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Land Of The Dead Review

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Fourth instalment of Romero's zombie series. Society has managed to regroup from the zombification of the Earth somewhat, and part of the population are now living in a small sealed off city section of what used to be Detroit. Riley is a man who goes into the outside world and gets supplies for people to live on. One day he and his team notice a zombie who has become primatively self aware.

★★★★

Last year, with the remake of Dawn Of The Dead and the parody Shaun Of The Dead in theatres, Empire ran a memo to Hollywood suggesting some of the profits should be used to finance an original from the still-active though ridiculously underemployed writer-director George A. Romero. After all, Romero did essentially invent the modern horror film with Night Of The Living Dead in 1968 and followed up with the equally challenging Dawn Of The Dead (1978) and Day Of The Dead (1984). Either someone up there reads us or so obvious an idea could not be resisted: Universal greenlit a “fourth part of the trilogy”, raising Romero’s fans’ hopes and expectations so high that by comparison The Phantom Menace might as well have been Air Bud 2.

Of course, some things have changed: after the extreme splatter of Peter Jackson’s Braindead, the radical DV stylings of 28 Days Later …, game-derived tosh like Resident Evil and more direct-to-video zombie dodos than the mind can stand, does anyone, even Romero, have anything fresh to say about the living dead? Land certainly has an old-fashioned feel, but still represents a make-over for Pittsburgh’s independent son, who this time heads up to Canada for oppressive locations (including impressive zombie-plagued city streets), while contractually obliged to secure a US R-rating that theoretically curbs the necessary excesses of the unrated Dawn and Day.

Rest assured, liver-lovers, there’s plenty of grue here. A scene involving a belly-piercing is sure to evoke winces, though not on a par with, say, the helicopter skull-slicing of Dawn. Plus, like the earlier films, this dissects present-day America in cartoonish but vivid terms through angry confrontations between the Man (ironically played by Dennis Hopper) and a range of rebels, from whitebread hero Simon Baker through tattooed wild child Asia Argento and ambitious wannabe John Leguizamo, to the latest of Romero’s capable African-American heroes (Eugene Clark), here the nearly-smart leader of a shuffling, implacable zombie army. It’s good to see Romero can still match blood and guts with heart and brains.

A notch down from the high watermarks of the preceding trilogy, but it still covers all bases of the Living Dead saga: inventive suspense, spiky characters, outrageous horror and wicked satire.

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