20 Socially Conscious Horror Movies

19 of 21

Land of the Dead (2006)

The Issue: Wealth inequality, classism, the 1%

The Movie:

Zombies often become a stand-in for the fear of the time — disease, medical experimentation, overpopulation, what have you — and in Land of the Dead, they’re about the working class vs. the 1%.

Taking place years after a zombie apocalypse, survivors have set up outposts across America. The outpost in Pittsburgh consists of a luxury high-rise that houses the rich and powerful, while everyone else lives below fighting for food, housing and safety. The city’s ruler (Dennis Hopper) has an armoured vehicle that can travel through the city, and the zombie-infested areas as well. Riley (Simon Baker) uses the vehicle to provide food and medical supplies to the people below. During one of his trips, he sees that the zombies are beginning to exhibit intelligent behavior again.

The poor people in the city have begun rioting, and even Hopper’s own men are turning against him. Even though they do his bidding, he still treats them like the lower class and doesn’t grant them access to his ivory tower. Meanwhile, the zombies have figured out they can walk underwater and cross the river into the city in a giant horde.

The zombies overrun the city and Hopper tries to flee with his money, only to be killed. Riley sends missiles into the city hoping to kill everyone, including the regular people as a mercy killing. He then realizes most of the poor people had fled the city as part of their rebellion, and few were killed by the zombies in the first place. The intelligent zombies don’t attack Riley and his friends and leave the city.

What It’s Saying:

The rich man in the opulent tower, ruling over the poor lower class? Living in access while the people starved? It’s a pre-Hunger Games Hunger Games!

Writer John Lutz saw obvious parallels for the divide between the rich and the poor in America at the time in The Philosophy of Horror, and also saw how the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan came into play: the people would set off fireworks to distract the zombies in a cynical comparison to how military action in the US would distract citizens from other issues.