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Universal Studios Home Video presents
"Zombies, man. They creep me out."
DVD ReviewThere have been rumors and hints of a fourth movie to George Romero's legendary Dead trilogy for over a decade, but it wasn't until 2005 that those rumors finally became a reality. Things are even worse than they were in the last film. The zombies begin to evolve, making them even more dangerous, but as usual, humanity is still its own worst enemy.
The zombies have taken over most of the countryside, but the people of Pittsburgh have formed an enclave, walled up to keep the zombies out. Teams led by Riley Denbo (Simon Baker) and Cholo (John Leguizamo) raid the surrounding towns, using the armored vehicle Dead Reckoning, designed by Riley, to find provisions, pharmaceuticals and liquor for the black market. Riley harbors dreams of heading north to Canada where there are no people, living or dead, while Cholo's black market efforts for the overlord, Kaufman (Dennis Hopper) are designed to get him into the upper class apartments of Fiddler's Green. But when Kaufman double-crosses him, Cholo steals the Dead Reckoning and threatens to blow up the city. Kaufman sends Riley after Cholo, promising him the car he wants to take to the north. But one of the zombies, Big Daddy (Eugene Clark) has started to think and developed leadership capabilities, and he is leading the zombie hordes on the glistening towers.
The political subtext is not very far under the surface; Kaufman and his enclave of the wealthy are plainly an allegory for the Bush administration and its supporters, pretending that their money will keep them safe from everything nasty on the outside, while the rest of the city descends into darkness and vice. The entertainments of the city include keeping zombies as displays, holding cage matches between zombies and using the living dead for target practice (with bullseyes strapped onto them). The resilience of the lower class populace is exemplified by Slack, a hooker used as bait for the zombie cage fight (Asia Argento). Her dreams and life broken by Kaufman and his machinations, she should have no reason to go on, but she does, one of the few affirming roles in the series. Another is that of Charlie, a mentally retarded burn victim who hangs on Riley, the big brother figure upon whom he depends. At the same time, Charlie is able to use a gun well, making him a contributor to the cause.
Fans of zombie films would certainly want to know what's new in this unrated cut; there are a few slightly longer gore scenes, and blood that was turned black for the MPAA is back to bright red. There's also an added sequence with Cholo as he investigates the sound of a crying woman in an apartment. The gore effects, supervised by Greg Nicotero, are terrific, with plenty of convincing splatter and zombie gut-munching, including an amazingly disgusting tableau that features as a centerpiece a zombie reaching into a victim's mouth for the tongue. There's also a great gag with a partially decapitated priest that's pretty impressive. The dark humor is present in copious amounts, helping relieve the tension from the gore and nastiness. While it's undeniably creepy and horrific, with numerous well-staged suspense sequences, Romero does have a tendency to rely too much on jump scares, including a couple fake jumps, that really aren't necessary for the effectiveness of the picture.
Although Leguizamo is often just irritating, he's quite good in this film, giving Cholo both a cocky airiness and a bitter rancor that makes him dangerous both as an ally and as an enemy. Simon Baker is fairly colorless in the lead role, though Robert Joy is more than convincing as his sidekick. Asia Argento handles her action role with sexy aplomb. One doesn't expect Dennis Hopper to turn in a restrained performance, but he does fine work here with an underplayed characterization loosely based on Donald Rumsfeld. Eugene Clark's Big Daddy is unforgettable; his howling ferocity, combined with Berni Wrightson-designed makeup, makes him a real standout amongst the usually anonymous walking dead. The ensemble works together quite well, making a whole worth more than the parts. The film takes an interesting tangent at the end, turning more sympathetic towards the zombies, which has been built up by several added scenes that emphasize the brutality of the living.
The film is simultaneously being released in full-screen unrated and an R-rated version. Choose your poison carefully.
Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: A-
Image Transfer Review: The film is rather dark, and large sections are shot with blue lighting, making this a difficult film to compress, but it comes across with few problems and little artifacting or artificial edge enhancement. It's an attractive transfer befitting a recent film.
Image Transfer Grade: A
Audio Transfer Review: 5.1 DD and DTS audio tracks are included, and as one would expect both are quite clean and vibrant, with deep and booming bass during explosions. There's plenty to like here with a broad and sweeping soundstage that increases the ominous nature of the film.
Audio Transfer Grade: A
Disc ExtrasFull Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 21 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
1 Other Trailer(s) featuring Band Camp
6 Deleted Scenes
1 Feature/Episode commentary by George Romero, producer Peter Grunwald, editor Michael Doherty
Packaging: generic plastic keepcase
Layers Switch: 01h:09m:08s
Extras Grade: A-
Final CommentsZombies become an allegory for class warfare in this gore-drenched fourth installment in Romero's series. The transfer is quite fine, with a house-rattling soundtrack.
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