Sunday, February 17, 2008

Film Review: "Land of the Dead" (B-)

I have to say, this is one Romero flick I'm torn about. It has it's moments, and I love the satire in it, but in terms of straight up horror evaluation ... I wasn't too much of a fan.

I suppose the main reason this film doesn't work for me is that Romero takes a unique concept and runs with it ... but he runs too damn far. The concept is, of course, the idea that zombies can evolve and learn just as humans do. Disregarding the obvious questions - how do they learn if they are, by definition, brain dead? - it could be a pretty ingenious idea when utilized correctly. But I feel Romero goes too far with it, which ultimately is detrimental to the film.

Don't get me wrong, there are several things I really love about the film so I by no means think it's god-awful. For one, the reality of it is pretty startling - we all know that in the event of anything that shatters society (here, zombies) when there is no government, the rich would take over. And that is precisely what happens in "Land of the Dead" and I feel that was portrayed accurately. There are some fun lines, of which my favorite is "zombies, man, they creep me out" which seems to be somewhat moronic, but is actually quite genius in my opinion. To my knowledge, no one on screen in a zombie film has ever acknowledged their fear of them and the way it's expressed here is just perfect in context. I also love Charlie's character for some reason. But I have to say one of my favorite things about "Land of the Dead" is the sequence where the zombies enter and cross the river, which I thought was done very well and is genuinely creepy. But the winner of my favorite scene in the film is one particular zombie attack where a seemingly decapitated body comes at a car, flips his head forward and bites a guy. Now that's creative.

That being said, there are a whole lot of things about this film that grate on my last fucking nerve. The first and most obvious being that I think the zombies "education" was taken way too far. The idea that the lead zombie could swipe guns off guys on motorbikes seemed ridiculous, much less that he actually uses it later in the film. One, there's no way that classic Romero zombies have quick enough reflexes to swipe something off of a moving motorbike. And then learn how to use it? I wasn't buying it, unless we're supposed to understand that the zombie is acting on some sort of gun-toting instinct, which seems to be a more appropriate political commentary coming from Romero. The scene where all the zombies grab tools was cringe-inducing. I get that a zombie could act on residual human instinct and clump - even work - together with other zombies, but the idea that they could each individually evolve enough at the same time to understand that picking up a power tool could help break a window that probably is bullet-proof? Yeah, I wasn't buying that either.

All in all, if you're looking for a quick, somewhat fun, gorey zombie flick, then this is for you. I'm upping the grade of this based on the obvious political allusions of the film, because they are fantastically well-done. If you look deep enough, every scene holds a larger, relevant meaning and I love that. But I did not like the ending, so the grade dropped back down to a low B - 'cause come on, giving the zombies a "place of their own"? That just sounds stupid and didn't come off any better.

One last thing: "Zombies, man, they creep me out" is a pure genius line. Don't try to argue with me on this, just accept it and move on.

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