George A. Romero’s Land of the Dead – Unrated Director’s Cut

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Rating: Unrated

Starring:
Simon Baker as Riley
John Leguizamo as Cholo
Dennis Hopper as Kaufman
Asia Argento as Slack
Robert Joy as Charlie
Eugene Clark as Big Daddy
Joanne Boland as Pretty Boy
Tony Nappo as Foxy
Jennifer Baxter as Number 9
Boyd Banks as Butcher
Jasmin Geljo as Tambourine Man
Max McCabe as Mouse
Tony Munch as Anchor
Shawn Roberts as Mike
Pedro Miguel Arce as Pillsbury

Special Features:
Commentary by: Director George Romero, Producer Peter Grunwald and Editor Michael Doherty

Undead Again: The Making of Land of the Dead

A Day with the Living Dead

Bringing the Dead to Life

The Remaining Bits

When Shaun Met George

Scenes of Carnage

Zombie Effects: From Green Screen to Finished Scene

Bringing the Storyboards to Life

Scream Tests: Zombie Casting Call

Other Info:
Widescreen (2.35:1)
Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound
DTS 5.1 Surround Sound
Spanish and French Subtitles
Running Time: 1 Hour 37 Minutes

Synopsis:
The following is the text from the DVD cover:

“Packed with more heart-pounding and blood-curdling thrills than any theater could show, this special Unrated Director’s Cut unleashes the ultimate vision of George A. Romero’s latest living-dead shock-fest! Starring Simon Baker, Dennis Hopper and John Leguizamo, Land of the Dead finds humanity’s last remnants battling to survive the unspeakable truth: The ravenous zombie hordes besieging their fortified city’are evolving!”

This is the Unrated Edition of Land of the Dead, but the theatrical version was rated R for pervasive strong violence and gore, language, brief sexuality and some drug use.

The Movie:
Land of the Dead was a lot different than I was expecting it to be. First of all, it’s more of an action film than a horror movie. Sure, there’s a lot of footage of zombies eating humans, but more often you see the heroes toting big guns, acting tough, and dispatching zombies in dramatic ways. The gore and fright is not the focus of the film. The zombies were also not what I was expecting. They are shown developing reason, feeling moral outrage, and toting guns. In fact, the zombies are the sympathetic characters of the film, not the villains. It’s quite a different depiction of these horror staples. Finally, I was expecting more of a Hollywood film than this was. I saw another review state that this is a B-Movie with a big budget look and cast and that’s a pretty good description. Land of the Dead looks fantastic, but the story is only so-so B-Grade material.

I find it a bit ironic that I liked the recent Dawn of the Dead remake better than George Romero’s latest film. It kind of set the bar for me as far as zombie movies go. The zombies in Dawn of the Dead turned almost immediately, moved incredibly quickly, and were overall more threatening than the ones in Land of the Dead. To go from a zombie running full bore at you while shrieking to doing a slow shuffle and moaning is like going from Space Mountain to the Tea Cup Ride at Disneyworld. It’s a step backward. This means that the movie has to find other ways to scare you and be creative. Land of the Dead only does it occasionally. One of the high points is when hundreds of zombies slowly walk out of a river to invade the human city. It’s an eerie and unique sight.

The cast in the film is pretty good. Dennis Hopper is sufficiently corporate and creepy as Kaufman. John Leguizamo makes a good tough guy and antagonist as Cholo. Asia Argento is appropriately tough and sexy as Slack while Simon Baker makes a good hero as Riley. Eugene Clark plays Big Daddy, the lead zombie. He’s kind of a Malcolm X of the undead. Unfortunately, his role is a bit cheesy as George Romero attempts to make a political statement under the guise of a zombie flick. Also look for cameos by Shaun of the Dead’s Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright (who are totally unrecognizable until you see the bonus features) and makeup legend Tom Savini (who is quite recognizable).

I never saw the theatrical release of this movie, so I can’t comment on what has been added to this unrated version. However, George Romero points out the added scenes in the commentary, so you’ll want to check that out.

The Extras:
There are a fair number of bonus features included on this DVD. Here are the highlights:

Commentary by: Director George Romero, Producer Peter Grunwald and Editor Michael Doherty – Romero provides a pretty good commentary as he talks about his original ideas about the zombies, cameos in the film, and more about the story. He also points out the added scenes in this unrated edition. If you’re a fan of the film, it’s worth listening to.

Undead Again: The Making of Land of the Dead – This is your standard “making of” video featuring interviews with the cast and crew, behind the scenes footage, and more. The featurette also discusses George Romero a lot and why he’s considered legendary in the horror film industry.

A Day with the Living Dead – John Leguizamo hosts this tour of the set on one day of filming. He takes viewers to chat with the cast, to the makeup trailer, and even to catering. He jokes with everyone along the way including George Romero.

Bringing the Dead to Life – As you might expect, this featurette is about the makeup effects used in the film. They show the prosthetic makeup as well as some of the animatronic zombies used for the more grisly stunts. If you’re into makeup, you’ll enjoy this.

The Remaining Bits – This section features a few minor deleted scenes. They show our heroes walking through crowds, people fleeing the zombies, etc. It’s minor stuff. The biggest scene features a guy and a girl making out. When the guy turns away, the girl is quietly snatched by zombies and a girl zombie takes her place. She proceeds to bite the guy on the neck and kill him. It’s a humorous gag, but a little too comedic to fit into the rest of the movie.

When Shaun Met George – This is the best of the bonus features. It shows Shaun of the Dead’s Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright coming to film cameos for the movie. The video follows them from the UK all the way up until they finish their shoot and leave Canada. They discuss how their involvement started with an internet rumor and went on from there. It’s amusing to see the guys get star struck by meeting their idol, George Romero.

Scenes of Carnage – This is a montage of gore scenes from the film set to opera music. It’s odd, amusing, and totally useless.

Zombie Effects: From Green Screen to Finished Scene – This feature shows “before and after” on the effects scenes from the film. Some of the effects were quite subtle and I didn’t even realize they were added until I saw this.

Bringing the Storyboards to Life – This standard DVD feature compares the final scenes of the film to the original storyboards.

Scream Tests: Zombie Casting Call – A bunch of CG zombies do Michael Jackson’s dance from Thriller in this humorous bonus feature.

The Bottom Line:
If you’re a fan of zombie movies, George Romero, John Leguizamo, or Dennis Hopper, then I recommend you check out this movie. I’d also recommend it to fans of action movies since the emphasis is more on the action than the gore. However, if you’re looking for a good scare or a better story, I recommend you check out some of the other more recent zombie movies first.

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