Sunday, June 26, 2005

Zombie slaw: a review of Land of the Dead

Some people got Revenge of the Sith. Others got a new Coldplay album. The release I've been looking forward to is Land of the Dead.

Love zombies, can't get enough of them, ever since I was nine or ten and saw the original Night of the Living Dead on UHF on a Friday night. I didn't understand the subtext at the time (the black protaganist beats back the zombies only to get killed by what essentially was a lynch mob) and wasn't very scared, but I loved it anyway.

Land of the Dead is the horror movie to see if you like zombies and listen to Air America. Dennis Hopper plays an oligarch named Kaufman, who assembles a walled-off community of elites in a luxury apartment tower. The rest of the city is comprised of serfs who talk about revolution. On the outside of the city (protected by rivers on all sides) everything is zombie.

The settings for the other George Romero zombie movies are a little non-descript. In Land of the Dead, the city reminded me of Bartertown in Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome, especially when the residents wager on a cage match where two zombies vie for human prey. The setting is well-imagined and vivid -- if a zombie/human showdown can be described as "credible," Land of the Dead fits the bill.

John Leguizamo plays a sort of bootlegger named Cholo. He scavanges outlying areas for booze, cigars and essentials, and brings them to Kaufman. When Kaufman (for presumably racist and class-based reasons) refuses to admit him into the swank residential community, Cholo attempts to extort him, and assembles the means to attack the building. Meanwhile, Riley, the jaded protaganist, is assigned by Kaufman to prevent Cholo from attacking the city.

The movie has a lot of contemporary political digs and does not give a favorable view of the wealthy. (One climactic moment involves dollar bills raining down next to a gas pump.) Fifty years ago, it would have garnered accusations of communist sympathy. But in the end, it's a kick-ass zombie movie that includes several dozen new, completely over-the-top ways of showing heads erupt, limbs severed, and guts splatter. Gross? Indeed. If you don't like to see the vivid mutilation of zombies and their victims, join the Zombie Preservation Society. Otherwise, I offer an enthusiatic recommendation.

Someday I hope to come back as a zombie, but please don't get scared. I won't be a flesh-eating zombie, I'll just dance like the zombies in the "Thriller" video, and (inspired by the people at Dead Guy) open a brewery with zombie-named beers. While I'm on a zombie kick, I also recommend the blog Zombie Eat Brains, which Flop kindly brought to my attention. It's a general-interest blog that uses zombies as an excuse for writing about other stuff.


Zombie_Tom said...

Had to skip the meat of your review, since I have yet to see the film (for reasons which I shan't go into here), but I appreciate the link. I agree with your assessment of the blog as general interest, because of course brains are of general interest, aren't they?

CrimeNotes said...

Hell yes, brains are a general interest. If there's anything that pisses me off, it's people who think brains should be given the short shrift. They implicitly judge brains by calling them a "special interest." Fuck that!

Congratulations on the new zombie dog. Keep in mind that dogs are a lot of responsibility.

Flop said...

I just wanted to say that I probably wouldn't have gone to that movie if my co-blogger hadn't suggested it. Now, I'm totally all about it, even though it was set in stupid Pittsburgh.

Mmm, brains.