Land of the Dead ★★★★

I still remember catching a late afternoon screening of this on opening night to a half empty theater and just being in awe during the opening credit sequence that I was actually, finally watching a George Romero "living dead" movie in theaters. Once the camera in the opening shot panned to the trio of musicians attempted to play their instruments in the gazebo, I knew I was going to love it. And I did! It's not the best of George's original "Living Dead" series, but it's pretty darned great and totally in line with the previous films. In fact, I think this movie has aged tremendously well.

I recall several years back watching the Universal Blu when it first came out, and my Icons Of Fright co-creator Mike C came and asked, "what is this?" "It's LAND OF THE DEAD." "... this is much better than I remember."

Basically, it's a few odd years after the events of DAY OF THE DEAD. There's not much left, but the dead, and the living... and the living have fenced themselves off on an island called The Golden Triangle. There are different classes of people that live there. Most survivors struggle on the streets, while the rich occupy a high res building called Fiddler's Green. Dennis Hopper is, for lack of a better term, the "President" of this new world, and he has his hands in everything from drugs, the cage fighting, and other zombie-related activities.

Meanwhile, John Leguizamo's Cholo just wants his place in Fiddler's Green. He's been doing enough dirty work for years that he feels he's earned it, although the reality is they would never let "his kind" in there. Riley (Simon Baker) and his faithful companion Charlie (Robery Joy), just want to head up North, away from everyone. When Cholo steals their truck "Dead Reckoning," Kaufman (Hopper) sends Riley, Charlie and Slack (Asia Argento, who quite frankly, has never looked better) to retrieve him and the truck.

Oh yeah, there's zombies everywhere! And they're becoming self aware! In particular, a zombie named "Big Daddy." Big Daddy begins leading a revolt of the zombies to the Golden Triangle to take revenge on the people that continue slaughtering them. It's pretty wacky, but I swear it all works beautifully and it great fun. (Key word: FUN!)

Sure, Romero relies occasionally on a few quickie CG enhancements, but not nearly as excessive as on subsequent movies. And in retrospect, there's still plenty of gore and the red stuff to go around. Romero's original DEAD series ends with this one, and reboots with DIARY. But it's time fans accept that his dead trilogy is actually a quadrilogy that includes NIGHT, DAWN, DAY and LAND.

My only pet peeve: Big Daddy should've been Bub from DAY OF THE DEAD. Had he just brought that character back, this movie would be a flawless victory. As it's stands, it's pretty darned great regardless.