Synopsis and Comments
Apparently “Land of the Dead” was created for an audience that the producers of the movie (and writer Romero) consider to be no more intelligent than the zombies that populate Romero’s world. We shuffle into the theatre, clutching out-sized drinks like totems from the outside world, moaning piteously that they cost us five bucks to get. Unnnghhhhhh. Mooooovie. RRRrrrrgghhh.
Well, if you managed to avoid it when it infected theatres, save your coin and dodge this DVD. I…ve seen better plot arcs in three-panel weekday comic strips, more character development in magazine cigarette ads (I feel like I have a personal relationship with Joe Camel compared to “Riley” or “Chulo”), and better CGI effects in video games. Well, that last one is an exaggeration, but you’ll quickly notice the overzealous fake-looking CGI blood explosions that, along with the nonsensical sub-plots and barely sketched-out characters, combine to make the movie barely watchable. Actually, come to think of it, I have seen better physics in video games – the exploding blood sprays that characterize zombie deaths generally arc away in a distracting, gravity defying slow-motion arc. So consider that point reinstated.
The film is particularly disappointed because I expected it to be packed with interesting social commentary in a social context that leaves a lot of room for creativity. Instead, we get bizarre classism criticism which really makes no sense – why, for instance, is everyone packed into a slum when there’s apparently and entire, safe urban core to expand into? Unrelated: Why do the outside-crews drive ridiculous Mad Max seventies vehicles, anyway? Surely there would be plenty of better suited SUV’s left in an abandoned urban core. Back on topic: The movie’s sole attempt at meaningful social commentary comes from a few religious set pieces, and corporate security dressed up with lame Nazi armbands and “Starship Troopers” surplus Gestapo uniforms. A well cast head villain could have perhaps made something of the classist element, but instead we get Dennis Hopper in a weird botox and OxyContin (I assume) infused performance, playing the villain as an expressionless weirdo with dialog and actions so odd that he can’t even be branded a sociopath.
Ok, obviously I didn’t like the movie. I could keep going with criticism, but I’ll spare you. Unfortunately, the rest of this disc didn’t deliver either. Good audio and video, yes, but that can’t begin to make up for the movie itself and cringe-inducing extras.
Like many monster films, the bulk of “Land of the Dead” happens at night, or in the twilit gloom that passes for day in Romero’s grim future. Whatever the case, it’s a tough lighting environment for shooting and post-production, particularly when the darkness is broken by high contrast events like fireworks and gun shots, and when detailed effects shots are expected by audiences (i.e.: zombie close-ups). The “Land of the Dead” team pulls it all off effectively, creating a very watchable night-time movie that doesn’t lose any of the detail. Action is crisp and clear without murkiness and tracers.
The sound for the movie in DTS or 5.1 is very good. Of note are the various flesh-tearing and munching noises that punctuate various scenes – they emerge clear and well placed from the accompanying violent din. Similarly, bass levels are well mixed, and dialog is consistently audible.
Undead Again: The Making Of: About as sycophantic a collection of drivel as you’ve ever seen, this is a collection of behind-the-scenes footage and interview segments. Generally, the subject material is fawning over Romero. There’s basically zero interesting “making-of” content here whatsoever. Observe the cameo appearance of Tim Horton’s Timbits (Canadian donut variant) – was this stars and stripes flying movie filmed in Vancouver, or Toronto, I wonder? Also note how in his first sentence of interview, Dennis Hopper manages to mention “Easy Rider,” effectively summarizing his career high-points. Finally, chuckle along as Asia Argento apparently tries to form sentences through a drug induced stupor.
A Day With the Living Dead: This one is more or less indistinguishable from the “making of” above. John Leguizamo thoroughly brands himself as an idiot as the featurette’s commentator (I guess this made him well-suited for his role). He gets in a pointless, profanity-laced argument with some dummies, speculates with other crew about how female cast-mate Argento would be in bed, demonstrates some pretty serious misunderstandings with basic plot points, and generally makes an ass of himself. You can more or less see people cringe whenever he stumbles into them with his camera person in tow. At this point, I’d like to ask why this content gets made at all. A total waste of time, unless you find value in seeing that Leguizamo is as big a jerk off-screen as he is on.
