The key to a good zombie movie is making it into a George A Romero zombie movie. The man who created the genre is the icon and he is the trademark to the theme. Just like other Romero zombie films, his standard of work levels to great story telling, beautiful gore and a showcase of a brilliant journey of survival. Like most of Romero films there is always something self-reflective on the perception of what would civilization might do or become if zombies ever took over. In a world where the dead is going to or already has taken over and now the humans are the minority. The real threat is not the zombies but rather people. The key to a good post-apocalyptic genre is taking humanity into extraordinary circumstances and creating a far greater threat than the strange conditions of the surroundings. George always captures the human element of pushing humanity to the brink of insanity. With this it is always the human element that becomes the greatest threat for the survivors.
Land Of The Dead is set in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania where the zombie infestation has overrun the living. Now the remaining surviving population live in fenced and protected cities. An administration has now become a self-styled government where the population is split between a ruling class, led by the arrogant Kaufman (Dennis Hopper) and the underclass who struggle in the streets. As our protagonist Riley Denbo (Simon Baker) is looking to head north where there are no people or zombies, his second in command Colo (John Leguizamo) looks to live in the ivory tower with the big shots. However a deal between Cholo and Kaufman turns ugly, which results in Cholo stealing a heavily armed zombie-fighting truck called “Dead Reckoning” and demands his money or else he’ll blow up the corrupt city. Riley is sent to stop Cholo and steal back the armoured truck but he has other plans.
The primary focus of Land Of The Dead is the films distinction between the wealthy and the poor. When the rich live in the lavish tower of Fiddler’s Green the poor live in the slums. This is Romero’s political drive into the film that shows the rising gap between the rich and poor in the United States and possibly the rest of the world. As poor get poorer and rich get richer we begin to see a rising rebellion in the slums by the lower class. Rather than creating a segregated social class based on wealth they would overthrow the upper class and create a more mutual government to benefit everyone. Seems that Romero created a social unrest and unease between the rich and poor in Land Of The Dead, alluding to the audience that if the zombies don’t take over, it seems that a civil war will eventual occur.
One of the sub-focus of Land Of The Dead is the city and how it tries to go on as if nothing has happened. That their city is the centre of the world and beyond their electric fence and high walls is a world that does not exist. The new government run by profiteers, bankers and stockholders has made the city believe that nothing is happening outside of its borders. They profit from capturing zombies and using them for amusement, gambling and target practice. Riley dislikes the cold concrete artificiality and wants to live somewhere with no high walls and electric fences. Rather than hunting down zombies and killing them he sees them as just another predator. Rather than slaughtering them it’s better to just accept them and try to move on. This empathetic characteristic of Riley makes for a likeable protagonist and believable hero.
This is the fourth of Romero's six Living Dead movies with Night of the Living Dead (1968), Dawn of the Dead (1978), Day of the Dead (1985), Diary of the Dead (2007) and Survival of the Dead (2010). What makes Land Of The Dead so different from the rest is the production value. Like the others Romero prefers to use a tighter budget and smaller crew to work with. While the 1968 release is known to be classic and is usually the series favourite. Land Of The Dead’s fascinating insight into the apocalyptic world of segregated social class of capitalism VS socialism makes this dead movie my personal favourite of the series.