Friday, August 12, 2005

I'm not sure what to make of Romero's Land of the Dead. It's not exactly horror, though the Dead could have used better table manners. It's not comedy because it wasn't funny. It's not quite action either as the plot moved at the pace of the undead shuffle.

Perhaps I approached this movie with the wrong expectations. I wanted thrills, scares and a sustained atmosphere of suspense, but this wasn't the kind of movie to deliver that kind of thing. It's hard to feel scared of the Dead right from the opening sequence. They walk around in their little suburban town trying to recapture the lives they had lost. A Dead couple holds hands as they take a midnight stagger through the city square, Dead musicians manipulate their instruments though they have lost their skill to play them, and the Dead gas station attendant makes himself busy with his gas pump. And, oh, the wistful look in their eyes as they struggle to recapture old forgotten memories while they "pretend they are still alive..." There's nothing else for them to do anyway.

Then enter the Living on their motor-bikes, trucks and jeeps shooting up the town, randomly gunning down Dead bystanders in order to loot supplies (food, medicines, etc.) that the Dead will never use anyway. Is it any wonder then that the Dead gas station attendant who witnesses this carnage suddenly erupts in rage and snags a rifle from one of the raiders of his fair neighbourhood and eventually learns to use it?

The Dead are supposed to be mindless creatures who exist only to eat living flesh, but this Dead hero develops the ability to communicate with his fellow Dead, grows his Dead army, and learns to improvise a revenge attack on the Living, nestled safely behind the electric fences surrounding their city.

Yes, the Dead learn to use tools (all the better for breaking Living heads open with), they learn to follow a leader (they become a real political entity), they learn to teach new skills to one another, and more importantly, they learn to yearn for a patch of space they can call their own without the indiscriminate incursion of the Living anytime they suka-suka.

In fact, every character in this movie embarks on a quest for a home. The rich make their home in a swanky skyscraper and act like the poor, let alone the Dead, don't exist. The poor, hemmed in by their protective fence, want to upgrade or be free of their claustrophobia once and for all by just heading North.

I guess it's not so much a horror movie as it is a morality play, then. What do you call home? How far will you go to acquire turf? How prepared are you to defend what's yours? Haha! Maybe we could commission a screening of this movie for next years' Total Defence Day activity?

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