Movie Debaters 2013 Fear-a-thon Spectral-tacular! #21: Land of the Dead

We’re presenting a special series of articles this October on Movie Debaters. Every week day we’ll give you a write up of a movie that evokes fear into the viewer and sends chills down the spine. (Or, just, you know movies in the horror/thriller genre.)

We call it The Movie Debaters 2013 Fear-a-thon Spectral-tacular!

I’ve always liked the George A. Romero Of the Dead series. In fact, I finally saw Day of the Dead a few weeks ago. (It was great.) I even liked Zach Snyder’s remake of Dawn of the Dead.

When Land of the Dead came out I was kind of skeptical. It had been so long since Romero had made a zombie movie. Would it hold up? Would he still have the magic? Upon its release the movie got pretty middling reviews. Ever since then I’ve kind of ignored it.

Well it turns out my fears were a bit unfounded. The movie is a perfectly average, serviceable zombie movie. It’s got some interesting social commentary that’s not nearly as strong as Dawn of the Dead’s, but it’s still there. I liked that in the movie the zombies and lower class people represent the same side of the economic divide.

The gore and special effects are great and to be expected. I liked the look of the zombies too. Especially the yellow eyes and teeth of the Big Daddy zombie. And the scene where partially decapitated zombie swings his head down onto a soldier’s arm is an instant classic.

One thing I really liked about the movie was that it was a commentary about the dangers of complacency. In the film, the rich folk feel safe and secure. They’ve pretty much gone back to their regular lives of eating dinner in fancy restaurants, wearing suits, being catered to by servants, etc. Once the shit hits the fan — of course it does — they’re completely powerless to stop it.

This is great subject matter for a horror movie. Did you ever notice how in horror series they tend to get less scary and more action oriented as the series progresses? Or maybe instead of staying scary they get funnier and campier? It’s because a basic tenant of horror is the feeling of helplessness. Once the audience and characters become more accustomed to the danger, they have less reason to be surprised by it. If you’re not surprised by it, then it’s not as scary.

So the people in this movie become complacent. They’ve adjusted and learned to sneer at the danger around them. Of course the lower class people and soldiers are still on edge for the danger. They’re still aware of the danger around them.

Real quick: The rest of the movie surrounding these themes is a little generic. Like I said above the movie is perfectly serviceable. It’s not like the movie is a train wreck or anything. The cast does their job, the story moves at a steady pace; it’s just not as groundbreaking as the previous in the series.

I was really glad to see Romero still mostly had the touch with Land of the Dead. I think between this movie and the previous three, they’re perfect studies on how humanity would react to a zombie apocalypse.

-Harrison

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