LAND OF THE DEAD: UNRATED DIRECTOR’S CUT (DVD)

5 Stars
Year Released: 2005
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Running Time: 97 minutes
Click to Expand Credits:

Okay, so George A Romero’s fourth “Dead” film had problems and is pretty uneven. Whether that’s down to studio interference (Universal rushed the film’s release date forward several months from a Halloween ’05 release to give them more time to work on “Doom”) or Romero as a filmmaker is entirely debatable – it’s probably a little of both – but I’m not going to review the actual film itself here, just the DVD presentation. Suffice to say, I personally thought that the movie has some great stuff in it that rivals anything in the previous “Dead” flicks (most notably the excellent start) and reveals different layers upon subsequent viewings. Okay? Okay.

This unrated, Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1 DVD (in Dolby Digital 5.1) is the “Land” release that Romero fans were waiting for since the truncated theatrical release, and it delivers wholeheartedly. It’s much gorier, though it doesn’t really have any of the show-stopping drawn-out FX sequences that characterized “Dawn” and “Day of The Dead”; the visceral grand guignol effect here is cumulative, spread and sprayed and splattered throughout the film as it goes along, until you have witnessed a movie that’s just as gory as any of its predecessors. Some of the extra FX sequences are pretty damned gruesome, like scapulae being ripped out or brains eaten or eyeballs bitten out, so if it’s gore you’re after you can’t go wrong. There’s also a full scene with Cholo having to off a zombie who has hung himself in Kaufman’s penthouse complex, but it doesn’t add much to the plot. Bonus features included are:

Undead Again: The making of Land of The Dead. A behind-the-scenes documentary featuring cast and crew talking about the film and its place in the Romero ghoul pantheon. Good overview of the production with some good interview footage in it.

A Day With The Living Dead. A hilarious wander through the world of the undead with John Leguizamo, who jokingly regards anti-hero star Simon Baker as a “scrawny little fuck” and wonders aloud what Asia Argento is like in bed. This really is funny and irreverent, full of the usual manic Leguizamo energy, though personally I find the actor so disturbingly intense he’s almost difficult to watch. He’s great in the finished film though.

The Remaining Bits. There’s a few deleted scenes here that don’t add much to the film, though one of them, showing the Irishman whom Riley talks to near the start of the film, being released, fills in a plot hole that personally annoyed me, i.e. seeing the guy in jail one minute and then running around free at the end of the film. Forgettable.

Zombie Effects: From Green Screen To Finished Scene. A mini-doc showing how shots in the finished film are created with CGI. Some pretty interesting compare-and-contrast stuff in here.

Bringing The Storyboards To Life. Storyboard drawings compared to their counterpart shots in the finished film. Not exactly riveting.

Scream Tests: Zombie Casting Call. A funny short video of animated zombies dancing to a raucous tune. Shows Romero has lost none of his nod-and-a-wink sense of humor about his undead charges and this made me laugh out loud.

Bringing The Dead To Life. A doc about Greg Nicotero and KNB’s sterling, standout FX work (with a coupla the gruesome gags being ripped off from Pete Jackson’s “Braindead,” it must be said) on the film. Some pretty cool behind-the-scenes stuff here, and it’s easy to see Nicotero’s (whom Leguizamo, diplomatic as ever, labels “such a geek”) dedication to his gory craft here. One mind-blowing fact revealed is that Nicotero first met Romero in a restaurant in Italy in the late 70s, when he was a kid on holiday in Europe with his parents. Talk about karma, shit…how mad is that?

Scenes Of Carnage. A splatter music video featuring classical music over the movie’s gory scenes. Kinda reminded me of Dario Argento and his maniacal musical excesses in his mutilation movies in scenes like the stabbing scene from “Inferno.” Pretty wild.

When Shaun Met George. A cool, geeky, hyper-affectionate doc by the guys who made “Shaun of The Dead,” Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright. These “Dead” fans document themselves traveling from England to Toronto to be in the film as zombies. They are over the moon to be a part of the whole production and Romero is a big fan of theirs too. This is a really cool, poignant doc and I can wholeheartedly relate to their excitement about being zombies as you can see by my story Night Of The Living Dead Reckoning on this very site.

Feature Commentary. This is done by Romero, producer Peter Grunwald and editor Michael Daughtery. They discuss how they couldn’t use scenes from the previous “Dead” films due to rights problems, how Leguizamo improvised a lot during the shoot, how Romero’s daughter has a zombie-shooting cameo as a soldier, how they have “6000 hours of machine guns” being shot on film, how they toned down the color of the blood for the theatrical release, etc. Interesting and thorough.

I guess hardcore “Dead” fans will already know if they want to buy this DVD or not, but if they do it’s definitely worth having. Romero and Universal have done the fans proud with it, and there’s a lot of great stuff on it. The director says in one doc, with reference to shooting low-budget films and not needing to score big bucks, how he likes betting at the two-dollar window and is not shooting for a huge betting win. With this down-to-earth workmanlike philosophy, let’s hope that Romero gets to make another “Dead” films and that he gets left alone to make it his way this time. For all the hard work he puts into his movies, and for the kind of guy he genuinely is…he deserves it, pure and simple.



Posted on October 18, 2005 in Reviews by
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