HD DVD Title: Land of the Dead Unrated Director’s Cut (Combo with DVD)
Rated: Unrated Director’s cut, Theatrical release was R
Screen format: 1080P 2.35:1, Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1 on DVD side
First theatrical release: June 24, 2005
Previously released on DVD/BluRay: Unrated Widescreen, Rated R Widescreen and Fullscreen DVD editions on October 18, 2005
Director: George A. Romero
Starring: Simon Baker, Dennis Hopper, Asia Argento, Robert Joy and John Leguizamo
Sound Formats: English, Spanish Dolby Digital Plus 5.1; DD 5.1 and DTS 5.1 on DVD side
Length: 1 hour 37 minutes
Subtitles: English, Spanish, French
It used to be that you could count on Zombies. They were some pretty well established rules: They weren’t very bright, they move pretty slowly, they are attracted to shiny things and fireworks, and all they ever do is feed. In Land of the Dead, the brains behind the zombie oeuvre himself George A. Romero changes the game once again, redefines the genre and uses the film’s plot as thinly veiled protest against the current political state of affairs in America in the process.
The Zombie invasion which has spread throughout the first three of Romero’s films (Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead, and Day of the Dead) has grown such that humans have begun to band together in cities and other strongholds. A new order has risen under political leadership. Money now has value once again, although the means of earning it have changed over time. Groups of zombie hunters and resource gatherers now comb the landscape finding valuable food, fuel and trinkets to bring back for their bartering power. Riley (Simon Baker) and Cholo (John Leguizamo) are both veteran scavengers, but with very different priorities.
When Cholo is denied his dream of living in the luxury part of town by the head politician they serve under (Hopper), he decides to split from society, taking the towns best weapon, the Dead Reckoning with him. Riley is assigned to bring him back in, and he will have to do it quickly as the local zombies have somehow gotten smarter. They are no longer distracted by fireworks, they can use weapons, swim, use group tactics, and have goals of their own.
Race relations, the war on terror, the excesses of society and what it simply means to be human are all explored and masterfully skewered in this romp, using the fun of gore and violence as a backdrop to a powerful morality tale. If anyone misses the clues, the extras leave nothing to guess, as both Romero admits that he is panning the current political climate and Hopper announces “I played my character like Rumsfeld”. Regardless of political viewpoint, this is easily the best the genre has to offer, and if you enjoy horror then the effects, gore, irreverent humor and solid story will be just what you are after.
Sound Quality: 4.5/5
The sound quality on this film is up there with the best of what HD DVD has shown us so far. The surround track features an enveloping holosonic field from the first moment until the last note in the credits. The soundtrack to the film itself is quite varied, featuring great bass and interesting surround effects to keep an air of both creepiness and also keeping us cheering for Riley and crew. Gun and explosion effects are some of the punchiest around, they definitly hit you deep in the gut and the rumbles are deep and long. We are definitly in demo material territory here, and since the effects are embedded in to some fun visual and story elements at the same time, so much the better.
Visual Quality: 5/5
Given that this movie is shot almost entirely at night, the detail and depth of this transfer is astounding. I was astounded watching the making of segments to find puppets and other trickery used where I thought I was watching actual human actors, the detail is that good but is not betrayed by the high def transfer. Colors are rock solid, tho often using a blue filter for effect, which adds to the creepiness. Sharpness is incredible, and there is zero evidence of edge enhancement or unwarranted grain. Unlike other recent Universal transfers there is also ZERO dust or scratches notable on the print. Not once did I notice anything out of place. This is truly a perfect transfer.
Extra Features: 4.5/5
All features but the director’s commentary are on the flip side on standard definition DVD, which is par for the course these days. This time tho, despite being called simply the directors cut, we have almost enough to qualify this as a true special edition release! There are six behind the scenes making of segments: Undead again; A day with the living dead; Bringing the dead to life; Zombie Effects; Bringing the Storyboards to Life; and Scream Tests. Of these, A Day was my favorite as it is hosted by Leguizamo, and he gets behind the scenes and under the skin of cast and crew. There is also a music video and a segment where the stars of Sean of the Dead show up for their cameos. Finally, there are about 10 deleted scenes slapped together badly in a segment called ‘The remaining bits’ which should have been done a lot better than it was but was still interesting.
Overall: 4.5/5 (not an average)
Fans of the horror genre rejoice, finally we have a full featured package that hits everything right in story, gore, visuals, sound and extras. Land of the Dead is a fantastic addition to the genre, and will likely be pointed back to in years to come as an example of the political climate of the day, as well as an example of slick movie making and artful direction and story telling. This disk deserves to be seen as both near reference quality demo material and just a pure fun experience. Recommended.