Bowie V. Ibarra
I know, I know. 'Land of the Dead' did not fill out that special space in your black heart reserved for quality zombie horror. With the lead Simon Baker mailing it in for one of the blandest Z-Day performances out there, I can understand why you might not have been able to connect with the movie or the story being told. And let's not get started on that whole, 'They're just looking for a place to go, just like us' finish, okay?
Let's instead talk about the story told on that worthy piece of celluloid truly did put on display why George A. Romero is not only a z-day visionary, but our true Zombie Lord and Savior. Putting Baker's uninspired performance aside, here's some reasons why 'Land of the Dead' might not compete with George's Holy Trinity of Zombie Horror, but is a solid 4th place in his subsequent releases to his zombie children he knows and loves so much.
1. THE SUPPORTING CAST
Where Simon Baker failed to make a connection with you, take a look at how much fun the others were having in the film.
ASIA ARGENTO, the legacy of Dario Argento, who worked with Goblin to produce the music to George's 'Dawn...' and went on to his own artsy-fartsy Euro horror movie fame, puts her heart into her performance. Is it Acadamy Award nominee worthy? Maybe not. But you can tell her hearts in it.
DENNIS HOPPER, film legend who also played the Texas Ranger who took on Leatherface chainsaw for chainsaw in 'Texas Chainsaw Massacre part II', plays the evil bourgeois founder of Fiddler's Green, Kaufman. He puts on a great performance as the evil capitalist that refuses to let the zombie apocalypse keep him from making his money.
JOHN LEGUIZAMO as Cholo, the hard-working Hispanic with the fiery temper who thinks he can work his way to a spot on Fiddler's Green by doing Kaufman's dirty work. If there's one person who seems to be enjoying himself and can appreciate his spot on one of God's zombie movies, its Leguizamo, who is part of the fiery and emotional finish of the flick.
EUGENE CLARK as Big Daddy, the zombie that still has a piece of his humanity even in living-death, and leads a zombie revolt against the cruelty of Fiddler's Green. With little to say but vocalization and body language, Clark puts in a tremendous performance in the tradition of Bub from 'Day...'.
Other members of the supporting cast were strong as well, including Dough Boy and Pretty Boy. But the dude that really steals the show is ROBERT JOY, the dude that played Charlie. Of all the cast, his performance was the strongest.
2. DEAD RECKONING
True story. The first name for 'Land...' was originally 'Dead Reckoning'. Romero still included that name in the movie as the custom made zombie stomper 18-wheeler. C'mon now. You already know you've thought of having some kind of mechanized zombie death dealer in your apocalyptic dreams. 'Land...' delivers that machine in spades.
3. 99% BEFORE 99% WAS COOL
Our Lord has always made political statements in his movies, and this one is no different. Made nearly seven years before the plummeting dollar reached new lows and the rise of the so-called 99%ers, George once again used zeds as a metaphor for the elite 'haves' doing whatever they want to do in spite of the 'have nots' that are used for their labor (Cholo and the Dead Reckoning crew) who get nothing but living in slums, fed bread and circuses to keep them distracted.
Think about it: Fiddler's Green was the 1%ers, the living were the middle class, working and struggling to make ends meet, and the zombies were the poor, completely taken advantage of by the 1% and slowly destroyed by their forces. It's the zeds (poor), who outnumber the 1%ers (rich), who no longer have the opportunity of the middle class (living), who revolt against the 1%ers. Even Cholo, having lost his opportunity to be with the rich after working so hard, who eventually joins the ranks of the zeds with its leader, Big Daddy, to destroy Kaufman.
4. TOM SAVINI
Tom Savini makes a cameo appearance as a zombie, joining the revolt against the rich and attacking the living.
And speaking of Tom Savini..
5. THE SPECIAL EFFECTS
The special effects are the best zday gore scenes since 'Day...', and for good reason. The man carrying the Tom Savini special effects torch, Greg Nicotero, takes the special effects helm of this movie. Granted with the craft skills of Savini, Nicotero takes the gore effects up a notch and puts it on bloody display throughout the movie.
And speaking of Greg Nicotero...
6. GREG NICOTERO CUTS HIS OWN HEAD OFF
That's right. The legacy of Tom Savini, who had his own head blown up by a shotgun wielding Joe Spinell in the original 'Maniac', is the 'Tollbridge Zombie' who has his head sheared off by the bridge. That's right. The special effects master of 'The Walking Dead' followed in the rich tradition of his master and staged his own death for film.
Fun Fact: They never recovered that head from the river.
7. A TRIBUTE TO 'SERGEANT YORK'
Movie buffs might have recognized a salute to the old war movie from 1941 called 'Sergeant York' with Gary Cooper. York licks his thumb to shine the front sight of his rifle before he shoots. Charlie does the same. And when he shoots the midget during the club melee, its also reminiscent of the Sergeant York turkey shoot scene.
So do you see now why 'Land of the Dead' is still worthy of being considered the number 4 movie of Romero's zombie horror library, while at the same time being a call for revolution? I do.
But if you still need to get your fill of zombie horror, check out these titles from ZombieBloodFights.com. They're chock full of great zombie horror and excellent story-telling. Down the Road, Down the Road: On the Last Day, and Down the Road: The Fall of Austin. Pick them up in paperback or Kindle today.
BOWIE V. IBARRA earned his BFA in Acting and MA in Theatre History from Texas State University. Network with Bowie at his official website, ZombieBloodFights.com today.