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Film / Land of the Dead

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Mike: They're pretending to be alive...
Riley: Isn't that what we're doing? Pretending to be alive?

Land of the Dead (2005) is the fourth movie in the Living Dead Series written and directed by George A. Romero and starring Dennis Hopper, Simon Baker, John Leguizamo, Asia Argento, Eugene Clark, and Robert Joy.

Set After the End (and years after the original Night of the Living Dead (1968)), Pittsburgh — through geographic blessing and a corporate leader's ambitious mobilization — has remained standing in the post-apocalypse. The rich get to live out their lives much like before, and the less fortunate at least avoid being attacked by the walking dead.

The movie focuses on a group of survivors that go out into zombie infested lands to retrieve supplies (sometimes vital, sometimes not) for a city that can no longer produce anything of any worth. Zombies following on from Romero's Day of the Dead (1985) have become smarter, aping their old lives remarkably well; led by a zombie known as "Big Daddy", a large group of the living dead attack the city en-masse, leading to the destruction of the civilised world as the very walls that kept the zombies away becomes their prison.

Had a Video Game tie in called Land of the Dead: Road to Fiddler's Green.


  • A-Team Firing:
    • For trained soldiers and scavengers, they sure do waste a lot of ammo firing at the Stenches when one well aimed shot at the head would do the job fine. Done almost to the point of parody in a throwaway scene where a tower guard sprays an entire magazine from her rifle to kill a single Stench that was currently stuck to the electric perimeter fence, being actively shocked to the point it catches fire.
    • Defied by Charlie, who turns down a submachine gun, said to fire 14 rounds per second, because he doesn't "normally need that many".
  • Action Girl: Asia Argento's character, Slack.
  • Anti-Villain: The zombies are portrayed more sympathetically here. Whereas the humans squabble over resources and backstab one another, the zombies care for one another and work together to get revenge on the humans.
  • Apocalyptic Logistics: Luxury commodities desired by the tower's upper classes are still available, and even still marketable, despite the complete breakdown of all means of production. High-end alcohol and jewelry still fetch a higher price than canned food, even though they're scrounged in exactly the same way and the former aren't necessary for survival.
  • Attention Deficit... Ooh, Shiny!: The humans are able to distract the zombies by setting off fireworks. Much later, the zombies adapt and learn to ignore them.
  • Attractive Zombie: "Number 9"... somewhat.
  • Badass Boast: Charlie has one after one of Riley's group nearly mistakes him for a Zombie and pulls a gun on him. He makes good on his boast later on.
    Charlie: Are you any good with that, kid? 'Cause I'm real good with mine.
  • Bait-and-Switch Gunshot: Charlie pulls this against a zombie.
  • Base on Wheels: A very small-scale example is the Dead Reckoning, a large truck with a fully equipped interior for long distance travel and zombie defense.
  • Big Badass Rig: Dead Reckoning again. A massive custom built big rig, with enough armor and weapons to level a small city while being virtually impenetrable by zombie attack.
  • Big Bad Ensemble: As the main human antagonist, Kaufman is the corrupt leader of Fiddler's Green, favoring the rich with various luxuries and security while neglecting the plight of poorer citizens. His zombie counterpart is Big Daddy, an intelligent zombie who leads an attack on Fiddler's Green as revenge for the human raids on the zombies. Both of them wind up running into each other with Big Daddy killing Kaufman with a homemade explosive.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Riley and his crew pull one off at the end.
  • Big Fun: The heroes are accompanied by several of Kaufman's soldiers, one of which is a fat Samoan named Pillsbury. He's just there as a Comically Serious relief, basically.
  • The Big Guy: Pillsbury. A mountain of Samoan meat, and the only one of the three soldiers assigned to Riley's group to survive to the end credits.
  • Boom, Headshot!: But of course. A notable example isn't even on a zombie - it's on a fleeing midget, in the middle of a crowd, through a stand of bleachers.
  • Bulletproof Vest: Chihuahua is wearing one when he takes a shot in the chest by Riley, therefore he survives and complains that his purple suit is now ruined.
  • Bury Your Gays: Once the Zombies make it to the city, who are the first people we see eaten? A pair of lesbians making out.
  • The Cameo: Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright briefly appear as zombies chained to a wall in a photo booth, where the living can have their pictures taken alongside them. Pegg bears a striking resemblance to Bub from Day. They also appear on the poster with Wright directly to the left of Big Daddy and Pegg at the right edge.
