speargun for a short duel, he then discards it and bites him. However, Big Daddy is not finished; he displays his intelligence once again when he rolls a burning object toward Kaufman's gasoline-soaked vehicle. It explodes, finishing Kaufman and hurling the undead Cholo safely away from the blast.
Meanwhile, Denbo and Dead Reckoning have fought to free the inhabitants of the now-overtaken city. At the electric fence, the crew discovers a massacre; with nowhere to run, impoverished and elite alike became a walking dead smorgasbord. Destroying the fence, however, the crew finds that some of the city's lower-class inhabitants had followed Mulligan, who led them to a safe shelter elsewhere. This small group had survived. After the zombies destroy the class system created by Kaufman by killing most of the city's elite ranks, the playing field is leveled and the zombies withdraw. After the attack, it seems like most of the population of the city have survived. During all this Anchor is nearly killed by a legless zombie, however Pillsbury saves him. Pretty Boy, the driver of the "Dead Reckoning," gets a clear shot at Big Daddy as the zombies leave, but Riley orders her to stop, because, like him, they're "just looking for a place to go." Denbo and his friends leave the city with the Dead Reckoning, striking out for the north. As they leave, they fire all of Dead Reckoning's fireworks (which they won't need anymore now that they have lost their captivating effect on the undead) in a display of celebration.
Cast[edit | edit source]
- Simon Baker as Riley Denbo
- John Leguizamo as Cholo DeMora
- Asia Argento as Slack
- Robert Joy as Charlie Houk
- Dennis Hopper as Paul Kaufman
- Eugene Clark as Big Daddy
- Jennifer Baxter as Number 9
- Boyd Banks as Butcher
- Pedro Miguel Arce as Pillsbury
- Joanne Boland as Pretty Boy
- Krista Bridges as Motown
- Sasha Roiz as Manolete
- Tony Munch as Anchor
- Jasmin Geljo as Tambourine Man
- Tony Nappo as Foxy
- Tony Munch as Anchor
- Shawn Roberts as Mike
- Earl Pastko as Roach
- Peter Outerbridge as Styles
- Gene Mack as Knipp
- Devon Bostick as Brian
- Jonathan Walker as Cliff Woods
- Michael Belisaro as Teenage Boy Zombie
- Tony Nappo as Foxy
- Maxwell McCabe-Lokos as Mouse
- Shawn Roberts as Mike
- Bruce McFee as Mulligan
- Phil Fondacaro as Chihuahua
- Alan Van Sprang as Brubaker
- Lara Amersey as Teenage Girl Zombie
- Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright as Photo Booth Zombies
- Tom Savini as Blades/Machete Zombie
- Gregory Nicotero as Bridgekeeper Zombie
- David Campbell as Legless Zombie
Production[edit | edit source]
Earlier script titles included Twilight of the Dead, Dead City and Dead Reckoning (the same as the military vehicle used in the film). Romero said in an interview  that one of the first potential film studios (20th Century Fox) wanted the film to be titled Night of the Living Dead. He refused, wanting to use the title Dead Reckoning, and the studio then wanted to title it Night of the Living Dead: Dead Reckoning. It turned out that Fox sought to own the rights to Night of the Living Dead, and Romero decided not to do business with them.
Rating[edit | edit source]
It is the first movie in the series to receive an MPAA rating for its theatrical release. Romero had said for years that he would film two versions; an R rated cut for the theaters and first DVD, and an unrated cut for the second DVD release. Both DVDs were released in the U.S. on October 18, 2005. Rumors suggested that Romero shot alternate, less explicit, gore scenes for the theatrical release, but this is not entirely accurate. The more extreme instances of gore (e.g a woman having her navel piercing graphically torn out by a zombie) were obscured by foreground elements filmed on bluescreen, so that these overlayed elements could be easily removed for the unrated DVD. Other ways to obscure blood in order to get an R-rating were achieved by simply trimming the grislier shots by a few seconds, by digitally repainting blood so that it is more black than red, or by digitally painting the blood out altogether.
The Canadian provinces of British Columbia, Manitoba and Ontario gave both the theatrical version and DVD version a rating of 18A, though it was only given a 13+ rating in Quebec.
In the UK the BBFC gave it a 15 certificate for both the theatrical version and the unrated version. (The UK "Director's Cut" DVD was rated 18 due to extras being rated higher than the feature itself).
In Germany, both the theatrical and unrated versions were rated 18, rendering the purpose of the cut theatrical version redundant. As such, only the unrated version was widely available in Germany.
The movie was banned in Ukraine.
Release[edit | edit source]
The film was met with positive reviews upon release, the film was released one year after the remake of Dawn of the Dead was released international to cinema. The film grossed over 40 million dollars and is second behind Dawn of the Dead with the highest grossing revenue in the living dead series, the two lowest being Night of the Living Dead (1968) and Diary of the Dead (2008). Day of the Dead which preceded Land of the Dead by twenty years flopped when released to cinema because of its limited release. Land of the Dead had a budget estimated of 15 millions dollars, unlike Day of the Dead which had a budget of 3.5 millions dollars.
Reception[edit | edit source]
Roger Ebert gave the film three stars out of four for what he considered its skillful and creative allusions, something that he argued was pervasive among Romero's previous three installments that contained numerous satirical metaphors to the reality of American life. In this installment Ebert noted the similarities between the fireworks mesmerizing the zombies and the shock and awe tactics applied during the 2003 Invasion of Iraq and the movie's distinction between the rich and poor, those that live in Fiddler's Green and those that live in the slums, something he considered to be Romero's take on the rising gap between rich and poor in America. Michael Wilmington of Chicago Tribune awarded the film four stars, writing, "It's another hard-edged, funny, playfully perverse and violent exercise in movie fear and loathing, with an increasingly dark take on a world spinning out of control. By now, Romero has become a classicist who uses character and dialogue as much as stomach-turning special effects to achieve his shivers."  The New York Sun declared it "the American movie of the year."
Several film-makers including Eli Roth and Guillermo del Toro paid tribute to George Romero in a Land of the Dead special. Guillermo del Toro said: "Finally someone was smart enough to realize that it was about time, and gave George the tools. It should be a cause of celebration amongst all of us that Michelangelo has started another ceiling. It's really a momentous occasion ..."
Overall critical reaction was mostly positive; the film received very favorable reviews from The New York Times, The Hollywood Reporter, Premiere (magazine), Variety, Slate and Los Angeles Times. The film earned a 74% positive rating at the Rotten Tomatoes movie-review compilation website (though the "Cream of the Crop" critics' reactions were slightly more mixed, giving the film a 68% rating overall).
[edit | edit source]
- The Official Land of the Dead Website from Universal
- Land of the Dead — IMDb
- Land of the Dead review at Internal Bleeding
- Land of the Dead Fictional Book includes quotes from actual Land actors
References[edit | edit source]
- Michael Wilmington. "Movie Review: Land of the Dead." Chicago Tribune, June 23, 2005. url=http://chicago.metromix.com/movies/review/movie-review-land-of/159569/content
- The New York Sun, "What To See This Week," June 24, 2005. Author: N.L.
- George A. Romero's Land of the Dead - Movie Reviews, Trailers, Pictures - Rotten Tomatoes