My Land of the Dead Unrated DVD arrived yesterday a during the week, almost a week ahead of the official release and I’ve had a chance to watch it as a huge fan of the original Dead trilogy. The genre seemed to be on the way back in with 28 Days Later (good, but not great) and the remake of Romero’s own seminal Dawn of the Dead (also good, but not great), but the only way to truly make one is to put the megaphone back in the hand of the man himself. He practically created the genre with Night of the Living Dead and so deserves to represent it, without running zombies and rawk soundtracks but with some old school “ban this filth” gore.
LOTD certainly doesn’t disappoint on the gore front. I don’t know how much of this made it into the 15-rated UK theatrical version but this unrated version has bodies being torn apart, faces torn off, heads ripped off, limbs eaten, countless chunks bitten out of people, and that’s just off the top of my head. Nothing quite as creative as the helicopter blades in Dawn or funny as the “choke on ’em” from Day, but it does a decent job. Those who saw the hardcore online only trailer with the tongue eating should know that there’s even more graphic goodness than that.
I guess even Romero has to make some attempt to evolve the concept without making corpses that run like Linford fucking Christie, and he makes zombies that are more than idiots by taking the idea of Bub from Day and running with it, making the whole zombie population start to become more intelligent. There’s only really one that does the thinking, but the rest are still able to understand and follow him while he concentrates on feeling remorse over zombies that are killed (again?), firing a gun randomly, teaching others to fire guns, and not being mesmerised by fireworks. It’s not badly done and he does, to his credit, have Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright in his entourage, but I kind of like the brainless zombies that overpower us purely by weight of numbers and the fact that they’re tough to kill. There are plenty of other intelligent enemies in other genres and sub-genres, so do we need to evolve the zombie?
As a film, LOTD isn’t bad. Once you get past the fast and furious beginning it slows rapidly, before taking you into a third act which just assaults you on several fronts and reminds you why zombies are cool. It’s the slow middle section which is the weakest, not just for being slow (Dawn was hardly action-packed, after all) but because the story just isn’t that strong. It’s not bad but it’s very much secondary to the action and blood, which makes it a weaker movie than Dawn. Perhaps falling short of Dawn was inevitable, but the action was fun enough that I prefer it to Day of the Dead.
In short: Dawn > Night > Land > Day. Worth watching but don’t expect something as classic as the first two instalments of the series.