Sunday, February 05, 2006

The Lard of the Dead! Lard!

George Romero
Universal Pictures, 2005
Rating: 2.0 Scale (-12:12)

I have to start this off with a confession: it's not just that Dawn of the Dead (the original, you scumbags, not the remake) is my favorite zombie movie, its that it is one of my favorite movies. Period. Perhaps this is a sign of bad taste on my part; I have certainly been accused of worse. Nevertheless, it means that I'm unfairly prejudiced both in favor of George Romero and against Land of the Dead, so this review is probably not worth reading. This is not an unbiased review.

Anyway. On to the movie! So, Pittsburgh is like the only city left, right? Everyone else has been eaten by zombies. Aside from just the inherent cultural crisis of Pittsburgh as the sole outpost of civilization, the world is in bad shape. The people of Pittsburgh need to range farther and farther afield in the search for canned goods to eat--they're not farming or ranching or anything--and the city is ruled by a obsolete and overly decadent elite. Also: the city is surrounded by zombie hordes.

Pittsburgh is a good choice for defense, though, cause they've got rivers on two of three sides, meaning that you can just fence off the last leg of the triangle and you're safe from zombies. Right. If they were safe from zombies, there wouldn't be a movie. They're not safe from zombies because one of the bastards has worked out how to use tools. Not make, mind you, but use.

Of couse, defense brings up how I'd do it. You've got a city surrounded by both suburbs and zombies? Burn down the suburbs. For serious. Strip them of useful material and burn them to the ground. There's already the underground coal fires, for pete's sake, just burn the buildings down too. There's a river that'll keep your city from burning, and if the zombies come you can see them. And that's important.

Not that the ruling class of the city has any interest in actual zombie defense, preferring to run the Romanesque game of "entertain the citizens and they'll ignore the fact that they're living in poverty," the favorite game of ruling classes everywhere. (Planning on enjoying the Superbowl today?) Dennis Hopper plays the leader of the overly decadent elite, and has an overly limited script. His continual screaming at the zombies of "You have no right!" is one of the weakest points in the film.

The shame is, you actually find yourself, well, not rooting for the zombies, per se, but definately feeling for them. The remnants of mankind are so useless that the zombies don't really seem like a bad choice. Even the men you're supposed to like are maybe just bad actors.

The movie follows the Romero formula well, with the initial zombie attack, then some plot building, then the full-on "we're hip deep in zombies." Which is every movie Romero has made, near as I can tell. Where this one really breaks away is in the production values: this one is far cleaner, with far better camerawork, and far better editing. Which is set off by the lack of a script and the overt metaphors, which are far less satisfying than the more subtle statements made in Romero's previous movies.

However. If what you want is gore, this movie delivers in spades. The gore is both excessively gory and occasionally actually stomach turning. There's one point with some zombie fingernails that actually made me shudder. And the thing with the bellybutton ring? Whatever it cost to get put in, that sort of removal is priceless.


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10:19 AM  

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