‘The dead shall inherit the Earth’
Land of the Dead is a 2005 post-apocalyptic horror feature film written and directed by George A. Romero; the fourth of his six zombie movies, it was preceded by Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead and Day of the Dead, and succeeded by Diary of the Dead and Survival of the Dead.
The film features a bigger name cast than usual in Romero’s productions, including:
Simon Baker as Riley Denbo
John Leguizamo as Cholo DeMora
Dennis Hopper as Paul Kaufman
Asia Argento as Slack
Robert Joy as Charlie Houk
Eugene Clark as Big Daddy
With the living dead having now taken over much of the world, the few survivors left have retreated to a fortified city, where the rich live in penthouse apartments while the poor suffer on the streets below.
Governed by the corrupt Kaufman (Dennis Hopper), the city comes under threat when the impoverished population begin to demand a change in leadership and it becomes obvious that the army of zombies outside the city walls is beginning to adapt to its surroundings…
With the backing of Universal Pictures, the film had a reported budget of $15 million, the highest in the series and quickly become a success, grossing over $40 million.
Four titles were considered before “Land of the Dead” was chosen: “Dead City,” “Dead Reckoning,” “Twilight of the Dead,” and “Night of the Living Dead: Dead Reckoning.”
Land of the Dead was the first film in Romero’s series to receive an MPAA rating for its theatrical release. Rumours suggested that the director shot alternate, less explicit, gore scenes for the theatrical release, but this is not entirely accurate.
The more extreme instances of gore (e.g. a woman having her navel piercing graphically torn out by a zombie) were obscured by foreground elements filmed on blue screen so that these overlaid elements could be easily removed for the unrated DVD.
Other ways to obscure blood in order to get an R-rating were achieved by simply trimming the grislier shots by a few seconds, by digitally repainting blood so that it is more black than red, or by digitally painting the blood out altogether.
George A. Romero was so impressed with Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright’s Shaun of the Dead that he asked them to appear in this, the fourth part of his “Dead” series, and they appear as the photo-booth zombies in the carnival/bar-room sequence. They also feature prominently in the artwork for the unrated director’s cut.
“Is Land of the Dead as good as it could be? No. In a way, the big budget probably hamstrings Romero’s creativity, allowing him to rely on the spectacular gore effects (and they really are quite spectacular) as a crutch rather than crafting a more involving story out of necessity.” Beyond Hollywood
“The performance of Eugene Clark is particularly striking as he uses facial expressions, action, and guttural utterances rather than words to express his growing empathy with his fellow zombies.” Alain Silver, James Ursini, The Zombie Film from White Zombie to World War Z
“Land of the Dead still looks and feels like a Romero zombie movie, despite the Hollywood slickness. It is a sincere and entertaining film, but also an imperfect one, the weakest of his four zombie movies. But it does retain the spirit of his other undead adventures.” Horror Digital
“The character of Big Daddy (Eugene Clark) is, in many respects, a direct descendant of the zombie Bub from Day of the Dead (1985) – an intuitive and empathetic zombie the audience can root for. Romero’s signature sociopolitical voice did remain intact, and his critical observations about class conflict in America became a central theme in Land of the Dead.” Ozzy Inguanzo, Zombies on Film: The Definitive Story of Undead Cinema
“One of the enormous pleasures of genre filmmaking is watching great directors push against form and predictability, as Mr Romero does brilliantly in Land of the Dead.” Manohla Dargis, The New York Times
On October 24, 2017, Scream Factory released a Collector’s Edition Blu-ray in North America.
Trailer and clips: