Blu Ray Title: Land of the Dead – Unrated Director’s Cut
Disk Release Date: 30 September, 2008
Rated: Unrated, Theatrical release was R
Screen format: 1080P High Definition Widescreen 2.35:1
First theatrical release: June 24, 2005
Previous releases on disk: Unrated Widescreen, Rated R Widescreen and Fullscreen DVD editions on October 18, 2005. Unrated Director’s Cut HD-DVD on same day.
Director: George A. Romero
Starring: Simon Baker, Dennis Hopper, Asia Argento, Robert Joy and John Leguizamo
Sound Formats: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, Spanish DTS 5.1
Length: 1 hour 37 minutes on a BD-25
Subtitles: English, Spanish, French
(Note: Some contents originated in my DVD and HD DVD reviews of this title)
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 town’s 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: 5/5
The sound quality on this film is up there with the best of recent movies and both the previous HD DVD and this BluRay capture that to the fullest possible. This BluRay make the leap to full uncompressed DTS HD Master Audio so those who demand nothing less will have zero complaints, but I found a lot to love in that DD+ track, and I believe that while there are those who can tell the difference without repeated A/B critical listening it’s kind of moot since you get the best there is here on this disk. For the record I didn’t feel like I was experiencing anything new in this viewing but I didn’t do any kind of head to head test.
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 definitely hit you deep in the gut and the rumbles are deep and long. We are truly 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
I found the visual qualities of Land of the Dead on BluRay to match exactly my remembrance of the film on HD DVD. Others across the net will surely pixel peep this into oblivion and come to some objective measure about which is technically superior but I found that, on my setup at least, few movies have ever looked as good.
Given that this movie is shot almost entirely at night, the detail and depth of this transfer is astounding. I was shocked 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, tho a thin layer of grain is constantly present, preserving the theatrical film’s ‘look’. 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
Unlike the HD DVD which was a flipper with all features but the director’s commentary located on the B side (on standard definition DVD), on this BluRay all features fit fine onto the single sided BD-25 along with the film. I found that almost all of features from the HD-DVD made it intact (tho still in standard definition) except the music video which I didn’t see.
The big change is that several of the HD DVD features (including the best one, called Undead Again) were chopped up and put into U-Control in almost random order. Once again I find this really stupid and frustrating and encourage all of our readers to join together to ask Universal to not continue butchering these extras!!!
There are five other behind the scenes making of segments and those include ‘Bringing the dead to life’; ‘Zombie Effects; Bringing the Storyboards to Life’; and ‘Scream Tests’ which is a short and silly video showing bad CGI zombies overlaid on top of a subway entry ‘plate’ photograph. There’s also an extended 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 (not an average)
Despite Universal’s gaffe on messing up perfectly good (and interesting/amusing) featurette material this is still an otherwise very good release.
Fans of the horror genre can 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 zombie mythos, 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.