  • Cannot Cross Running Water: Subverted. Initially Pittsburgh is one of the last human cities defended from the zombie hordes because it's protected by rivers on two sides (the third being a fortified perimeter), which zombies are afraid to cross. Eventually an intelligent zombie named Big Daddy dares to take the plunge and leads the rest across the river by walking on the bottom.
  • Continuity Cameo: Tom Savini reprises his role as the character "Blade" from the original Dawn of the Dead (1978). Only this time, he's a zombie.
  • Catchphrase Charlie has, "Just look at me/him you can tell..."
  • Censored Child Death: Several children are in the crowd of people who are trapped between the electric fence and the zombies. They aren't explicitly visible in the crowd of fresh bodies the zombies are eating later, but it is doubtful they could have escaped.
  • Chekhov's Skill: Big Daddy still remembers how to operate a gas pump, and the zombie butcher can still swing a cleaver.
  • Citadel City: The center of Pittsburgh has been turned into a fortress in the wake of the Zombie Apocalypse, being surrounded by water on three sides (which zombies are averse to) and an electrified fence on the only overland side. The city is later overrun when the zombies learn to walk across the river.
  • Comic-Book Adaptation: Chris Ryall wrote a five-issue adaptation for IDW Publishing.
  • Conflicting Loyalty: Cholo's companions (particularly Pretty Boy, Dead Reckoning's driver) seem to like Riley, and while they go along with Cholo's plan to extort Kaufman, display reluctance at the idea of actually going through with his threats to destroy Fiddler's Green.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: Kaufman, and the board of Fiddler's Green, who happily exploit the work of the lower class survivors to fuel their opulent lifestyle, while also secretly disposing of "undesirable elements."
  • Cool Car: Dead Reckoning. A mobile train/rig hybrid with rocket launchers, machine guns, gatling guns and even countermeasures. Also its well armored like a tank on wheels.
  • Death by Materialism: Kaufman could have gotten away much sooner if he hadn't stopped to fleece the joint on the way out. Especially considering there was little-to-nothing outside of Fiddler's Green that would have made his plundered riches worth anything.
  • Death by Racism: Kaufman repeatedly refers to John Leguizamo's character as a "Spic," which seems unnecessary given that his accepted handle is "Cholo."
  • Death from Above: After Kaufman refuses Cholo entry into Fiddler's Green, the latter steals the Dead Reckoning and threatens to lob rockets at the town unless Kaufman gives him a lot of money. Kaufman instead sends Riley and some others to either talk him out of it, or kill him.
  • Depraved Dwarf: Chihuahua, who attempts to have Riley killed after he threatens him over his car being gone. Gets killed in the ensuing shootout instead.
  • Devoured by the Horde:
    • While Mouse is waiting for the money drop-off, a group of zombies that Big Daddy is leading towards the city happens to be in the area and Mouse gets surrounded and devoured by them.
    • When the citizens are trapped trying to leave the city due to the electric fence, a huge crowd of zombies heads towards them. While fireworks were used to distract the zombies, the zombies no longer pay attention to the fireworks and they continue heading towards the citizens. By the time Riley and his crew arrives at the fence, they were too late to save the citizens as the zombies were already devouring them.
  • Driven to Suicide: Subverted. Cholo briefly contemplates killing himself to avoid zombification, but decides against it so that, one way or another, he can still kill Kauffman.
  • Eat the Rich: Invoked. George A. Romero's zombie flicks tend to have an underlying social message, and in the case of this film, it concerns how the wealthy poorly treat the lower classes. When the flesh-eating undead horde siege the Pittsburgh-outpost colony, although both rich and poor die in the onslaught, the more intelligent zombies' main targets are the upper-class establishment(Aka "the ones living in the big shiny tower at the horizon"). Once they're wiped out the zombies withdraw, and the class system ceases to exist. It's revealed afterward that the majority of the Pittsburgh-outpost other residents have survived the zombie attack.
  • Emerging from the Shadows: Happens with some spirit of the trope Face-Revealing Turn mixed in. Late in the movie, an infected Cholo heads back to the city so he can kill Kaufman before he turns. When the two encounter each other, Cholo's face is hidden by shadows. After Kaufman shoots him a few times, Cholo finally steps into the light, and reveals that he's already turned into a zombie.
