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Feature: Land of the Dead

George of the Dead

A shattered zombie?

Director George Romero talks about his eagerly-awaited return to the zombie genre after a break of nearly 20 years, with the fourth chapter in his zombie saga

A major event happens this Halloweíen. George A Romeroís long-awaited return to the zombie Horror genre (a genre he practically invented) will be released worldwide.

The $15 million Land of the Dead continues events begun with the seminal Night of the Living Dead (1968), extended by the splatter landmark Dawn of the Dead (1978) through the bleak Day of the Dead (1985), and stars Simon Baker (The Ring 2), John Leguizamo (Spawn), Dennis Hopper (Blue Velvet), Asia Argento (xXx) and Robert Joy (The Dark Half).

In his new tale of terror, Romero creates a harrowing vision of a modern-day world where the vast hordes of walking dead roam an uninhabited wasteland as the living try to lead Ďnormalí lives behind fortified city walls. In one particular enclave, ĎFiddlerís Greení, a new society has been built by a handful of ruthless opportunists who live in luxury skyscrapers high above the grubbing rabble below who glean their entertainment from gladiatorial battles between Humans and zombies. As anarchy increases on the inside, the dead are evolving outside, and desperate measures must be taken by a group of hardcore mercenaries to protect the revolutionary living from an ever-hungrier zombie army.

The film was shot on location throughout November and December 2004 in Toronto, Canada. Shivers was allowed on-set in the final week of production to witness wholesale zombie death and gory destruction courtesy of special make-up supervisor Greg Nicotero who turned down Steven Spielbergís War of the Worlds so keen was he to work on Romeroís highly anticipated undead continuation. Looking thinner and more gaunt than usual, the 65-year-old Romero was still his unflappable self, clearly in complete control of everything and happy to be back behind a camera where he truly belongs. As usual he answered all questions with good grace and great insight.

Shivers You have been called the Godfather of Horror, the Sultan of Zombie Splatter. Do those titles amuse or bemuse you?

Romero I guess you never feel that important! All the praise for what Iíve done in the past still takes me by surprise. Iím having a good time doing what I want to do and I guess itís flattering. But no, you never see yourself as any kind of genre legend. Itís strange as I still donít think Iíve done anything that scary. Maybe Night of the Living Dead, but I never set out to specifically do that because I never wanted to typecast myself. Thatís why I deliberately choose to direct films away from the genre in its wake [for example The Crazies in 1973] although everything Iíve done contains acute insights into the darker side of Human nature.

Shivers What was your reaction when Night of the Living Dead became a confirmed cultural classic after being put on the American Library of Congressí prestigious National Film Registry?

Romero How can you not be honoured? Feel humble but grateful? But itís so hard for me to look at that movie now. I always see the 101 basic mistakes I made. So itís difficult for me to think of it as this great masterpiece. We were well intentioned. Thatís all I can say.

by Alan Jones

Get the full interview in
Shivers #121

Photo © Universal Pictures
Feature © Visual Imagination 2005. Not for reproduction

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Shivers #121
June 2005
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