DAWN OF THE DEAD/LAND OF THE DEAD
Reviewed by: JimmyO
George Romero and Zack Snyder
What's it about
Two movies about zombies… both would not have been made without George A. Romero. The first is Zack Snyder’s remake of Dawn of the Dead, and the next one is Romero’s Land of the Dead. It’s flesh eating double dipping for all.
Is it good movie?
It seems that more and more, titles are being released and re-released and put together with another movie for a double feature. Not that I have a problem with it necessarily, at least a major problem. Because truth is, it’s continuing to happen and occasionally, it will be something that luckily you haven’t purchased. With Universal’s Unrated presentation of Dawn of the Dead and George A. Romero’s Land of the Dead, I kind of liked the idea, particularly because I never bought Dawn. For me, my first viewing of it had mixed reactions. I loved the original, and although I liked the remake, I kept thinking that it was an unnecessary move. After all, the original is a smart and brilliant social commentary on the Seventies and their need for monetary advancement. Yet Zack Snyder’s seemed to be geared more to an action film sensibilities with only a mild representation of the original’s social awareness. But I’m happy to say, the more I see it, the more I enjoy it.
With Dawn, there is something that really elevates the film, and that includes a great cast lead by Sarah Polley, Jake Weber and Ving Rhames. It is also a smart screenplay that borrows just enough from the original to make it stand out on it’s own. Gone are the brilliant sequences of consumerism with only hints of it here. But the characters, for the most part, are fleshed out quite well and gives the viewer a reason to care. When they survivors of a violent zombie outbreak find themselves at the mall trying to figure things out, they seemed to connect in a very real way. And as for the zombies, well, they seem a bit quick on their feet which bothered me at first. I’m sort of old school when it comes to zombies, and I like the idea of these lumbering beasts that slowly come for you and in the end, when you are tired and weak, they show up to chow down.
Speaking of slow moving zombies, we also get Romero’s underappreciated Land of the Dead. I really liked the film and I was very pleased with some of the main performances. I felt Simon Baker did great work and was a terrific everyman as the hero of the film. Also quite good are John Leguizamo and Dennis Hopper. Asia Argento is always a pleasure to watch, especially in horror, so I was happy. And yes, since this is Romero, the social commentary is back in full force. It was a very obvious take on the current political situation and a little bit of a swipe at Mr. George W. Bush. But much like the running zombies in Dawn, Land made a few folks angry because those pesky zombies are given even more of a humanistic approach. Even starting to show them progressing and thinking. I was willing to take this in, even though after watching it, there was a bit of that feeling of, ‘yeah right!’ but I still thought it was by far, the best looking of the series. Yet not the best, that honor would still be with (the original) Dawn and Night of the Living Dead.
I decided not to go into the plot for each film because most horror fans know exactly what these particular films are about. But I do feel that the question is, is it worth purchasing if you already own both? And the answer is, not at all. You own them and you’ll get nothing new here. The extras are the same and the films seem to have the same transfer. I didn’t own one, so for me it was a worthwhile buy. I like these two films and I also like the fond memory of “double features”, and these two films work very well together. But if you are thinking there is some gotta have element to this latest release… nope, nothing new here. Stick to the ones you already own.
Video / Audio
Video: Both films look great with a 2.35:1 Widescreen transfer.
Audio: Same with audio, the Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1 (with Land only) are also great.
Again, the question remains, if you own these then there is no point buying them. The special features are all good on both discs, but nothing new has been added.
Dawn of the Dead offers up a couple of creepy extras including The Lost Tape: Andy’s Terrifying Last Days Revealed (16:14). You know Andy, he’s the gun shop owner that is later bitten. We see his own footage that he took, every so often getting glimpses of his ex-wife and daughter. Like he had recorded over another video. This is a very sad little extra that occasionally suffers from trying too hard to be real. Yet, Bruce Bohne does a credible job at keeping his performance pretty real. An interesting addition.
