PITTSBURGH MADE: George A. Romero’s Land of the Dead (2005)

It seems hard to think about it today, but in the 1990s through 2000s, zombies weren’t interesting to Hollywood. Then 28 Days Later, Shaun of the Dead and Zack Snyder’s remake of Dawn of the Dead were surprise hits and Fox, was trying to buy the name Night of the Living Dead and decided to talk to George Romero, who wanted to make a movie he called Dead Reckoning. Universal Pictures ended up giving him more money than he ever had for a film and he decided to make everything he didn’t get to do in Day of the Dead.

There are some fun moments here — Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright cameo as zombies thanks to their Romero lovefest Shaun of the Dead, Savini’s Blades character from Dawn of the Dead has a few moments of being awesome, I’m always happy to see Asia Argento and I like the idea of the zombies using tools and becoming evolved after Day — but the fact that this is set in Pittsburgh yet shot in Canada has made me kind of upset.

The reason for my anger? It’s because this entire movie is based around the city and has Fiddler’s Green, an area for the rich and powerful ruled by Paul Kaufman (Dennis Hopper), being protected by two of the three rivers as well as Dead Reckoning, a battle truck co-commanded by Riley Denbo (Simon Baker) and Cholo DeMore (John Leguizamo).

If you aren’t from Pittsburgh, the name Kaufman is amusing because the fancy department store down was Kaufmann’s and was always used to my childhood as an example of being rich. “Did you buy that suit from Kaufmann’s?” people used to say.

As for Argento, she plays Slack, a fighter in the gladiator pits where humans and zombies battle for the entertainment of the powerful elite. There’s also a zombie called Big Daddy (Eugene Clark) who has learned how to plan, lead and use tools.

I realize it’s not the worst zombie film — it’s not even the worst Romero Zombie film — but it feels like a movie standing it place, treading water and reliving its past, which is pretty much what the zombies do as they attack Fiddler’s Green.

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