I love Zombies! Yes, you heard that right out of my mouth. I am a huge fan of Zombie films, let alone of George A. Romero’s ‘Dead’ series of films. When I hear that a new zombie film of any kind if coming out in the theaters or direct to DVD, I get super excited as if I was 7 years old again going to buy a G.I. Joe action figure. The day has finally arrived that we receive ‘Land of the Dead’ on Blu-ray, considering that this is not Universal’s first effort with ‘Land of the Dead’ on high definition as in September 2006 this film was released on HD DVD as a combo disc. How well does the Blu-ray version stack up to the HD DVD version and is it worth upgrading?

‘Land of the Dead’ is the 4th entry in George A. Romero’s ‘Dead’ films and is considered a rather different direction than the previous films. ‘Night of the Living Dead’ (1968), ‘Dawn of the Dead’ (1978), and ‘Day of the Dead’ (1985) were widely successful. Fans had been clamoring for a new ‘Dead’ film for years and it took Romero 20 years after ‘Day’ to release ‘Land’. With each film Romero has injected social commentary of what is currently going on in our country at that time. It makes his ‘Dead’ series more than just about the zombies and remaining survivors. In ‘Land’ it is all about our government back in 2004/2005 and what they have done to us economically and pushing the middle class closer to poverty levels while the rich get richer enjoying the best in life no matter what chaos is happening outside their world.

It is no more a thought that back in ‘Day’ the zombies would conquer the world in vast numbers, they own the ground they walk on and there are only a few remaining survivors. Again, as I mentioned above and anyone that has seen Romero’s previous films, we have the remaining survivors in two groups (I would go as far as three). In past ‘Dead’ films, you have always had 2 surviving groups of people that were at odds with each other by mid film, while still trying to survive a zombie invasion. You have the rich that control and own everything, living as if there is no zombie invasion. The rich send out the poor to gather supplies for their small city/town and this is how most of the poor survive. The leader of the rich is Kaufman (Dennis Hopper) and he also has an army of his own to keep the borders around the city safe at all times. He has the poor mercenaries go out into the zombie infested world to gather supplies.

We have our two poor mercenaries that don’t get along, Riley (Simon Baker) and Cholo (John Leguizamo) whom both have dreams of their own in this chaotic world. Riley has plans to go to Canada once he completes this one last job and Cholo has a dream of living in one of the high rises as promised by his boss Kaufman. Riley is also the man responsible for creating and building ‘Dead Reckoning’ which is a tank the size of an RV with all kinds of weapons such as rockets, machine guns, and fireworks that is used to go out and about in the neighboring zombie infested towns.

In this fourth ‘Dead’ film, the zombies have evolved and they are much smarter than the previous film as Bub from ‘Day of the Dead’ was an indication that they were getting smarter. Bub (Simon Peg) makes an appearance in the film too as a zombie that is getting tortured. The zombies evolve into what we see in the opening credits with Big Daddy (Eugene Clark) which is a gas attended zombie that leads a group of zombies to the city that Kaufman has under control. Riley saves Slack (Asia Argento) as she is about to become food for the zombies in a little game that is played.

If anything hurt this film, it has to do with the larger budget that Romero received as opposed to his previous ‘Dead’ films. While a larger budget is great, it hampered his direction and script since the studio, Universal Studios, had a lot of incite and input on the direction of the film vs. Romero doing his own thing. One of the issues that I have with the film is that Universal wanted to keep this at a shorter length and you can tell that it hurts the film as it doesn’t allow time to fully develop.

The transfer is presented in 1080p/VC-1 in with a 2.40:1 aspect ratio. I have seen every imaginable version of ‘Land of the Dead’, from the theater, DVD, HD DVD, and now Blu-ray. While the DVD suffered heavily in picture quality department, the HD DVD version was an improvement that really surprised me. The image is pristine and rather clean throughout the entire print. This is a very detailed print that some of the small details stick out very well. Before anyone starts running down the street screaming murder, yes, that is intentional film grain throughout the film. It was there in the theatrical, DVD, and HD DVD versions of the film. Add to that too that we also get the old 1930’s Universal logo in all it’s glory to boot up the film; we are in for a treat. The sound is presented in a DTS-MA HD 5.1 mix. With all the action going on in ‘Land of the Dead’, this new added mix over the previous HD DVD Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 added a little bit more, but not much of an upgrade. All of my speakers were getting a work out, so the soundfield and dynamic range are very well done. The dialogue mix is also done well; it is clear and well balanced.

Special Features:
Still sad a bit that HD DVD crumbled, I am very happy that I never have to see a HD DVD/DVD combo disc again since all the special features were on the DVD side. With the added DTS-MA HD added to this disc and all the special features from the HD DVD, this is the ultimate edition.
•Audio commentary with George Romero
•Featurette “When Shaun Met George”
•Featurette “Zombie Effects”
•Deleted Scenes – The Remaining Bits
•Montage “Screen of Carnage”
•Scream Tests Zombie Casting Call
•My Scenes

I enjoyed George A. Romero’s fourth film in the series, but this is also at the bottom of my list when ranking his ‘Dead’ series. Maybe with another 30 minutes and less restrictions by Universal Studios, this film could have been epic. I highly recommend the Blu-ray version as it is the ultimate version out yet for the audio alone. If you are a HD DVD owner of the film, I wouldn’t recommend upgrading since the audio alone isn’t enough.

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