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Land Of The Dead – Collector’s Edition (Blu-ray Review)

When Dawn of the Dead (The Snyder version) became a big success, Universal final ponied up for George Romero’s fourth film in his vision for his legendary zombie “Of The Dead” series. Coming in the summer of 2005, the film didn’t really take off like Snyders, but importantly, the thing finally got made.  And I think those who saw it are fond of it, but I’m sure there are detractors. Scream Factory is revisiting the film for a brand spanking new edition twelve years later, giving you both cuts of the film as well as a slew of brand new interviews as well as all of the old bonus material. This one will be available at the same time that Zack Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead will be available, which is Hallowen. You can pre-order the Collector’s Edition from the link below.

Film 

In a world where zombies form the majority of the population, the remaining humans build a feudal society away from the undead. Ruthless Paul Kaufman rules and protects this microcosm but enforces painful class distinctions. Second-in-command Cholo DeMora attempts to lead a secret rebellion against Kaufman’s tyranny, but when the zombies begin to evolve, the survivors must discover a way to protect themselves from a zombie hoard that can learn and adapt.

Twenty years had passed since the godfather of the modern zombie, Pittsburgh filmmaker George Romero, completed Day of the Dead. Through the 1990s, Romero was trying to get a fourth film made. Zombies had gone out of style and he couldn’t find funding for it. Titled Twilight of the Dead, this fourth film was to center around a little city that had blockaded itself with cars and the like to keep zombies out. With the breakout success of 28 Days Later and Zack Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead, now the money was there and it was time to strike.

Romero’s fourth film in his zombie series (This is indeed the fourth, no bones about it, no longer a “trilogy”) continues right where he left off with the progression of the undead and continues his social commentaries. This time taking on George W. Bush and the aftermath of 9/11. The film creates a new arena and fun new characters with which to toil around with until the inevitable hoarde attack to close things out.

Filling out the roles in the film are not only some wonderful characters, but great actors, too. Dennis Hopper is a hoot as Kaufman, and is such a rat bastard you can’t help but laugh at his vicious ways. Asia Argento is a neat addition as her father was heavily involved in Dawn of the Dead. As per usual, she’s terrific and it sucks that she never skyrocketed to stardom in the US. Simon Baker leads this film and it might be his best role and one of his finest performances. And as always, John Leguizamo is awesome and just so damn likable. There are also fun side characters played by people like Robert Joy and funny ones like the guy who goes by “Pillsbury”

I make no bones about it; I really love this movie. Though, I have a sort of emotional attachment to it. When I moved to Los Angeles back in 2005, I was rather alone, with nothing but my backpack and a room to crash in. I took it upon myself to take in a movie my first night and I went to the ArcLight in Hollywood and saw this movie by myself. The audience was great, the theater was amazing and for an hour and a half, all my anxiety, fears, thoughts and stranger in a strange land feels were completely sucked away and I was in zombie heaven with a film from one of my favorite horror directors. So yeah, I love this movie for maybe more than what it is. But, I still things its a top notch zombie film and worthy of being a part of the Night, Dawn and Day’s excellence.

Video 

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1

Layers: BD-50

Clarity/Detail:  Land of the Dead features a new 2K scan of the interpositive for the theatrical edition. The unrated features that transfer plus HD inserts of the unrated material. It also updates the codec from the old VC-1 to the MPEG-4 AVC one. This isn’t an extremely sharp image, but its pretty solid and carries some really good detail with the effects holding strong in this updated transfer. Gory textures, clothing patterns/threads and surface blemishes all come through looking pretty good.

Depth:  Decent depth work here. Movements are cinematic and have no real jittering or blurring issues with sudden, sharp or rapid movements.

Black Levels: Blacks are deep and provide some solid shading and detail while not really hiding all too much. No crushing was witnessed on this viewing of the film for the review.

Color Reproduction: Colors are pretty bold and hold on strong. Blue is a strength of this new transfer and some scenes feel bathed in it. Interiors of Kaufman’s building look pretty rich and full. Red looks good, too.

Flesh Tones: Skin tones are natural and consistent from the start to the finish of the film. Facial features, like the zombie make-up, wrinkles, dried blood, stubble, lip texture and more look pretty solid in medium and close up shots. As a matter of fact, the zombie make-up and effects hold up pretty well.

