Knight at the Movies ARCHIVES
GEORGE A. ROMERO RISES FROM THE DEAD
BUT HERBIE NEEDS LIFE SUPPORT :
Land of the Dead, Herbie: Fully Loaded
6-29-05 Knight at the Movies column
By Richard Knight, Jr.
It’s been 20 years since George Romero’s last “official” living dead movie, Day of the Dead. There have been
dozens of other killer zombie pictures to fill the void since then. From camp to gore galore, these imitators of
Romero’s original Night of the Living Dead and its sequels have multiplied almost as fast as the body count in each
succeeding movie. Night of the Living Dead itself has been cut and re-cut in numerous versions, with new “found”
footage added in one edition and has been remade (in 1990 by Romero’s make-up man turned director, Tom
Savini) as has Dawn of the Dead. But as Land of the Dead, the third “official” sequel so aptly proves, when
it comes to killer zombie pictures, nobody does it better than George A. Romero. Once again the writer-director
has found the perfect blend of horror, social commentary and black comedy. Midnight movie fans rejoice: you’ve
just been handed another perfect stoner picture.
After the words “Some Time Ago” appear on the screen, we’re given the history of the living dead plague during a
Seven type credit sequence and are quickly into the first set piece. The world now belongs to the living dead but
survivors have banded together, military style, to conduct raids for food and supplies on the small towns where the
dead aimlessly hang out together. The marauders distract the zombies during these night raids with “sky flowers”
(fireworks). While the dead are staring up at the skies, the survivors grab what they can. Conflict quickly
surfaces between the principled commando leader Riley (Australian actor Simon Baker) and his hedonistic
counterpart, Cholo (John Leguizamo).
Both are in the service of a group of ruthless businessmen led by Kaufman (Dennis Hopper), who control the
waiting list for accommodations in the fabulous sealed off skyscraper that closely resembles Water Tower Place.
The haves get to live inside, shop, and kvetch at the coffee bars while the have nots live in the surrounding burned
out slums, scraping by and weakly protesting their fate. But even the have nots are safely ensconced within the
walls of the city away from the living dead. Naturally, with Romero at the helm, the walls of this pseudo Jericho
are about to come tumbling down and the zombies are about to shuffle in.
Working with his largest budget and most notable cast (though the unsung cast for Day of the Dead remains my
favorite), Romero proves to be ingenious in finding new, ever more graphic ways to kill people onscreen. But like
the zombie getting his brain sliced off by the helicopter in Dawn of the Dead, there’s something both gross and
funny about the gore at the same time. Could any other director make cannibalism humorous? Romero also
manages to put a nice spin on the stock characters that are selected to battle the zombies and he’s always had a
knack for creating and sustaining tension. There are elements of many other End of the World movies here –
Escape from New York, the Mad Max series, Universal Solider, etc., but again, Romero has his own way of tying
As intended, Hopper’s character is horribly evil, a cartoon of villainy so despicable that he’s also funny. Whether
stomping around his rooftop penthouse while his clock ticks (a nice nod, I assume, to the prissy Charles Laughton
in the noir classic, The Big Clock), bellowing at his black manservant, and announcing with a straight face, “We do
not negotiate with terrorists!” Hopper has the time of his life and hams it up for all its worth.
The similarities to the current White House administration, whether intended or not, also give the picture a huge
lift. There’s one ironic moment after another – the perfect movie for the counter culture to embrace. Just one of
my favorites is a quick shot of two lesbians passionately kissing before being grabbed and eaten by the zombies.
Naturally, my vivid imagination immediately translated the zombies into fundamentalists just waiting for the
chance to gorge on our flesh. Perhaps the largest irony of all is that Land of the Dead is one of the most energetic,
alive pictures I’ve seen this year. It’s a hoot.
There are very few reasons to see Herbie: Fully Loaded. One might be that you grew up with the original
Herbie the love bug pictures and are curious about what another Disney remake has wrought (the answer: not
much). Or perhaps you are a fan of teenage tabloid star Lindsay Lohan who, it must be admitted, has an
enormous, likeable screen presence. She’s also developed into quite the dish and her assets are fetchingly
displayed here, complete with her freckled sunny smile and pale pink lip gloss. She’s like a teenage Doris Day –
who also had a knockout figure that was softened by her perky, virginial persona.
Another reason to see the movie might be that you have little ones clamoring to be taken on an outing. If that’s the
case you know what to expect: the theatre in which you see the picture is likely to be filled with other screaming,
piping children running up and down the aisles during the quiet parts. When Herbie falls in love with another
Volkswagon (a newer model) and when Matt Dillion the villain gets oil sprayed in his face, there will be giggles
aplenty. Adults may also enjoy the nonstop 70s rock songs on the soundtrack and be fascinated by the presence of
Michael Keaton (Michael Keaton?!?) in the movie (you’ll have plenty of time to ruminate on what happened to his
career). There’s not much else to do except count the number of times out director Angela Robinson manages to
sneak in quick shots of coupled women aka lesbians.
This last, finally, is the reason for the GLBT community to do their part and celebrate one of our own. Herbie: Fully
Loaded might not be the greatest way to spend 90 minutes but it’s worth supporting. When a company like Disney,
where “family” is everything, doesn’t hesitate to entrust one of their sacred franchises to a 33year-old bi-racial
out lesbian then maybe things are looking up.
I'm dead as hell and I'm not gonna take it anymore, love buggy