I’m back, and here to tell you that we now all live in the…
The movie is set post-Day of the Dead in the city of Pittsburgh. The city is fortified by rivers on three sides, all the bridges except for one in and out have been blown out or blockaded, and everything is surrounded by electric fences. Most of this is financed by Kaufman, the owner of Fiddler’s Green, a high-rise building where the rich and powerful (and white) live relatively normal lives, as if the dead never came back to life.
Riley designed Dead Reckoning, a heavily armored vehicle used for defense and for raiding the nearby suburbs for supplies. Charley’s his best friend, who happens to be mildly retarded. Riley’s in command of Dead Reckoning but hopes to leave Pittsburgh and get away from people.
Riley’s second-in-command is Cholo. Riley’s leaving his job to Cholo but Cholo has ambitions of his own, one them being to get a place in Fiddler’s Green.
Yes, that is John Leguizamo. And, yes, his weapon of choice is a spear-gun. He gets props for thinking outside the box about weapons. It seems quieter than a gun and kills ’em just as dead.
Finally, Big Daddy is a zombie from one of the suburbs that Cholo and Riley raid with Dead Reckoning. He seems more aware than the other zombies.
The movie is basically around how the drives and desires of these characters intersect. Riley wants out, Cholo wants in, Kaufman wants power, and Big Daddy, I guess he wants power too.
Wikipedia compares the economy in the movie to feudalism but I think it’s more like an extreme form of capitalism. The money and power are concentrated in the hands of the very few while the rest of the people live in the slums in the city. Everything and anything can be a commodity and you can buy anything for a price, including having your picture taken (safely) with a zombie or betting on zombie fights. There’s no safety net. Mulligan, an anti-Kaufman and anti-capitalism rabble-rouser has a son who’s sick and he gets the antibiotics secretly from Riley. There’s no pharmacy to go to and who’s going to accept your insurance? The main problem is that nothing’s really being produced, except for entertainment, in the city. Finally, the military essentially functions as Kaufman’s private army to protect the elite.
Interestingly, the zombies attack with the tools of the working class. Big Daddy teaches them to pick up axes and shovels and at one point grabs a jack hammer.
It’s not really subtle, and it’s not exactly “workers, all you have to lose are your chains,” but it’ll do.
The movie is like an extension of Day of the Dead in its critique of militarism. Although, in Day, the movie served to criticize the military in general whereas in Land of the Dead the criticism is definitely more pointed at the Iraq War. Remember that, Iraq? Dead Reckoning is capable of launching fireworks, which they use to distract the zombies who always stop and gape at them. This is comparable to the shock and awe tactics of the Iraq War. The city itself is essentially under military rule. All the defenses work against them, though, when the citizens find themselves trapped within by the invading zombies.
What also came to mind when I was watching this was the Roman emperors. Kaufman has his fingers in lots of different pies. A Slack, the sassy hooker played by Asia Argento, says, “If you can smoke it or shoot it up then Kaufman’s behind it.” He gives the little people entertainment and vices and all he demands in return is loyalty and protection.
As per Romero tradition, this movie offers us some badass women.
There’s the hooker, Slack, who was going to join the army. She’s used as the bait in a zombie fight but survives thanks to Riley and Charlie.
She’s definitely handy in a fight and can shoot. Although, I do wish that she’d gotten more screen time.
The pilot of Dead Reckoning is a woman, although she’s named Pretty Boy.
This entry in the series has more gore, especially if you get the unrated DVD version that I have, but it’s less creative. There’s nothing as amazing as that scene in Day when the blanket is pulled off of the zombie and all of his guts are just exposed. No Joe Pilato being pulled apart. No one’s scalped by a helicopter blade. So that was kind of disappointing. It’s the first movie in the series with an MPAA rating, but the DVD includes things like a zombie biting off some woman’s belly button ring. Ouch.
At this point in the series, this movie had the biggest budget. I guess I should be grateful that it wasn’t filmed in music-video vision with a hard rock soundtrack like so many horror movies are today. Sadly, I wasn’t impressed with the music. I think my favorite soundtrack will always be Goblin’s eerie score for Dawn of the Dead. The music in this movie just didn’t really add anything to the movie.
Still, there were moments I definitely liked. When Dead Reckoning raids Big Daddy’s suburb, Big Daddy grabs one zombie by the hair. A burst of automatic gun fire leaves Big Daddy holding onto the head that’s been severed from the body.
The zombies get to the city by crossing one of the rivers. They figure out that it’s not like they need to breathe or anything. The scene with them rising from the river is actually very eerie and reminiscent of Carnival of Souls.
The big budget definitely shows with the care taken with pretty shots that aren’t necessarily of zombies but still aid in the spookiness of the movie.
Following tradition there is ANOTHER zombie clown.
And I’ve decided that the Zombie of the Movie is Blades! Yes, he survived all the way from Dawn of the Dead to bother the people of Pittsburgh.
The one thing that really bothered me about this movie was Big Daddy’s bellowing every time he was upset. I just don’t think someone that was dead could yell that loudly. Also, as my acting teachers used to say, volume doesn’t equal emotion. I also didn’t like how many locks were shot off with handguns. I’m pretty sure the Mythbusters proved that this wasn’t plausible. Busted!
Now typing the name “Big Daddy” so much has made me think of that Simpson’s episode where it was a variety show and Ralph Wiggum got kidnapped by someone named Big Daddy.