  • Evil Tower of Ominousness: Kaufman's headquarters are located at the top of a big PPG Place-inspired palace that towers all the other buildings of Fiddler's Green.
  • Evil vs. Evil: Continuing with the recurring theme of the series that humans are more of a threat to themselves than the Zombies, we have Kaufman, a racist, elitist Corrupt Corporate Executive, vs Cholo, a former lackey of Kaufman who steals the cities strongest means of defense, the Dead Reckoning and threatens to turn its heavy firepower on them (and by proxy, devastate the city and its economy and certainly kill many bystanders in the process) all because Kaufman refused to allow him into Fiddler's Green.
  • Eye Scream: One of the soldiers is unfortunate enough to have his right eye BITTEN OUT by the zombie invasion when the fence goes down.
  • Face Death with Dignity:
    • Cholo, declining a Mercy Kill, quipping that he's always wanted to see how the other half lives.
    • Upon being trapped between the electric fence and the zombie horde, Cliff Woods, one of Kaufmann's board members, merely utters a dejected "We're fucked." While dismayed when a brief Hope Spot doesn't save them, he doesn't try to run away or break down in terror.
  • Fan Disservice: Slack's introduction. She's wearing a Stripperiffic outfit, but she has to fight for her life from two zombies trying to eat her in an arena, and is clearly panicked out of her mind.
  • Fingore: Unsurprisingly, given the subject matter. Some examples:
    • Two zombies grab the fingers of a soldiers hand and pull in opposite directions tearing apart both his hand and his forearm up to the elbow.
    • A zombie claws at the outer shell of the Dead Reckoning so hard that its fingernails are torn from the nail beds.
  • Friendly Sniper: Charlie and his trusty M1 Carbine.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Pillsbury. Motown tried to signal to him to work with her on taking control from Riley's group, but he responds by knocking her out with a single punch, then proceeds to help Charlie and Slack.
  • Heroic Self-Deprecation: Friendly Sniper Charlie quips that the zombies are "nearly as dumb as me."
  • Hoist by His Own Petard:
    • Kaufman at the end when Big Daddy gets his payback.
    • The soldier who prepares to toss a grenade at a cleaver-wielding zombie, only to have his hand chopped off and then fall on top of it so the grenade blows him apart.
  • Hooker with a Heart of Gold: Slack, who is (at the start) a prostitute.
  • Humans Are the Real Monsters: Taken to the extreme compared to the first three installments. The zombies are easily the most sympathetic characters in the whole movie, having regained some level of sentience overtime, whereas the human characters are either selfish, murderous, apathetic, or a combination of the three.
  • Incongruously-Dressed Zombie: Big Daddy gets his name from the patch on his distinctive denim outfit; there's also a clown, a cheerleader, an undead marching band (with instruments), and a young boy in an upper-class school uniform. An almost-headless zombie has a priest's collar around its nearly-severed neck.
  • Ironic Echo: After being bitten, Cholo briefly contemplates suicide, but decides against it. He says, "Fuck it. Always wanted to see how the other half lives."
  • It Can Think: The zombies are shown to have somehow regained sentience enough to form a coherent group and fight against the human survivors. Big Daddy in particular becomes smart enough to do things like set fires, use an assault rifle (and even teach others how to use weapons as well), and utilizes his undead nature to teach zombies to cross a river without worrying about drowning. The ending also seems to imply that Big Daddy and his followers are smart enough to ignore humans who aren't an immediate threat.
  • The Jaywalking Dead: The massive truck Dead Reckoning graphically dispenses with plenty of zombies.
  • Logical Weakness: Played very literally as the zombies have regained the ability of logical thinking, which allows them to overcome previous problems such as crossing water and using tools to break through barriers effectively. However, while the zombies regain some form of sentience, they also seem to have reawakened the ability to feel pain and fear as seen with the two zombies mercy killed by Big Daddy.
  • Look Behind You: "Watch Out! Get Down! Quick!" as Kaufman executes the poor bastard trying to question why Kaufman is running off with all their money.
  • Meaningful Name:
    • Paul Kaufman. The Kaufmann family is very prominent in Pittsburgh where the first Kaufmann's Department Store was before expanding into a long running chain and eventually being absorbed by Macy's. The name Kaufman literally means "merchant" in German.
