©2008 Big Empire Industries and Randy Shandis Enterprises
Every right imaginable is reserved.


This week:
Land of the Dead

Filthy says:

Pretty much everyone loves zombies. Ask anyone. Ask your mom. I did. I did a survey of the general public and they were unanimous in their love.

Okay, I didn't ask your mom. I don't know where she lives. Actually, my survey was really just one dirtbag named Drag who was in the theater when I saw Land of the Dead. He was staying for his third straight viewing, and a nap. Do you know how much fucking money it costs to hire a marketing company to do a real survey of people's attitudes about zombies? $14,328, that's how much. Plus, they are total dicks to you when you call and ask them how much it would cost, and they use all these really big words. Anyway, Drag said he loved zombies and he didn't talk down to me.

Drag loves zombies. I do too. What isn't to love? The dead rise from their graves, brainless and slovenly, and eat the living. Reminds me of a girl I dated once. Except the zombies have better skin. It also reminds me to make sure Mrs. Filthy knows I want to be cremated. Not that I wouldn't want to come back from the dead. The chance I might is why I keep a notebook with the names of people I'd like to eat. I may not get my revenge on you while alive, but shit, when my liver finally dissolves a lot of you are gonna be sorry. Especially the assholes who ever won an argument with me. The reason I don't want to come back, though, is that they're gonna dig up the dirt hole in our hall closet and find my stash of porn. The last thing I want is to try to explain how it's not mine, I was holding it for a friend, and other excuses, when all I can make are guttural moans.

I think zombies are the most underrated members of the movie monster pantheon. Vampires are damn boring; they suck a little blood and flutter around like members of a European circus. They think they're so fucking great. Frankenstein's monster is cool, but really, isn't he a zombie? The Wolfman and Mummy? They are to monster movies what Aquaman is to the Justice League. That is, pussies. Go swim another lap, Aquadork. That leaves us with zombies, which Director George A. Romero sort of took from voodoo legend, tweaked and turned into the Night of the Living Dead back in 1968. That movie makes for an interesting historical artifact, like the Magna Carta or Bhagavad Gita or the Inna Gadda da Vida, but it's pretty fucking boring; creepy, and as dull as my retard cousin Larry's scissors. I remember being told it was a horror classic so many times that by the time I was ten or eleven and finally saw it on TV I thought I was watching the wrong movie. Shit, there are John Agar movies scarier than it. Give it the creepy part, though, like watching a zoetrope of a cobra eating a baby.

Romero went on to make a sequel, Dawn of the Dead, which is ten times faster paced, better and still sort of boring. It had a mildly amusing political commentary about consumerism taped on. Then, more for reasons of greed than quality, Romero made Day of the Dead, which pretty much sucked. That was twenty years ago. Since then he has written a script for a remake of Night which was mediocre. He also made a smattering of other horror movies about as warmly received as my three-panel poster for the high school science contest on why masturbation does not cause blindness. I don't know whether that was not well received because of the subject matter or because I was 27 when I entered it.

That leads us to 2005, when Romero has released the fourth movie in his "trilogy". I don't know why he made Land of the Dead, whether it was because zombies are popular again, or because he's like me with this fucking column; always trying to come up with something better to do but chained to his past like a concrete block dragging him to the ocean bottom. Maybe he was bitter about the very good remake of Dawn of the Dead that came out last year without his help and wanted to one up it.

Regardless of the reason Romero made it, Land of the Dead is damn good at doing what zombie movies are supposed to. It's almost as gory as any fundamentalist church's Hell Night abortion scene, and for limb severing about on par with the Thursday night when the lesbian softball team learned that the Tavern had run out of giant pickles. There are plenty of decapitations and bone-munching to please the pickiest zombie connoisseurs. What the movies does badly is what all all movies should do well, and that is develop characters and conflicts worth giving a shit about.

