Click here to return to the main site.

Blu-ray Review

DVD cover

Land of the Dead (2005)
(2021 2-Disc Set)


Starring: Simon Baker, Dennis Hopper, Asia Argento and Robert Joy
Distributor: Fabulous Films Ltd / Fremantle Media Enterprises
RRP: £19.99


Certificate: 18
Release Date: 15 February 2021

In a society where zombies comprise the vast majority of the population, the high echelons of wealthy but mostly decadent unaffected people live in a walled city – and in particular one vast skyscraper. Those with no money or belongings live in squalor at street level. Riley (Simon Baker) and his crew operate the heavily-armoured and weaponised Dead Reckoning vehicle. They cross the water which protects the city into the dangerous chaotic environment of the undead, to collect supplies for Kaufman (Dennis Hopper), but also – unbeknown to him – those in need on the streets. However, the zombies have evolved. The normal diversionary tactics don’t work anymore, and  - lead by a large individual nicknamed ‘Big Daddy’ – they have devised the simplest means of crossing the water and entering the city...

With Night of the Living Dead (1968), George A. Romero not only unknowingly made an all-time cult classic horror film but also set the template for a multitude of zombie films to follow. Land of the Dead (2005) was the fourth of Romero’s six ‘Dead’ movies, following Dawn of the Dead (1978) and Day of the Dead (1985). He would go on to make Diary of the Dead (2007) and Survival of the Dead (2009). Whereas Night of the Living Dead reportedly cost $114,000 Land of the Dead was his largest budget studio-backed film, coming in at just short of $19 million. It became one of Romero’s biggest box office successes, and he jokingly stated that Dennis Hopper’s cigar budget came to more than that of the first ‘Dead’ movie. Romero, a renowned amiable chap, was so impressed by the pastiche zombie comedy Shaun of the Dead, that he gave actor/co-writer Simon Pegg and actor/director/co-writer Edgar Wright cameo parts in Land of the Dead as zombies chained-up in a night club for the well-to-do to have their pictures taken with. I love the fact that Romero turned down the offer to direct The Walking Dead TV series, correctly citing the show as a soap opera with zombies.

I was a keen follower of The Mentalist TV series, so it’s nice to see Simon Baker as the main protagonist in quite a different role. There is something to be said about each of the Dead Reckoning crew. John Leguizamo plays Cholo suitably self-centredly, Pedro Miguel Arce is great as the strong man soldier of little words, and the tough Slack is played by Asia Argento – Italian horror director Dario’s daughter. The film is mainly constructed for real, with actors, make-up and animatronics. CGI was only used for the skyscraper and backgrounds for zombie crowd scenes. It’s also worth mentioning that effects wizard and actor Tom Savini has a cameo in the film as the same zombie character he played in Dawn of the Dead.

There is a veritable cornucopia of special features on this Fabulous Films two-disc Blu-ray set. So, here we go (deep breath): Disc 1/ The Theatrical Version of the film; Cholo’s Reckoning – An Interview with actor John Leguizamo; Charlie’s Story – An Interview with actor Robert Joy; The Pillsbury Actor – An Interview with Pedro Miguel Arce; Four of the Apocalypse – An Interview with actors Eugene Clark, Jennifer Baxter, Boyd Banks and Jasmin Geljo; Theatrical Trailer; Dream of the Dead Documentary (an independent behind-the-scenes production); Dream of the Dead with Audio Commentary by director Roy Frumkes; and Deleted Scenes from Dream of the Dead.

Disc 2/ Unrated Version of the Feature; Feature Commentary with director George A. Romero, producer Peter Grunwald and editor Michael Doherty; Feature Commentary with zombie performers Matt Blazi, Glena Chao, Michael Felsher and Rob Mayr; When Shaun Met George (the travelling and on-set experiences of Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright as zombies in the film); Bringing the Dead to Life (an entertaining exploration of the make-up, effects and animatronics); Scenes of Carnage; Zombie Effects: From Green Screen to Finished Scene; Scream Tests: Zombie Casting Call; Bringing the Storyboards to Life; Undead Again: The Making of Land of the Dead; A Day with the Living Dead; Reversible Sleeve cover with All New Artwork by Graham Humphreys.

Aside from my appreciation of the ground-breaking The Night of the Living Dead, I’m not a big lover of zombie films simply because they nearly all follow the same dull premise. Of course, there will always be exceptions, such as 28 Days Later, 30 Days of Night, and a handful of others. George A. Romero’s ‘Dead’ films are always worth watching, as there is more action, better characterisation and attention to detail. They are visceral but always have a strong direction. There’s an original slant in each one – a sort of evolution or progression – and a gritty realism. In other words, you care about what’s going on. Like the recent Dawn of the Dead set, Romero fans will treasure this new Blu-ray release. These are proving to be a fitting tribute to the zombie master. Hopefully, his other ‘Dead’ films will receive the same loving treatment.


Ty Power

Buy this item online