Friday, October 14, 2005


By Reymundo Salao

George Romero is a living icon of the horror genre. He virtually established the zombie horror standards, practically invented, would be a more appropriate term. His 1968 revolutionary gore-horrorfest classic NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (the one which is in black & white) broke ground and became the template for the zombie horror genre. At its time, it was the most frightening horror movie ever made, as it creates a seemingly inescapable world of monstrous and cannibalistic living corpses feasting on its helpless human victims. It took a decade later, 1979, when he came out with its sequel DAWN OF THE DEAD which intensified the storyline’s degree of gore, action-thriller, and the setting that focused on the zombie menace that has already gripped the urban community. It wasn’t monotonous to the first movie as this one has a subliminal message about man’s tendency towards consumerism, one that tells us that our modern lives have become too routinary that even in the zombie state we would find ourselves doing the same lifestyle routine, specifically, of going to the mall. Another decade later, in 1985, Romero released DAY OF THE DEAD, the third installment of what has now become his zombie series. On this sequel we learn that the zombies have completely taken over much of civilization and the survivors now live in an underground facility where scientists have experimented and realized that many of the zombies could be domesticated, and even taught to do tame manners.

In 1990, Tom Savini directed the remake of the NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, a very good remake that made only slight changes and relatively faithful to the original except that it was in color and had a somewhat happier ending. Just last year (2004) DAWN OF THE DEAD was also remade under the helm of director Zack Snyder. It was a great remake movie, even if it was done without the thumbs-up approval of Romero. But this year, George Romero has finally indeed gone “back from the dead” with his long-awaited sequel to 1985’s DAY OF THE DEAD entitled LAND OF THE DEAD.

The present day world has become a world that has been devastated, massacred, and overrun by the zombie menace that has seemingly swiped humanity. In this world, the human survivors are but a few, but in time, they managed to re-establish an organized civilization with a fortified city surrounded by walls and guards that would stop and destroy intruding zombies (that they call “stenches”). But they have soon discovered are beginning to learn, and develop some degree of intelligence, the kind of intelligence that can surely restore what is known as the Land of the Dead.

The opening credits was really awesome and reminded me of Nine Inch Nails music videos, with its black-&-white motif and its creepy-fast-&-shaky film speed as it focused on the face of corpses decaying on screen, transforming into zombies. The pace of this film is faster than any other zombie movie, perhaps due to the fact that it does not need to waste time on explaining what has transpired before. The film quickly assumes that the audience must be familiar with the post-apocalyptic genre of most zombie movies and proceeds to the film’s main storyline. The opening sequence with the zombies doing “human habits” was eerie and funny at the same time, but it was very self-explanatory of what was going on; the zombies were becoming intelligent. Even to the point that the tables have turned that we see the zombies being the victims of what has become man’s appetite for barbarism. In this film we get to see things from the point of view of the zombies, for a change. And how this one pseudo-heroic zombie leader become the revolutionary head of what seems to be a vengeful zombie uprising. It was very “scratch-your-chin” interesting. On the other hand, we also see another subliminal message of the film telling how mankind still tends to restore his own sense of greed and powerlust even at a time when unity and peace must be established, that is, in the guise of the characters played by prominent actors Dennis Hopper and John Leguizamo. The heroes of this movie are played by the not-so-famous Simon Baker, who plays Riley and his scary-faced buddy Charlie, played by Robert Joy. And by the way, the lovely Asia Argento is one heck of an eye-catcher on this film, especially in her kinky get-up during her first scene. Trivia: Asia Argento is the daughter of Dario Argento, one of the producers of “Dawn of the Dead” and the have also produced many horror greats in the 80’s including Lucio Fulci’s “Zombi” a.k.a. “Zombie 2”

Apart from Romero’s other zombie movies, this film is relentless, fast-paced, explosive, and more rabid. More like an action movie, Producer Bernie Goldmann says the film is "Night of the Living Dead meets The Road Warrior." It even reminds me of John Carpenter’s best films which are action-packed macho and gory at the same time. In fact he was initially considered to be the director of the film. But that was back when the film was under development. With Romero having completed this new masterpiece, it now makes me suspect if he is indeed one of the living dead…

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