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Land of the Dead - Director's Cut

If we are to believe George A Romero's incredibly gory Land of the Dead, zombies apparently have feelings, too. Sure, they'll rip your flesh open, pull your intestines out and chew them up. But hey, a

zombie's gotta eat, right? Romero has finally managed to make us feel sorry for the misunderstood walking dead, if that's at all possible.


Some time has passed since the dead rose up to feast on human flesh, and what's left of mankind is making

the best of it. The people have cordoned themselves off from the zombies--or ''stenches,'' as they are so

lovingly referred to--behind the walls of a fortified city, where they try to maintain an illusion of life

as it once was. Supplies and food are still needed, so a hardened group of mercenaries--headed by Riley

(Simon Baker) and Cholo (John Leguizamo)--run retrieval missions into the vast wasteland, using little tricks of the trade to keep the zombies at bay. Back in the city, however, things aren't so hunky dory. The wealthy and powerful, lead by the slimy Kaufman (Dennis Hopper), dwell in a swanky and exclusive high rise and rule over the working class, while the disenfranchised peeps on the streets stew over their lot in life. But they aren't prepared for what happens next. Seems the army of the dead are evolving, learning to organize and communicate with one another. And they don't take too kindly to getting shot in the head. The only thing the humans have going for them is the fact the zombies still don't move very fast--but that's not saying much.


It's tough for an actor to shine in a horror flick in which the gore and special effects make-up are pretty

much the main attraction--but the Land of the Dead cast do their best. You've got Baker (The Ring Two), as the kindhearted hero; character actor Robert Joy, as Baker's mentally challenged sidekick, but who's also a wicked sharpshooter; the lovely up-and-comer Asia Argento, as a tough-as-nails street chick willing to help out; Leguizamo, as the wisecracking mercenary with a major chip on his shoulder and firepower to back it up. And then there's Dennis Hopper. He's playing it pretty straight this time around as the evil and greedy rich guy who doesn't really consider himself the villain, considering he was the one who built the fortified city. But a little of the weird Hopper pops through every once in awhile. Of course, we've also got the hordes of evolving dead walkers, lead by a particularly fearsome zombie. With a bloodcurdling zombie battle cry, this badass teaches his comrades to take up arms, beat down walls and walk under water. Resourceful fellow.


You can thank George Romero for giving us flesh-eating zombies. If not for his 1968 cult classic Night of the Living Dead, we wouldn't have 28 Days Later or Evil Dead--and we'd be a much duller place without them. Now, 20 years after he made the last Dead movie, Day of the Dead, Romero is ready to hurl body parts at us again. Maybe, after he saw how well they remade his Dawn of the Dead last year, he felt he could do it even better. Not quite. Sure, Romero has definitely grown up and improved his writing. Land of the Dead does a nice job moving things along, showing how the survivors have adapted to living with their ''neighbors'' but never really learning much from the experience. Romero also has brought a certain pathos to the zombie. They move around, as if in a daze, also trying to maintain a semblance of what they used to be--human. And frankly, they are tired of being labeled mindless idiots who do nothing but wander about. Dammit. If you prick them, do they not bleed? But with all the gratuitous violence, and hardly any of the Dawn remake's humor or irony, Land of the Dead doesn't really distinguish itself from any of Romero's other gore-filled zombie flicks.

Bottom Line

While George A. Romero and zombie fans alike should get a kick out it, Land of the Dead is just a giant excuse to see the walking dead pigging out on human flesh--in all its blood-dripping, bone-crunching, brain-slurping fashion. Yuck.