In my opinion Land of the Dead is the last of good Dead films, as I’m not a fan of the next two installments. Land of the Dead is the last film where the undertones of what zombies represent, in the first film disease most notably AIDS, Dawn commercialism… here it’s about the wealth gap between the rich and the poor, can be described as subtle. Also it continues with the ideas left off in Day with Bub and picked up here by the zombie “Big Daddy” played by Eugene Clark, a zombie that not only exhibits intelligence. But also a range of complex emotions and the ability to get the other dead to work together.
Set sometime after Night, I like to think even after the events of Day. But the this film is where the timeline starts to get sketchy, a raiding party led by Riley Denbo (Simon Baker) from the survivor outpost Fiddlers Green located in Pittsburg is on supply run to one of the outlying towns to gather supply’s. The raid at night as the dead are distracted by fireworks, making the night run safer than they would be during the day. His second in command, Cholo (John Leguizamo) is far more reckless and works for the leader of Fiddlers Green, Kaufman (Dennis Hopper) as a hired Goon. Both men consider this to be their last night. After the fireworks get jammed Riley tells everyone to leave town as they had gotten what they came for, but Cholo along with his friend Foxy (Tony Nappo) stop off at liqueur store. Which results in the death of one of the new recruits. As they leave, they continue to shoot up the town and killing zombies. Which enrages the zombie Big Daddy, who gathers the other undead together and march towards Fiddlers Green. Which can be seen in the distance. When they return to the Fiddlers Green, Riley goes to get the car he payed for so he can leave the outpost for good. But finds the car stolen and goes looking for it with his friend Charlie (Robert Joy). Which takes them to a night club run by Chihuahua (Phil Fondacaro). Though things get messy when a new event is revealed that has two zombies fight over a single meal, that meal being Slack (Asia Argento). She’s saved by Riley, though the pair along with Charlie get arrested. Meanwhile, Cholo goes to see Kaufman and makes his plans to move out of the slums and into the skyscraper with rich people, payed for by the money owed to him by Kaufman to Kaufman. A plan that he doesn’t agree with and has Cholo shown out, in a blatant double cross. This causes Cholo with the aid of Foxy and others from his crew to steal the war machine Dead Reckoning to hold Fiddlers Green Hostage for the money owed and while they escape, Big Daddy along with his army of zombies storm the first set of gates. After Cholos escape in Dead Reckoning, Big Daddy leads the zombies through the river towards Fiddlers Green. Due to Cholo’s actions, Kaufman has Riley released. As he built Dead Reckoning and orders him to find it, too which he agrees. But only if he can take his friends. Something Kaufman agrees to, but also sends along some of his men just make sure Dead Reckoning is returned…
I really like the cast of characters in this film. Hoppers performance as Kaufman reminds of his role in Super Mario Brothers. Which is another film he starred in with John Leguizamo. There’s also the characters of Charlie and Slack, who I find works really well of each other. The only character I don’t enjoy that much is Riley, as he comes off incredibly stiff. Which I’m sure is part of the point, but in a film so dark his brooding nature is at times too much. I also really like that Slack is played by Asia Argento, daughter of Dario Argento, Famous Italian Horror director.
The zombies effects are really great as this first Dead film to not be completely practical and the computer effects have held up rather well. The zombies make-up is far more grisly in this installment and moves away from the simple gray skin look.
Where this film really shines is in the cameos, with Tom Savini showing up as zombie Blade his character from Dawn. Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg make appearances as zombies as well, a reference the Shawn of the Dead in which Pegg stared and Wright Directed.
Final thoughts, While not as good as Dawn. Land of the Dead is a very solid entry in the series and is a very good zombie film on its own. It has a quick, fun, almost action level pace to it. But never loses sight of what it is, a good zombie film. Which like the others is built on the backs of the characters and not so much the zombies. 8.5/10