The world is overrun with zombies, except for Pittsburgh, which has been walled off from the outside world. Crews of humans go out at night to ransack outlying villages for food and supplies in a superlame truck that looks like a reject from Megaforce. Inside the city's walls, Dennis Hopper acts as an evil feudal lord. He doles out the citizens' entertainment, food and safety in exchange for complete control and wealth. John Leguizamo is his runner on the streets, doing the actual dirty work because he dreams of someday being rich enough to move into the fanciest condos within the walls. And Simon Baker is the blue-collar hero who wants out of the city, but can't leave until he saves everyone at least once. When Hopper reneges one time too many in his promises to Leguizamo, the punk steals the silly truck and threatens to blow up the city unless he gets his money and respect. It's up to Baker to save him, not for Hopper's sake, but for the sake of the little people, all the purehearted blue collared workers. And also for the sake of newfound love interest Asia Argento, whom he saved from being eaten by zombies in a Colloseum-style entertainment spectacle. These are the characters that comprise the bullshit part of the plot.

The zombies outside the walls are thought to be dumb-as-bricks-of-shit. Normally they can be distracted by fireworks or loud noises. But now, they are gaining intelligence and learning to use tools, unbeknownst to the people inside Pittsburgh. It's only a matter of time before the zombies figure out how to tear down the walls and go on a feeding frenzy. They are led by Eugene Clark, a gas-station attendant-turned-zombie who not only learns but also feels for other zombies as they are being blown to bits. This constitutes the good part of the story.

The bullshit part of the movie is about as tiresome as taking a talkative cheerleader to your high school prom. Yeah, yeah, yeah, that's great. Can we get to the end now? When Hopper is on the screen acting all hammy--which I assume is why they chose him--I just wanted to move on to the eternal classic conflict. Not man vs. man, not man vs. nature and not man vs. self. I'm talking man vs. unman. Hopper as an over-the-top villain was amusing in the 80s, but it's getting stale now.

The personal interactions are all rote and predictable. The presence of John Leguizamo in any movie means the triumph of his management over the casting directors. I can't imagine anyone ever plans a movie with him in mind because he's such an annoying, grating actor. Why the mopey Baker and loose-skinned skank Argento end up together is never made clear except that it's a god damn movie and the hero always has to have a girlfriend, even if she looks like she's been run over a few times. A dumbass political commentary runs underneath this plot just like in Romero's last couple of zombie flicks. It's Romero's age-old piss about class war; the rich are evil and the poor are pure. I'm gonna suggest that a badass zombie movie would be better without it. This one certainly would have.

Land of the Dead is a slow-moving-zombie flick, which means that they usually only get the dumbshits in the first two-thirds. It's only in the last third that the undead can amass and trap crowds of the living. What matters is that the movie doesn't stint on the gore. You see zombies shot, stabbed and run through with axes. Similarly, there are plenty of fantastic and original variations on scenes of the undead chowing down on the bones, tendons and bloody joints of the just dead. High-quality gore is sort of expected from the recent zombie movies, and this is no disappointment. The twist this time is that while the zombies are slow enough for a group of three-year olds holding hands to outrun, they get more clever and violent. There is something nice about knowiing a 65-year-old man like Romero still spends a lot of time coming up with clever ways to butcher people. It gives me hope that when I'm still doing this in 30 years I'll be able to drag a little moist sludge up from the bottom of the well every week.

A mystery for me is still left unexplained. If the zombies are always hungry for human flesh, what happens when they don't get any? Are they like teenaged boys about sex: they want it all the time, can't stop thinking about it, but manage to live without it? Or are they like the Harelip with model glue: wanting it all the time, always thinking about it and way more tolerable once she has some?

Otherwise, it's a good zombie movie with a lame enough human plot to keep you rooting for the dead. three Fingers for Land of the Dead.

Help Filthy || Want to tell Filthy Something?



Tony Toscano of "Talking Pictures"

Bewitched is "The most magical movie of the year!"

Herbie: Fully Loaded is "A fun ride for the whole family!""

Filthy's Reading
Tom Shales - Live From New York

Listening to
R. L. Burnside - Well Well Well


SCTV Volume 3