Warning, possible spoilers below...

    For a movie that was almost not made, George A. Romero takes a shoe string budget and shows the execs how to do things right. No this isn't Resident Evil, so you won't get the computer generated special effects, but having a computer rip guys apart just isn't proper is it?

    From a great black and white opening (including a famous movie studio logo which we'll leave to your imagination) we are brought from the past to present day where a well placed "EATS" sign makes us yearn for the days of really great B-movies. And then we're presented with one.

    The undead have become commonplace, treated like medical waste, with the human race escaping to guarded cities. Meanwhile, the zombies have evolved to develop thinking skills and are on the verge of becoming a new species. Think the bone scene from 2001, except without the monkeys. Change is definitely in the air.

    But this movie is not about zombies at all, not surprising given Romero's writing history. They are but a backdrop. It revolves around the political power struggle between the leader of one of these cities, Kaufman (Dennis Hopper), and a former employee turned terrorist, Cholo (John Leguizamo). Unfortunately, the two actors only come in direct contact for a few seconds throughout the film, because both are brilliant. Dennis Hopper, as he has done so many times in the past, takes a villain and turns him into an excuse for comedic insanity. It never gets old, at one point quoting Ronald Reagan's "we don't negotiate with terrorists", just one of a grab bag of one liners that had the audience and critics in hysterics throughout the first hour of the film.

    Inter-spaced between the comedy were some of the nastiest zombie killing and zombie eating scenes you will ever see. Obviously the creative team went through significant pains to show us new ways to die. A tall order seeing how many of these films have already been made. The gore is highlighted by a hand getting ripped open (in total shadow mind you) from mid-fingers all the way down as if being peeled like a banana, as well as a brilliant scene in which a headless zombie appears from nowhere only to flip up his head (partially attached). No one saw that coming. And if you don't like that, then what about zombie clowns. No problem, they're here.

    The plot itself is standard: Human race barricades itself, zombies can't get in, zombies find there way in, all hell breaks loose. Done that already. In the middle of the madness, a machine called Dead Reckoning is stolen and must be recaptured, which serves as an excuse for our players to get out from behind the walls. In retrospect, one really could have left the whole Dead Reckoning plot out entirely and kudos go to the executive who decided to change the original name of this film from Reckoning to Land of the Dead. What saves this film is the unexpected comedy, the good old fashion manual effects and a cast led by Simon Baker (Riley) that didn't have a bad performance in it. The perfectly named Pedro Miguel Aree (Pillsbury) begs for more screen time, and we won't ruin the movie for you by giving away any of his lines. Fabulous.

    Bottom line is, if you want a perfect plot you are not going to get it here. But if you want a good, old, wooden roller coaster that will shake you up a bit and have you talking after you step out of the theater, go and have fun. Worth a look. Leave the kids at home though. This one deserves the R.   (-William J Piniarski-)

    | copyright, 2005 |