Land of the Dead (2005, George Romero)

screened January 6, 2007 on DVD with Bill at our mother's house in South San Francisco, CA IMDb I've seen only the first two installments of Romero's Dead series, Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead (both TSPDT listees), and this, perhaps the last chapter of the series, manages to convey a startlingly fresh consideration of zombieism, that makes sense in the overall trajectory and evolution of the series. In Night, the zombies embodied the abstract Other that terrorized mainstream American society. In Dawn, Romero inverted the equation by having the zombies invade a shopping mall and behave suggestively similar to your average American consumer, roaming the mallways in a trance of endless consumption. Here, the zombies are a threat to a privileged, gated society that literally lives in a tower, sending out mercenaries into zombieland to horde supplies and resources. It's remarkable how Romero can adapt his concept so easily to suggest today's global order under the hegemony of American capitalism, with the zombies representing an increasingly unruly global underclass. By the end Romero has you perversely rooting for the zombies to kill capitalist meanie Dennis Hopper as well as tear the flesh off of dozens of well-dressed yuppies. The resolution is one of an uneasy and probably untenable truce between the remaining humans and zombies, perhaps unsatisfying but that doesn't make it any less reflective of the relationship between the U.S. and much of the world right now.

These extrapolations aside, the film is pretty damn entertaining, though perhaps not as crisp and inventive in its storytelling or handling of characters as the previous two I've seen - but that may be because it's a more sprawling narrative encapsulating a larger ensemble and more hypothetical futurized scenario. It's also incredibly bleak, but not unrelentingly so - Romero's libertarian survivalist instinct is too strong to fall completely into despair.

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