In 1968 George A. Romero found something he was good at ? making zombie movies, which, while being choc-a-block of blood and guts, also served as a backdrop for political and socio-economic comments on society. Over the past three decades he has barely faltered from this path as his 'Dead' series has evolved and regurgitated the same gory mess over and over again.
The only problem with Mr Romero's seemingly tried-and-trusted routine is that, quite frankly, he isn't good at it anymore. Maybe it's because political and social agendas and horror movies don't always mix, maybe it's that '28 Days Later' has set an almost unreachable benchmark for movies of this genre.
Or maybe Romero has just failed to recognise the changing nature of film and is still trying to rehash the same tired theme that he has been for the past almost 40 years. Whatever the reason, his movies have gone from being somewhat fetid to a state of outright decay.
His latest offering, 'Land of the Dead' is set years after the events of 'Dawn of the Dead' with the majority of the population consisting of zombies. The few remaining scraps of humanity have holed themselves up in a walled city where the poor try to eke out a meager existence and the rich recline in the lap of luxury, while exploiting the hardships of those less fortunate.
So Romero's first statement is a socio-economic one. The second is political and comes in the form of Kauffman, the megalomaniac industrialist and "president" of the city, and the third is a human rights issue in the form of Riley, a "military" type who struggles to make a living risking his life to bring food and supplies back from the zombie-infested surrounding areas.
But wait, here's the crunch. The zombies ? as in the mindless, flesh-devouring undead ? have now grown somewhat? sentimental. Yes, you saw it coming ? one day zombies would evolve too.
Now our resident bloodthirsty nemeses are trying to become human. They want to do normal mundane things like pump petrol and use chainsaws. They look out for their little zombie children and, I'm sure if Romero had thought of it, would have taken their little zombie pets to a zombie vet.
At the same time they're feeling oppressed by their position in society and start a huge uprising as they make their way to the walled city in order to "find a place to go".
This is Romero's fourth comment, although what it alludes to is anybody's guess. Unsurprisingly it's also where his story falls apart. Somewhere during his socio-economic agenda, while he's busily highlighting the plight of the poor, brandishing the sword of righteous indignation towards "Dubya" Kauffman and generally throwing his weight around, he seems to have forgotten two things.
The first is that he's also supposed to be telling a story; the second: sympathising with zombies who are merrily gorging themselves on intestinal fluids is rather challenging for nearly any audience.
Then, just to top it all off, he's devised some of the most cliched characters on film to move the so-called story along. Yes, there is the tough, yet sweet and vulnerable prostitute, a ruggedly attractive and noble man of few words, a dithering sidekick, an oppressed Latino and a truck loaded with enough of an arsenal to wipe out the world as we know it. It is an almost picture perfect recipe for the ultimate disaster.
It?s gory, it's ugly and overall it's extremely silly. The movie literally lurches from one hackneyed, contrived scene to another, leaving only the undead ? half asleep and incredulous ? in its wake.