    • There is a mentally challenged man named Charlie
    • Fiddler's Green, which is described in myth as an afterlife that has earthly pleasures, but isn't heaven. One poem places it "halfway down the trail to hell."
  • Mercy Kill:
    • Big Daddy performs two: First on a zombie that has been reduced to a severed head (he smashes it), and then on a flaming zombie, who he shoots with a rifle.
    • Slack also does this to Manolete and Motown, two of Kaufman's officers. She shoots Manolete after he was bitten by a zombie and Motown later in the head while she's being bitten to spare her either being eaten alive or reviving as a zombie.
    • Subverted with Cholo. He refuses to be killed before becoming a zombie because he, "always wanted to see how the other half lives".
  • Men of Sherwood: Riley’s Disaster Scavengers are shown easily fighting their way through zombies in the opening scene. Unfortunately, most of the ones who show up after that scene decide to extort the Citadel City rather than keep protecting it.
  • Monster Clown: One of the zombies that gang up on Mouse and eat him is dressed up as clown, with makeup still intact, obviously.
  • New Meat: One of the soldiers accompanying Riley and the others on the opening mission is clearly this, also possessing shades of The Watson. He doesn't make it home.
  • Not Using the "Z" Word: Zombies are referred to as "Stenches." The series tradition for this trope is, however, pointedly subverted by Kaufman, who uses the word while picking his nose. The photo booth also averts it, having a sign that says, “Get your picture taken with a zombie.”
  • Off with His Head!: One zombie is shown basically decapitated but with veins and other strands keeping his head actually attached, allowing it to take people by surprise by showing up as a seemingly headless corpse and then swinging his head into a biting position.
  • Older Sidekick: Charlie's actor is decades older than his leader Riley's, although his facial burns help obscure this.
  • Precautionary Corpse Disposal: Everybody becomes a zombie when they die (unless they're shot in the head), so one of Cholo's jobs is to dispose of the recently-deceased; in the director's cut a man who hanged himself turns into a zombie, and Cholo is sent to deal with it.
  • Rape as Backstory: Slack makes clear that she was forced into prostitution and that she has other careers in mind.
  • Rescue Romance: Riley rescues Slack from two zombies in a fight-pit, they proceed to grow closer over the course of the film.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: The zombie attack on the city is essentially Big Daddy avenging the scavengers killing several zombies at the beginning of the movie.
  • Scary Black Man: Again Big Daddy. Literally...
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here: Kaufman's butler abandons him during the zombie attack.
  • Shout-Out: Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright from Shaun of the Dead cameo as the zombies in the photo booth.
  • Sole Surviving Scientist: Although he's more of a fighter than a scientist, Riley Denbro created a zombie-killing APC that provides a lot of security to his community. Riley has become disillusioned with the Fantastic Caste System around him and wants to strike out on his own, but his skills are too valuable and his group's leader won't let him go.
  • Storming the Castle: The zombies attack on Fiddler's Green.
  • Stab the Scorpion: While in the countryside, accomplished sharpshooter Charlie starts to menacingly point his rifle at Slack, but fires just past her ear. Then we see the zombie that was standing behind her fall to the ground. Then humorously returned when Slack fires at a zombie just past Charlie's ear, nicking him in the process.
  • Superior Successor:
    • Big Daddy is one to Bub, the "smart zombie" from the previous installment. Like Bub, Big Daddy knows how to properly wield a gun; however, whereas Bub had the benefit of past military experience in his old life and used a pistol with natural ease, Big Daddy was a gas station worker as a human and thus had to learn from scratch how to use a rifle. Furthermore, Big Daddy is able to teach his fellow zombies new skills and lead them into battle against the humans while Bub hardly interacted with his fellow zombies on screen and fought humans by himself.
    • The other zombies count as well. Zombies from the earlier installments used tools, but they normally did not use them unless they needed to solve a problem, such as getting to a survivor behind a locked door. This time, the zombies are more aware of their past lives and carry their own personal weapons, e.g. the Butcher Zombie has a knife and the Blades zombie still has his machete from Dawn of the Dead. That said, the zombies are smart enough to pick up new tools if the ones on hand are unfit for the task. In addition, all of them are capable of learning as Big Daddy teaches them how to cross large bodies of water and wield firearms, and later, they become immune to the survivors' fireworks distraction.
