I got inspired the other day by Nate over at “On the Subject of Horror” (please do yourselves a favor and check his site out if you’re a horror fan) to get my behind moving in the right direction… Watching more of the horror which I love, writing about it and getting more movie related content on the site. After all the site is called Figures ‘n’ Films, not just Funko Pop nerd news! So here is volume 1, and I’m going to keep going as long as I can, bringing you a new horror movie every single Sunday evening.
Horror is such a wide ranging genre though, so you can expect to see all sorts creeping in to these reviews… I think there are generally considered to be 5 or so main types of horror but there is so much cross over between them as well. You’ve got Paranormal horror which covers all your ghosts, hauntings, possessions and witches, whilst your killer horror covers all of your slashers, home invasions, crimes and social fringes. The killer genre in particular can often cross with Gore horror (torture, extreme and splatter) and Psychological horror (paranoia and survival). But I want to go back to a genre which crosses with the paranormal…
It’s that biggest of horror genres, the one with the widest range of possibilities – we’re talking about Monster horror… Creature features! In this genre we’re talking monsters, giants, aliens, animals, vampires, folklore, werewolves and my favorite of all… Zombies!
Zombies seems like the perfect place for us to start this journey.
So let’s get on with the actual review!
I could probably pick a much better zombie film than Land of the Dead, but this one does always peak my interest in so many ways that I wanted an excuse to watch this… one of the movies by zombie legend, George A. Romero.
Romero was a pioneer of the zombie genre… he basically built it from the ground up, start with the classic Night of the Living Dead way back in 1968 with even more classics dotting their path past the Crazies, Dawn of the Dead, Diary of the Dead, Day of the Dead and finishing off quite nicely back at the Crazies back in 2010 (not technically a zombie flick but you can see the parallels). Land of the Dead sits towards the end of this path, back in 2005 and for me it was always a pivotal film which shows zombies in a slightly different light.
When you look at it properly, the classic movie zombie is a pretty useless monster. They’re not that hard to kill, they’re slow, they don’t really climb, they have a herd mentality and they’re really stupid. Considering they’re driven by instinct rather than reason, they’re still far more useless than they really should be. But that’s where the zombies in Land of the Dead are a little different.
In Land of the Dead the zombies revert back to a simplified version of what they did while they were alive, even if this just relates to hanging around with like minded dead or staying in a specific place, right through to considering pumping gas. But then there’s one zombie who is even more different still.
Bring in Big Daddy.
Big Daddy is a specific zombie in this film, played by Eugene Clark, who by the way is an absolute delight to meet if you ever see him at a convention. He has the ability to think and even feel. He shows mercy to other zombies which have been “killed” or torn apart, he is able to take things from the living, he can ignore the traps of the humans and he knows where to go in order to find them and he’s able to communicate with the other zombies, or at least direct them – and they learn too! After Big Daddy takes an assault rifle from the living, it’s not long before the rest of the horde start to tool up as well, laying their hands on axes and spades. Bid Daddy was a whole new breed of zombie, and a step closer to what defines my favorite type of zombie.
To see my favorite zombies, we’ll eventually be stepping in to the bright Hollywood lights of World War Z and Army of the Dead. I think zombies should have the ability to compile basic thoughts and decisions, there’s no reason why they shouldn’t be able to climb or more importantly run. if anything they’re dead, they don’t breathe why aren’t they able to run and run and run without any fatigue?
I want my zombies to actually be a bit scary, and I think we have Romero to thank for this with Land of the Dead.
Now, what’s even more scary than zombies with a bit of savvy? Politicians and rich people I hear you say? Absolutely, an this film has then in droves, doing what they do best – feeding poor people to zombies whilst they sit in high rise buildings sipping champagne.
This film sees some of the grunts in this world (the people you expect to see in these films), working their way to try and join the social elite. There are still the super rich in this film and they run the world, or at least Pittsburgh in this case, with a nice safe haven which they’ve been able to protect with their money and can keep the poor people in line by providing some level of safety from the zombies, living in the shadow of their big fancy sky scraper of course.
If there’s one thing you can say about the general narrative and direction of this film it is certainly that its one of, if not the most political statement in Romero’s quiver. It really does take a giant dig at the way in which society is divided and isn’t shy about doing so either – the politics really do slap you right in the face. And I for one am not sad about that at all!
It isn’t the most action heavy zombie film out there. It’s not all that scary and the makeup could certainly be a lot better. It hasn’t got the most zombies ever shown on screen or most inventive kills with tidal waves of blood and gore… But it is entertaining… it has an actual story… It’s got an agenda which it doesn’t get too high and mighty about or stuck on… It’s fun and above all it’s innovative with a brilliant cast who help bring the whole thing home.
So once again, could I have picked a better zombie film? Yes I could. Could I have picked a better George A. Romero film? Absolutely. Was this the most logical place to start my Sunday Night Slasher series? I don’t think so… BUT it does set the scene for what is to follow. I don’t want to write about the first film in the series every time, and I don’t want to always focus on the most famous movies… the classics. I’m going to focus on the films which I enjoy the most, the films which I think helped shape the genre. And for me, to bring zombies to where I love them the most, this film did a lot to shape that evolution.