Noise/Artifacts: A little layer of grain, but it looks rather clean.

Audio 

Audio Format(s): English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, English 2.0 DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: English

Dynamics: I believe this is the same track that was on the previous Blu-ray release of the film. Its loose, loud and plenty of zombie mayhem is capture quite well here. There is a really good back and forth and placement of volumes going on in the front that is both playful and accurate. Effects are distinct, crisp and clear.

Height: N/A

Low Frequency Extension: Music stings, crashing, gunfire, explosions and zombie growling are some of the main players in making the suboofer rub the ground and shake the room.

Surround Sound Presentation: Every environment is pretty well realized. Rear channels give off some groovy and unique ambiance. Movement is accurate, volume placement is good and everything onscreen really gets to where its at.

Dialogue Reproduction: Dialogue is crisp and clear.

Extras 

Land of the Dead – Collector’s Edition is a 2-Blu-ray Disc set. The first disc contain the theatrical version, the second the Unrated version. Aside from a commentary on the second disc, the first disc contains all the new bonus material.

Disc 1: Theatrical Version

Cholo’s Reckoning (HD, 15:37) – An interview with actor John Leguizamo.  He was a big fan of Romero’s coming in, got along with him great on the movie which he had a blast shooting. He mentions Asia Argento was cooler than he expected and points out that its a Super Mario Bros reunion for him and Dennis Hopper (Who he points out is playing George Bush).

Charlie’s Story (HD, 15:09) – An interview with actor Robert Joy. The actor speaks on how nice George was and how the part wasn’t really intended for someone like him. He mentions acting as a meditative practice. Joy goes over the sort of line his character is on and he gets really into the rest of the cast as well as their characters.

The Pillsbury Factor (HD, 17:29) – An interview with actor Pedro Miguel Arce. It begins pretty comedically. He talks about he got into acting by reluctantly audition for the part of a football player in a movie which he didn’t get but all his friends did and how he got his first part 5 minutes after he met his agent.  Arce is a very fun person to listen to talk as he’s super positive and has a good laugh as he takes us through his journey on working in the film.

Four Of The Apocalypse (HD, 18:50) – An interview with actors Eugene Clark, Jennifer Baxter, Boyd Banks and Jasmin Geijo. This focuses on the four lead zombies in the horde from the film. They are all quite fun and charming as they lead us on a unique take through the shooting of a zombie movie. It sounds grueling and super challenging, but they are all in good spirits and say its some of the most fun they’ve ever had making a movie.

Dream of the Dead with optional commntary by Director Roy Frumkes (HD, 24:40) – A behind the scenes look at Land of the Dead with onset footage, interviews and even some archival stuff from the Dawn of the Dead shoot. It does focus a lot on Tom Savini and the reprisal of his biker from Dawn.

Deleted Footage From Dream of the Dead (HD, 18:03) 

Deleted Scenes (SD, 2:55)

Theatrical Trailer (HD, 1:45) 

Photo Gallery (HD, 9:12)

Disc 2: Unrated Version

There is a nice lite tribute montage of set footage from this movie to George Romero before the menu starts.

Audio Commentary

  • With Zombie Performers Matt Blazi, Glena Chao, Michael Felsher and Mayr
  • With Writer/Director George A. Romero

When Shaun Met George (SD, 12:59)

Bringing The Dead To Life (SD, 9:31) 

Scenes Of Carnage (HD, 1:42) 

Zombie Effects: From Green Screen To Finished Scene (SD, 3:18)

Scream Tests: Zombie Casting Call (SD, 1:05)

Bringing The Storyboards To Life (SD, 7:54)

Undead Again: The Making Of Land Of The Dead (SD, 12:56) 

A Day With The Living Dead (SD, 7:34)

Summary 

While I have an emotional bias to this one, there’s still no denying that it holds its rightful place and deserves being the rightful fourth film in Roomero’s zombie series. This Blu-ray not only compliments the film, but the Zack Snyder Dawn of the Dead release as well. This one has a bunch of new meaty interviews and keeps the old stuff. The image looks to be an upgrade over its predecessor. A definite one to be in your collection to go right next to another Scream Factory Romero classic, Day of the Dead.

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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