Land of the Dead

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Land of the Dead
Theatrical release poster
Directed by George A. Romero
Produced by Mark Canton
Bernie Goldmann
Peter Grunwald
Written by George A. Romero
Starring Simon Baker
Dennis Hopper
Asia Argento
Robert Joy
Eugene Clark
and John Leguizamo
Music by Reinhold Heil
Johnny Klimek
Cinematography Miroslaw Baszak
Edited by Michael Doherty
Atmosphere Entertainment MM
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release dates
  • June 18, 2005 (2005-06-18) (CineVegas)
  • June 24, 2005 (2005-06-24) (US/CAN)
  • August 10, 2005 (2005-08-10) (France)
Running time
93 minutes
Country Canada
United States
Language English
Budget $15 million[1]
Box office $46,770,602[2]

Land of the Dead (also known as George A. Romero's Land of the Dead) is a 2005 post-apocalyptic horror film written and directed by George A. Romero; the fourth of Romero's six Living Dead movies, it is preceded by Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead and Day of the Dead, and succeeded by Diary of the Dead and Survival of the Dead, though it takes place last chronologically.[3] It was released in 2005 and became a success, grossing over $46 million, and had a budget of $15 million, the highest in the series.[1][2]

The story of Land of the Dead deals with a zombie assault on Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where a feudal-like government exists. The survivors in the film have fled to the Golden Triangle area of downtown Pittsburgh. The region is protected on two sides by rivers and on the other by an electric barricade that survivors term "the Throat." Released in North America on June 24, 2005, Land of the Dead received mostly positive reviews from film critics.


Years after a zombie apocalypse, survivors have set up outposts across the United States, one of which, in the city of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, contains a feudal-like government. Bordered on two sides by rivers and on the third by an electric fence, the city has become a sanctuary, with the rich and powerful living in a luxury high-rise called Fiddler's Green while the rest of the population subsists in squalor. The city's ruler Paul Kaufman (Dennis Hopper) has sponsored Dead Reckoning, a heavily armored vehicle that can travel through the zombie-infested areas with ease. Armed with remote-controlled heavy machine guns and video cameras, Dead Reckoning functions as a moving fireworks launch base, on the premise that zombies are fascinated by fireworks and will stare at them, ignoring their environment. Riley Denbo (Simon Baker), designer and commander of Dead Reckoning, has recently retired. Unlike Kaufman, Riley is respected for his work in protecting the city from danger, as well as for bringing critical food and medical supplies which the citizens can no longer acquire safely themselves.

Using the moving anti-dead tank, Dead Reckoning, Riley and crew ventured into the neighboring cities that are overrun with zombies in order to procure supplies from abandoned stores and warehouses. One of the interesting things they noticed on these missions is that many of the zombies appear to exhibit some kind of thought process or planning. One such zombie, "Big Daddy" (Eugene Clark), who was a gas station owner in life, is shown to be especially capable of comprehending and learning. Back in the protected city, Riley discovers the man who he bought a car from, Chihuahua (Phil Fondacaro), entertaining his bar's patrons by bear-baiting a hooker named Slack (Asia Argento), to some zombies. Riley and Charlie (Robert Joy) save Slack but kill Chihuahua and all three are shortly arrested. Slack reveals she was being executed on Kaufman's orders, because she works for Mulligan (Bruce McFee), a former co-worker of Riley's trying to instigate rebellion among the poor.

Meanwhile, the assassin Cholo DeMora (John Leguizamo), second in command of Dead Reckoning, is denied an apartment in Fiddler's Green despite his longtime, devoted service to Kaufman. Upon being rebuffed, Cholo threatens to destroy Fiddler's Green with the Dead Reckoning, seized by himself and his assistants Pretty Boy (Joanne Boland), Mouse (Maxwell McCabe-Lokos), Anchor (Tony Munch), and Foxy (Tony Nappo). Zombies attack as they are leaving, but Cholo orders his crew not to intervene. Kaufman sends Riley to stop Cholo, alongside Manolete (Sasha Roiz), Motown (Krista Bridges), and Pillsbury (Pedro Miguel Arce). Manolete is bitten and subsequently executed by Slack. Once they come across Dead Reckoning, Riley devises a plan to approach the vehicle alone. Against Riley's orders, Charlie, Slack, and Pillsbury follow him, but they disable Motown and leave her behind on the grounds of her loyalty to Kaufman. Cholo realises that Riley is working for Kaufman and holds both Riley and Charlie at gunpoint. Before Slack and Pillsbury can react, Motown, who has come round, opens fire and nearly kills both Riley and Cholo, before being bitten by a zombie and executed by Slack. With this distraction, Riley de-activates Dead Reckoning's weapons systems and convinces Cholo to allow him escape Northward, while Cholo goes west. Cholo is later bitten by a zombie and returns to kill Kaufman.

Zombie leader Big Daddy perceives that the river is no obstacle to invasion, he leads the zombies against the human city, and himself follows Kaufman to an underground garage. Riley and the Dead Reckoning try desperately to rush to the aid of the citizens by taking a secret route, realizing that the electric fence that once kept the citizens safe has become a wall to trap them inside, as the electrocution would kill them anyway. When Big Daddy leaves the garage, the now dead-and-reanimated Cholo attacks Kaufman; but both are killed by Big Daddy when the latter causes an explosion. Riley and his crew arrive at the fence, where they are too late. The rich are being mauled by the zombies, and Riley kills all and the zombies with missiles. The members of the rebellion had followed Mulligan to escape, thus surviving the assault. Pretty Boy has the opportunity to kill Big Daddy and the zombies; but Riley orders her against it when Big Daddy refuses to assault Dead Reckoning, citing that "they're just looking for a place to go". Riley and his friends then use Dead Reckoning to leave the city and head toward Canada, firing the rest of their fireworks because they no longer work on the zombies.



