(Originally published in Rocky Mountain Bullhorn)
George A. Romero returns to the grisly scene of his greatest ghoulish triumphs with Land of the Dead, and the results are about as lively as a piece of roadkill. Set some years after 1985’s Day of the Dead, Romero’s latest zombiefest posits a world in which the living and the undead tenuously coexist, and a society in which humanity has been divided between the haves (personified by Dennis Hopper’s evil businessman, who lives with other Ritchie Riches in a modern ivory tower) and have-nots. Unforeseen trouble arises, however, when the zombies begin evolving into thinking, communicating creatures led by a hulking, intelligent gas station attendant (Eugene Clark).
Romero’s blandly helmed film generates shockingly few frights from set pieces involving a ragtag group of scavengers (led by Simon Baker’s do-gooder, John Leguizamo’s unethical swine and Asia Argento’s tough vixen) venturing out into no-living-man’s land in their armored vehicle “Dead Reckoning” to scrounge up supplies. Unfortunately, with the exception of Hopper – who slyly underplays his villainy as the greedy capitalist baddie undermining this new supernatural-infested society – the performances are uniformly mediocre, and the clunky action is staged like it was still 1978. Even worse, though, is the film’s horridly simpleminded stabs at socio-political commentary. Having to listen to Dennis Hopper’s materialistic fiend pronounce, “We don’t negotiate with terrorists” and Leguizamo’s Cholo claim “I’m gonna do a jihad on his ass” is enough to make anyone want to permanently bury their head in the ground.