Commentary Track w/ Romero: Not a bad commentary. Romero is lucid and well spoken, and puts a lot of context onto various aspects of the movie, relating them back to his previous movies, and other zombie flicks. This qualifies as this disc’s sole redeeming feature.
Bringing the Dead to Life: This one is mercifully light on actors and producers (the more I see of Romero’s cigarette stained teeth and giant glasses, the more disconcerted I am), and instead focuses on the awesome model, prosthetic, and make-up work in the movie, created principally by Gregory Nicotero. The content isn’t as deep as I’d hoped, but is nonetheless interesting, if only in comparison to the vacuous gibberish that comprised the first two extras.
The Remaining Bits: Is a collection of unconnected, uncommentaried, sometimes silent chunks that got cut. A few minutes worth, that don’t add anything to the plot and aren’t entertaining to watch.
When Shaun Met George: Ah, Toronto was apparently where the movie was filmed. Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright of “Shaun of the Dead” Fame show up to meet with and fawn on George Romero. Not much in the way of interesting material here – Shaun and Edgar more or less just talk about how great Romero is, how awesome it was to meet him, etc. I’d have rather had some inspired commentary from Pegg and Wright about the evolution of the zombie genre and their part in it, vis-à-vis Romero’s historical dominance. None forthcoming, unfortunately.
Scenes of Carnage: Um – this is a montage of gore footage from the film set to some Gregorian chanting or something. No point in watching this, unless you’re a make-up effects professional, or profoundly disturbed.
From Green Screen to Finished Scene: Ughhh – the litany of lame extras continues. They are really reaching here. It seems like the number of fluffy extras varies in inverse proportion to the quality of the film – witness the Extra-vaganza’s of SW: EPI and EPII for further evidence. Anyway – this is another montage set to creepy music, this one of scenes before and after digital effects have been added in. Unfortunately, this extra serves only to justify what was blatantly obvious through-out the film: CGI blood and violence were relied on as much as real-world SFX would the usual lame results. This featurette has some va
Bringing the Storyboards to Life: Another extra of middling interest, this one shows cinematic sequences with their corresponding storyboards above, showing the transformation from concept to celluloid. Not a bad feature, but a director’s commentary track would have made it really noteable.
Scream Tests: Zombie Casting Call: Lord make it stop. Please, I beg you, deliver me from this litany of pointless mediocre filler. This one caps it – pure, lame filler of the worst kind. I was actually looking forward to watching this one, as I figured it would be footage of a bunch of prospective zombies in a casting room, un-made-up and in street clothes, stumbling around groaning. That would have been funny. Instead, were treated to a bizarre CGI dance-techno-country sequence of low-polygon count zombie apparently re-enacting the choreography of Thriller in one of the green-screened sets from the movie. This is unredeeming tripe of the worst kind – I want my 30 seconds back.
This is an uninspired movie, seemingly perpetrated to cash in on Romero’s retro-sixties auteur-cachet and the genre-profile raised by “Shaun of the Dead” and “28 Days Later.” This insipid movie is packaged with an extremely weak supporting cast of extras, and to top it all off, is in one of those card-board slipcover cases that matches the plastic case identically and makes it a PITA to get into. Save your cash.
Special Features List
- Undead Again – Making Of
- A Day With the Living Dead
- The Remaining Bits (Deleted Scenes)
- Commentary with Romero
- When Shaun Met George (with Shaun of the Dead guys)
- Bringing the Dead To Life – SFX feature
- Scenes of Carnage Music Video
- Zombie Effects – From Green Screen to Finished Scene
- Bringing Storyboards to Life
- Scream Tests: Casting Call