Why in the hell would I want to take on ALL FOUR (4) of George A. Romero’s best zombie flicks in one (1) sitting? Why the hell do I always type out the word for a number and then put the actual number in parentheses directly after it or vice versa? I have no idea on both counts.
My decision to lump them all together came about while I was dumped by my girlfriend 2 days before Valentine’s Day. Don’t get all weepy on me, bitches. It was basically my fault. So, I had a LOT of free time. I wanted something fun and bloody with a good story and acting and production values. So, I searched high and low for my copy of Land of the Dead in my unorganized collection. I ended up finding the other three and pulled them out as a back-up plan, but I finally found the bastard in the darkest and lowest part of my shelving.
So, I was having a great time re-watching Land and started thinking back to when it came out in theaters. Nobody went to see this thing. It died its opening weekend. Does anybody besides me remember when all of the Romero/zombie/ horror fans bitched and moaned for YEARS about how Georgie couldn’t get financing to make a fourth (4th) Dead flick? Yeah, we were pretty passionate about that shit. And when he (and we) finally got the wish fulfilled, we let him hang. We didn’t support him. WTF was that about? I decided to go back in time and see what, exactly, made this movie bomb.
I watched these backwards. I don’t mean that I watched each film in reverse, dammit. I watched them in the wrong order.
After Land, I hit Day of the Dead (my personal favorite), which was released to a somewhat similar sort of apathy in 1985, but for obvious reasons. Day is a bleak film where not a lot of zombie action happens and almost all of the characters are unlikable. But there is a method to Romero’s madness, here. A story involving civilians and soldiers hiding in a huge storage mine as the world has died above them and trying to find out how to stop the plague is ripe for angers to flair and a lot of yelling to occur. And it does. Often. But if there was to never be another Dead film, this would have been a fitting end. The world is dead and people still can’t get along. Oh, and when the gore does happen it still blows my fragile little mind. I was eleven (11) when I first saw it back in ‘85 and it holds up to this day.
Obviously, next up was Dawn of the Dead (the 1978 version, of course. Screw the “re-imagining“. Only the first 20 minutes was any good.), which most Dead fans consider the pinnacle of the series and Romero’s career. I disagree, obviously, as stated above, but that’s just my opinion. And you’re reading my opinion, so deal with it, you bastards! *ahem* Anyway. Dawn is a lot of fun. It moves quickly, doesn’t hold back on the gore and it continues the story set up in Night very well. (Plus, Goblin contributed music!) The world is getting worse, the zombies are winning and growing in number. Perfect. Our heroes escape and hide in a mall, which was a genius idea for a setting. We’ve still got the whole “If the zombies don’t kill us, we’ll end up killing each other, anyway” thing going down. So what do I have against it? Well, it’s too “fun”, the blood is way too neon and all that “But the movie comments on consumerism” is bullshit. Just like Night, people read too much into a goddamn zombie flick. There is ONE (1) reference to something like that. “Why are they here?” “It’s something they remember from their past life.” Or something to that effect. That doesn’t scream out “America is too much of a consumerist society!” . It says “People go to malls to shop, cuz that’s where all the shit is.” What if it had been set in a grocery store? Would that mean “America is a food obsessed society!”? WTF, people?
Ok, you could be thinking two things, right now.
First: “Wait. Don’t I remember hearing Romero say something about each film coming out every decade to represent that particular decade, or am I having acid flashbacks?” Well, he did say something along those lines, but I don’t have the actual quote and I don’t remember interpreting his statement in that way, personally. As for your past drug use: Could be. Just Say No, kids!
Second: “When the hell are you going to talk about Land of the Dead, you asshole? Do I have to scroll to the bottom or click a different link or something? Jesus! I thought the whole point of your ranting and raving was to talk about THAT movie, not all these old ones! I am a modern viewer with modern tastes and need CGI FX to enjoy anything.” We’re getting there. Patience, dude.
Ok, the first/final movie on my already over filled plate was the one that started it all. Night of the Living Dead! Not being actually alive in 1968, it’s almost hard to think of how it affected audiences at the time. Firstly, all you douche-bags that constantly harp on how he cast a black guy in the lead and how it was so revolutionary….Get a grip, you morons. Ever hear of a couple flicks called Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner and In the Heat of the Night? Yeah, both came out in ‘67 and starred *gasp* a black guy in a lead role! Holy shit, my whole belief system is crashing down around me! And considering that NOTLD was a very independent production, unlike the above mentioned, I can only imagine that they’d been out before filming began on Nottludd. Romero has stated he didn’t write the role for a black person, he just thought Duane Jones was the best actor for that part. Fuck off and put a skirt on, you pansies. Anyway, I’m sure the movie was shocking back then, but it hasn’t even held up for me, over the years. If people bitched about all the yelling in Day, how can they even make it through Night? I think Mike Nelson summed it up best by saying “Interesting acting choice. Start at inexplicable rage and build from there.” Well said, sir.
