by Leah Sottile
I like my zombies decayed, bloodthirsty, avaricious, ill-tempered and in large numbers. But one thing, in my mind, that zombies will never be is smart. It's just one of the fundamental facts of life. Cows say "moo," cats say "meow," people from Idaho drive "truck" and zombies are dumb. They don't think, they don't strategize - they are simply attracted to eating humans. End of story.
Directly after the opening credits of Land of the Dead, Romero drops his audience right into oozing-with-the-undead world of today. The zombies' day of running amok has passed; they have become a controlled population in urban centers, but still aimlessly roam the countryside, shuffling in clusters and searching for an eyeball or leg-stump to gnaw on.
Riley (Simon Baker) and Cholo (John Leguizamo) lead an army of humans hired by multi-millionaire Mr. Kaufman (Dennis Hopper). While Kaufman sips mimosas in a high-rise, uber-exclusive skyscraper of society's remaining "haves," the leftover "have-nots" live in urban ghettos. But Kaufman, being the swell guy he is, used his millions to assemble civilian armies, to encircle the city with electric zombie fences and hand out AK-47s like lollipops to whomever wants one.
But within a few minutes of Land of the Dead, we learn that fences and rifles aren't going to cut it anymore; these zombies are getting smarter. Led by fast-learning zombie king (credited as "Big Daddy"), the zombies begin to shed their slow, brainless ways. They pick up meat cleavers, bats and discarded guns and start to use them against the attacking humans. Instead of biting, these zombies shoot, swing, chop and even punch -- to the point that this flick might be more aptly entitled George A. Romero's Zombie Empire Strikes Back.
Sound stupid yet? Well, I assure you, it is.
What ensues are 92 minutes of zombies popping out from behind every building, tree, skylight, window and refrigerator imaginable. Perhaps the best part of the film is betting on how gory Romero can get. Humans die in every way imaginable: The zombies snap jugulars, pluck heads off bodies as if they were gummy bears, clamber over piles of intestines and gulp down limbs like popcorn chicken. Romero attempts to string together a plot in among the stacks of arms and legs and guts, but it falls flat alongside his intelligent-zombie concept. While the acting would have earned the cast an A in high school drama class, I would have rather deleted the plot altogether just to witness all the ways that a mid-level cast can be zombified.