Also a very creepy extra is Special Report: We Interrupt this Program! (20:54), a news report about the sickness that is taking over. It features a decidedly exhausted news reporter and a few “interviews” with doctors and the recently bit. This also suffers a bit from a couple of weak performances by supposed interview subjects. But it is still a fascinating addition to the disc.
In Undead Scenes with Commentary by Director Zack Snyder and Producer Eric Newman we get a look at a few scenes taken out of the movie. There are a couple of cool zombie shots, but mostly it’s a little extra character development. Worth watching with the commentary to see where Zack was coming from.
Raising the Dead (7:52) is a look at the make-up of the zombies, including masks, effects appliances and just general make-up for lesser seen zombies. A bit too short because I’m sure they could have done more with this.
Attack of the Living Dead (7:18) offers up a closer look at “The Maintenance Man”, “The Flying Zombie”, “The Jogging Zombie”, “Bloated Woman” who was not actually a woman, “Luda” and “Monica”. Interesting to see what they were looking for in regards to effects for each of these characters.
Do you want to see some exploding heads? Of course you do. So check out Splitting Headaches: Anatomy of Exploding Heads (5:32) which examines the different types of exploding heads. Fun stuff and a terrific little, ‘how’d they do that?’ type of thing.
There is also a fascinating Feature Commentary with Zack Snyder and Eric Newman exploring everything from the casting to the make-up and everything else. The two of them keep it moving and keep it interesting.
Land of the Dead offers up a few cool extras including Undead Again: The Making of Land of the Dead (12:55) which is a nice little behind the scenes, even if it is a bit generic. I still dug seeing Romero in action.
John Leguizamo has fun with hosting duties on A Day with the Living Dead (7:32). I would have liked to have seen more of this because it’s much too short. It was fun seeing the sets and the make-up department with John leading us through. Too short but still fun.
Bringing the Dead to Life (9:27) gives Greg Nicotero a chance to talk about working with George… again. And he is obviously very knowledgeable about his job. He really does outstanding work in this film, the gore was terrific.
The Remaining Bits (2:50) offers up a few cut scenes which are fine, but nothing to write home about. The really didn’t add anything to the experience
The Feature Commentary with George A. Romero, Producer Peter Grunwald and Editor Michael Doherty is worth a listen just for the goodies Romero offers up. But the problem with this commentary, it lacks the enthusiasm that the Dawn of the Dead track offers. As I said, I loved some of the stories George told, yet the silent moments were much too often.
The most fun to be had is When Shaun Met George (12:58) as Shaun of the Dead (and Hot Fuzz) duders Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg take a trip to do a cameo as zombies in the film. I really love those guys and it’s nice to see their own fanboy come out when they meet George. Great fun here.
You say you want more gore? Greedy bastards! Well here you go with Scenes of Carnage (1:38), although it’s nothing you won’t see in the “unrated” film itself. Just a couple of bits edited together. Sort of unnecessary if you ask me.
And then come two interesting short features called Zombie Effects: From Green Screen to Finished Scene (3:10) and Bringing the Storyboards to Life (7:52). Both are nice little features, especially the storyboards… they did a nice job with those.
And finally, we get the most pointless of them all… Scream Tests: Zombie Casting Call (1:01) which is nothing like it sounds. Just a bunch of CG shells of zombies dancing… yep, dancing. What the f*ck?
Both of these unrated films were good, yet there was no real reason to release them together like this. But if you don’t have one or the other, it’s not a bad investment. But it’s not a great one either. Double dipping may be a much bigger plague on humanity than zombies yet I still dug both films and it was nice going back to Romero’s Land and enjoying the bloody goodness of it thick with social commentary. And it was also fun to revisit Dawn with some terrific performances and a few really cool sequences. When there is no more room in hell, the double dipping DVD’s shall walk the earth. And if the DVD had a little more skin to chew, it would have gotten a higher rating.