So, we’ve time traveled. Seen some good sights. Used a lot of curse words and insulted people. That brings us to the present. And by present, I mean 2005, which is technically the past, but the most recent entry in the Dead series. (At the time of this writing, George is working on a new one called Diary of the Dead, but the whole concept of it makes me want to vomit into my own ass, so don’t even expect another mention.)
After Day, which basically established that almost every last asshole in the world was dead and the dead now ruled the earth (so, hey! The assholes finally have full control of the earth! Look! I found my own social commentary in a Romero flick! Where‘s my skirt and panty hose?) , how do you break away from the small group of people trapped in one area arguing with each other? Admittedly, that was his core basis for the past three, but you have to think that even the writer/director would get bored with that, after awhile. I have to say that Romero solved that problem in a genius way.
Land is set in a city that is completely bordered on all sides by a river system. So, it’s basically a small island, which makes it easy to keep the zombies (here referred to as “Stenches”, as well) out. Dennis Hopper (Yes! This movie just got even better!) runs the main building and controls the surrounding city. Got money? You can buy yourself a cushy existence in his building. Poor as hell? You live on the outside of the building. The slums. You survive by selling drugs, sex or whatever. OR you work for Hopper. Taking out bodies or going into the surrounding dead towns to acquire supplies to keep Hopper and his rich friends going.
Our heroes work for Dennis and drive a ginormous vehicle called Dead Reckoning (The original title of the script, btw. Yay! I’m a horror geek! I know pointless shit! Where’s my high-heeled shoes?) It’s like a big-ass tank-ish sorta thing with rocket launchers and gun ports and….It’s a big fucking vehicle, dammit. Ya gotta see this thing. It’s cool as shit. One of the guys has been doing extra side-jobs for Hopper and earning money, thinking he’s going to be able to move into the building. He’s played by John Leguizamo, which is also a cool factor for the film. Well, Hopper tries to off him, Johnny steals Dead Reckoning and threatens to blow the shit out of the city if he doesn’t get his money. Hopper sends the leader of the team, his #1 and a hooker the leader saved (My childhood sweetheart, Asia Argento. Jesus, this movie is loaded to the gills with anti-suck. And unlike XXX, which somehow managed to make her look like shit, she’s smoking hot in this flick.) to take out Leguizamo and bring the rig back.
Meanwhile, the zombies are getting smarter. Using weapons, communicating and working together to get into the city.
Chaos and violence ensues.
I had a blast with this movie. Saw it opening weekend, the following weekend and caught the one-night-only screening of the unrated cut.
Sure, there are flaws. What the hell good is money outside of the damn city? And how is money generated inside the building? The only jobs I could think of were mopping the floors and keeping shit running or being a cop, or whatever. But they’re unimportant quibbles when you‘re supposed to be focusing on the characters. And the characters are interesting enough to carry the premise. Also, CGI pops up occasionally to ruin the fun.
So, back to my initial question. Why didn’t anyone go see this damn thing? It has so much going for it. Great cast. Great premise. Great story. Top notch FX. Did I mention Asia Argento was in it?
What went wrong?
Some people point to the fact that there was some big-ass movie that was playing at the same time. I can’t remember what it was and have no desire to do the required research to find out. Besides, it shouldn’t matter. The amount of fans of George AND just zombie films, combined, should have guaranteed a respectable box office score. Where was everyone? Why didn’t they show?
Perhaps no one wanted a serious look at zombies, for one. The new Dawn and Shaun proved that. But their popularity was part of what made THIS film possible. Zombie flicks were HUGE! That really shouldn’t have stopped this from succeeding. Does anyone have any ideas? Email me. I had an idea when I first popped it in and then proceeded to go back in time, but I forgot what it was. A break-up, a four (4) movie marathon and a Thirty (30) pack of beer can do that to you. Hell, I could find a cure for cancer and then a break-up, a four (4) movie marathon and a thirty (30) pack of beer could make me forget THAT.
Nix says: Bitch, moan and whine all you want, but when you get what you asked for, have the goddamn decency to support it, assholes. Oh, wait. You assholes are gonna rule the world when there’s no more room in hell. Forget I insulted you.
Ratings: Night:3 Dawn: 4 Day: 5 Land: 5
Hopeless: Night: 2 Dawn: 4 Day: 3 Land: 4