  • Together in Death: Two of the zombies hold hands, which suggests that they used to be a couple as humans.
  • Too Dumb to Live:
    • Pretty much everybody when outside of the Pittsburgh-outpost. You'd think that, years after the zombie invasion, people would have gotten more skilled at fighting them, even if only through sheer selection pressure. People still spray small-caliber rounds in the general direction of zombies that are only stopped by head shots, fail to properly clear out infested buildings, split up the gang etc.
    • Of particular note is the military guarding the Green. One of whom takes a clip and a half to kill an immobilized zombie. Another is in a guard tower when the zombie invasion occurs. He looks down, and sees his tower is completely surrounded by a mob of zombies. None of those zombies are even trying to climb up and get him. So what does he do? He drops down to the ground, and is immediately eaten.
    • Or Mouse for that matter. He's out on his own with absolutely no idea what might be near him and what does he do? He rolls around on his skateboard (not exactly the most practical vehicle when having to get away, and certainly not the least bit quiet) while blasting heavy metal into his ears (because that will surely help him notice zombies).
  • Took a Level in Badass: As a human, Big Daddy was nothing but a gas station attendant. After turning, he becomes the zombie equivalent of General Patton.
  • Undead Child: Mouse is initially startled by a zombie kid before he gets cornered and eaten by the others.
  • Undying Loyalty: Charlie has towards Riley and Foxy towards Cholo to the point of being willing to join in returning to the Pittsburgh-outpost despite knowing that Cholo will become a zombie after being bit. For their parts Riley and Cholo return this with Riley including Charlie in his plan to leave the Pittsburgh-outpost behind him, and Cholo encouraging Foxy to leave him behind and find his own path.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Kaufman begins losing it when he sees that the army of zombies have carved their way into the city and coming straight for him.
    Kaufman: "You have no right. No right!"
  • Warrior Undead: Over the course of the film, Big Daddy and his fellow zombies evolve from standard, shambling, brainless undead into a dangerous army. Big Daddy acquires a gun early on and teaches himself how to use it, eventually adding a jackhammer to his arsenal and showing others how to use tools from their old lives. By the end, they're attacking humans with various blades and are able to use more advanced tactics while taking advantage of their superior numbers.
  • Wasteland Elder: Retired Badass Mulligan is seen making speeches to rally the poorer people within the Fantastic Caste System of Fiddler's Green (a Citadel City surrounded by zombies) to improve their situation. After most, if not all, of the wealthy elites get eaten by the zombies in the climax, Mulligan becomes the leader of the entire surviving community.
  • Wasteland Warlord: Post-Zombie Apocalypse Pittsburgh is ruled by Paul Kaufman, who financed the creation of the city's safe zone and uses the authority that comes from that fact to run the city with an iron fist from his penthouse in the Fiddler's Green high-rise, which is also inhabited by his wealthy allies while everyone else is left to live in squalor. He controls the criminal element by proxy on top of his official position, and anyone who dissents with his regime is eliminated by his enforcers.
  • Weaksauce Weakness: Nigh-unstoppable zombie hordes will stop in their tracks to watch "skyflowers" (fireworks). Subverted once the ability to learn starts spreading among Big Daddy's group.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?:
    • During the initial supply run at the beginning of the movie Dead Reckoning has two more crewmembers than later when the vehicle is stolen by Cholo, two men who were operating machine guns at the sides. They don't appear again when Dead Reckoning is hijacked.
      • Could be justified by the fact Cholo would only be taking those he trusted or were absolutely necessary on the mission to hijack Dead Reckoning.
    • Some of the residents of Fiddler's Green, such as the soldiers last seen saying that they're falling back on the radio, disappear during the climax.
  • A World Half Full: Interestingly, humanity and civilization survive in this zombie film.
  • Zombie Apocalypse: Other than what's obviously happened from Night of the Living Dead (1968).
  • Zombie Apocalypse Hero: Riley Denbo and the crew of the "Dead Reckoning" specializes in traveling through zombie infested areas. He and his team are tasked with bringing back supplies to Pittsburgh-outpost, mowing through hordes of zombies on a day-to-day basis.
  • Zombie Infectee: One of the Dead Reckoning Scavengers is quick to put a gun to his own head after he gets bitten. Cholo, after getting bitten, asks his subordinate to drive him to Fiddler's Green so he can take some zombie vengeance on Kaufman.