Earlier script titles included Twilight of the Dead, Dead City, and Dead Reckoning (the same as the military vehicle used in the film). Romero said in an interview [1] that one of the first potential film studios (20th Century Fox) wanted the film to be titled Night of the Living Dead. He refused, wanting to use the title Dead Reckoning, and the studio then wanted to title it Night of the Living Dead: Dead Reckoning. It turned out that Fox sought to own the rights to Night of the Living Dead, and Romero decided not to do business with them. The film is the highest budgeted film in the series to date.

The film draws on some elements from the original script for Day of the Dead.

Filming took place in Toronto and Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.[4]


Land of the Dead is the first film in the series to receive an MPAA rating for its theatrical release. Romero had said for years that he would film two versions; an R rated cut for theatrical release and first DVD, and an unrated cut for the second DVD release. Both DVDs were released in the U.S. on October 18, 2005. Rumors suggested that Romero shot alternate, less explicit, gore scenes for the theatrical release, but this is not entirely accurate. The more extreme instances of gore (e.g. a woman having her navel piercing graphically torn out by a zombie) were obscured by foreground elements filmed on bluescreen, so that these overlaid elements could be easily removed for the unrated DVD. Other ways to obscure blood in order to get an R-rating were achieved by simply trimming the grislier shots by a few seconds, by digitally repainting blood so that it is more black than red, or by digitally painting the blood out altogether.

The Canadian provinces of British Columbia, Manitoba and Ontario gave both the theatrical version and DVD version a rating of 18A, though it was only given a 13+ rating in Quebec.

In the UK, the BBFC gave it a 15 certificate for both the theatrical version and the unrated version (The UK "Director's Cut" DVD, as well as the Blu-Ray releases were rated 18 due to a bonus feature, a highlights reel of the goriest moments called Scenes of Carnage, being rated higher than the feature itself. This is stated on the back of the packaging of the 2013 UK Blu-ray).

In Germany, both the theatrical and unrated versions were rated 18 anyway. As such, only the unrated version was widely available in Germany.

The film was banned in Ukraine.[5]


The film was met with positive reviews upon release. It was released one year after the remake of Dawn of the Dead was released internationally. The film grossed over $40 million and is second behind Dawn of the Dead with the highest-grossing revenue (unadjusted for inflation) in the Living Dead series, the two lowest being Night of the Living Dead (1968) and Diary of the Dead (2008).[2] The film opened the MTV Saturday Horror block on February 27, 2010.[6]


Roger Ebert gave the film three stars out of four for what he considered its skillful and creative allusions, something that he argued was pervasive among Romero's previous three installments that contained numerous satirical metaphors to the reality of American life. In this installment, Ebert noted the similarities between the fireworks mesmerizing the zombies and the shock and awe tactics applied during the 2003 Invasion of Iraq and the film's distinction between the rich and poor, those that live in Fiddler's Green and those that live in the slums, something he considered to be Romero's take on the rising gap between rich and poor in the United States.[7] Michael Wilmington of Chicago Tribune awarded the film four stars, writing, "It's another hard-edged, funny, playfully perverse and violent exercise in movie fear and loathing, with an increasingly dark take on a world spinning out of control. By now, Romero has become a classicist who uses character and dialogue as much as stomach-turning special effects to achieve his shivers."[8] The New York Sun declared it "the American movie of the year."[9]

Several filmmakers including John Landis, Eli Roth, Clive Barker, and Guillermo del Toro paid tribute to Romero in a Land of the Dead special. Guillermo del Toro said: "Finally someone was smart enough to realize that it was about time, and gave George the tools. It should be a cause of celebration amongst all of us that Michelangelo has started another ceiling. It's really a momentous occasion ..."[10]

Overall critical reaction was mostly positive; the film received very favorable reviews from The New York Times, The Hollywood Reporter, Premiere, Variety, Slate and Los Angeles Times. The film earned a 74% "Certified Fresh" positive rating at the Rotten Tomatoes movie-review compilation website, with the site's consensus saying "George A. Romero's latest entry in his much-vaunted Dead series is not as fresh as his genre-inventing original, Night of the Living Dead. But Land of the Dead does deliver on the gore and zombies-feasting-on-flesh action."[11]

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  1. ^ a b "Box Office History for George A. Romero's Dead Series Movies". Retrieved 2008-01-04. 
  2. ^ a b c "Land of the Dead". boxofficemojo. Retrieved 2008-01-04. 
  3. ^ J.C. Maçek III (June 15, 2012). "The Zombification Family Tree: Legacy of the Living Dead". PopMatters. 
  4. ^ "Internet Movie Database – List of Films shot in Hamilton, Ontario". Retrieved 2008-01-29. 
  5. ^ "Land of the Dead banned in the Ukraine". MoviesOnline. Retrieved 2008-04-09. 
  6. ^ "TV: MTV Introduces Saturday Horror Movie Block". BloodyDisgusting. 
  7. ^ "Land of the Dead". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 2007-10-07. 
  8. ^ Michael Wilmington. "Movie Review: Land of the Dead." Chicago Tribune, June 23, 2005.
  9. ^ The New York Sun, "What To See This Week," June 24, 2005. Author: N.L.
  10. ^ Land of the Dead – George A. Romero Tribute Reel – Movie Trailers & Clips – SPIKE
  11. ^ George A. Romero's Land of the Dead – Movie Reviews, Trailers, Pictures – Rotten Tomatoes

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