Land of the Dead (2005)

Having given birth to the modern zombie genre with Night of the Living Dead, George A. Romero further explored the terrain in several sequels, including the fourth entry, Land of the Dead. So different are the films that he can never be accused of making the same movie twice; but this time, the result just isn’t all that good.

Working with a huge-for-him budget and some name actors, Land had every opportunity to be the “zombie masterpiece” as the ads touted. From the very first shot — a sly visual gag of a pointing diner sign reading “EATS” — you think Romero may very well pull it off. But then the camera slowly pans over to some kind of zombie oompha band. If we’re going to fault George Lucas for the Wookie’s Tarzan yell in Revenge of the Sith, we’ve gotta take Romero to task for this, too.

A thin story emerges: In one major metropolitan area, survivors live in a well-fortressed downtown area surrounded by rivers, barbed wire, electric fences and armed guards to keep the undead out. The rich among them live in a palatial skyscraper filled with fine dining, shopping and housing, all owned by the wealthy Dennis Hopper. He’s hired armies to roam the streets for the sole purpose of killing zombies.

Meanwhile, Gas Station Attendant Zombie has somehow learned to become smarter and corrals a whole mess of zombies to follow him to the gated community for some late-night snacks. Zombies attacking a skyscraper. That should be an awesome movie (and it was, almost, in Demons 2). But rather than deliver that, Romero would rather get preachy and political. Screw messages! Me want zombies! —Rod Lott

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