SOTA Now Playing
Land of the Dead

Once upon a time, not too long ago, you couldn't find a zombie figure to save your life. Perhaps they were too gross, or perhaps they were simply to generic, not easily tied to one specific license. Whatever the case, they just weren't a popular action figure choice. Hell, they were non-existent.

But over the last couple years, that's all changed. We got zombies coming out our ears these days, with several major companies releasing them both as licensed and unlicensed product. There's Sideshow with their in house developed line The Dead. There's Mezco, with their Attack of the Living Dead, also a in house developed property. NECA has given us several more well known zombies from the films Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead. And even Toybiz got in the act last year, producing the zombie from "Tales from the Zombie".

SOTA joins this list of companies with zombie action figures with their release of the Land of the Dead series 1. The set includes the most famous zombie from the film, Big Daddy, along with The Butcher and Machete. There's also a sort of 'build a figure' included. Buy all three, and you get the parts to make a 'victim', who's pretty much just parts at this point anyway.

These retail for around $11 to $16 each, depending on the vendor. With that big of a spread, you can see that picking the right vendor is pretty crucial. I have some online options at the end that will be cheaper than most local brick and mortar stores, even when you add in shipping.

Packaging - **1/2
I'm not a huge fan of the rather dull designs for the Now Playing line, and I've pointed that out before. These do show off the figures inside pretty well, and they do have photos of the rest of the line - and the entire victim - on the back of the package. I do think the particular poster image they used behind the figures looks good, and I do like the lack of twisty ties.

Sculpting - Big Daddy, the Butcher ***1/2; Machete ***
Big Daddy looks terrific, capturing the make up from the movie in a gruesome, violent expression. The open wounds and wrinkled, dried out zombie flesh look excellent, and there's a ton of small detail and texturing on the head sculpt. His body is covered in his overhauls, so there's less detail here, with no attempt to give the cloth any texture. The wrinkles and folds are generally sensible, but the arms do look a bit odd, since they appear to be bunched up toward the elbow as if the sleeves were too long, and yet the wrists stick out at the end. Even with that minor weirdness in the flow of the clothing, it still looks quite good, complete with sculpted (yep, even the little letters) "Big Daddy" name tag.

Perhaps the biggest issue for Big Daddy is his slight pin head.  He's not quite Zippy, but he's leaning in that direction. He's sculpted in a rather awkward pose, but that's the zombie in him coming out, as his body doesn't quite flow and work the same way it did when he was alive. He stands great on his own on the large feet, and his right hand is sculpted to hold accessories, while his left is splayed out in a gesture.

The Butcher also has an excellent head sculpt, with hair that has great detailing, and doesn't get in the way of the neck articulation. His face suffers from more natural decay and wrinkling that Big Daddy's, and he's not real happy about it. The body sculpt is awkward as well of course - these are zombies after all - but I like his pose slightly better than Big Daddy's. While it's off kilter enough to give the impression that this person isn't normal, it isn't so far out of whack as to look goofy. The small detail sculpts on the open flesh on the hands and cheeks looks good, and the figure also stands great on his own with no support and no worries about tipping over. The right hand is sculpted to hold the butcher knife, while the left has the exact same splayed position as Big Daddy's. In fact, I'd say these two hand sculpts started out identical, and they added some extra texture details to the Butcher's.

One of the nicest features of the Butcher's sculpt is the asymmetric appearance to the head and hair. The hair is flatter to the head on the left, poofing out a bit on the right. This slightly mussed look adds some additional realism to the appearance, and is very much like early Mcfarlane work, when symmetry was a dirty word.

Finally, there's Machete, originally solicited as Blade. I suspect the fact that there's a Marvel character of that name might have made them change their mind on what to call this Tom Savini zombie.

Yep, it's Savini in the character makeup from the film. The body has the least zombified stance, looking from the neck down like any guy in a leather jacket and jeans. You might prefer this over the more awkward poses, but I prefer the zombie look to extend to the full figure. The face looks like the character enough that you'll know who it is, but the square shape and elongated size of the head makes it appear a bit more Frankensteinish than I like.

He stands great on his own, once again, and the right hand is sculpted to hold the machete. His left is - guess what! - splayed just like the other two, and is in fact the same initial sculpt with just some texture changes.

The scale on these is 7", and not 6" as some of the sites reported early on. Big Daddy stands about 7 1/4 inches tall, as does the Butcher, and Machete is the shortest at around 6 1/2". They should fit in nicely with other Cult Classics or Now Playing figures, and even most 7" lines from other companies.

Paint - The Butcher **1/2; Big Daddy, Machete **;
Ah, the current bane of SOTA's work. It's been noted by just about every fan that the paint ops on the last few lines from SOTA, particularly the last Now Playing series, have dropped both in number and in application quality. This line continues to be of a weaker quality than earlier series.

Big Daddy starts out well, with a good zombie skin tone, and a nice gloss finish on the teeth, mouth and open wound on his skull, giving them a wet look compared to the rest of the face. There's almost too much blood and dirt in the mouth though, hiding some of the sculpting detail.

The neck is a pin joint similar to what you see on Marvel Legends, so that it can turn and tilt forward and backward, but has no side to side tilt action. I'm mentioning this in the paint section because the first time you til it all the way back, it will rub the paint off the plate of the joint so that when you tilt it back to a straight position, he'll have a rub spot on the back of his neck for all the world to see.

To continue with the complaints, he also has a very large stray blue mark above his left eye, and obvious blue over spray on his neck and the side of his face. Clearly he was assembled when they painted the jumpsuit, and did not do a good job masking the head from over spray.

The rest of the paint work on the body is solid, if not outstanding. There's the right amount of dirt and wash on the clothing, and the skin tone of the hands matches the face well. They even did his fingernails, which is always a nice detail.

The Butcher suffers from a mediocre paint application as well. His is clearly a case of excess - too much wash on the face, too much watered down blood smeared on the apron, and too much of some weird high gloss black on his shoes and lower pant legs - did he walk through a puddle of tar, and I'm forgetting it? Actually, I think it's supposed to be blood, but it's definitely almost black and not particularly bloody looking

The skin tone is also inconsistent, particularly between the face and neck where there's a jump from dark (face) to light (neck) without any gradual transition. They were trying to get that decayed look, but it appears as though the factory just didn't quite know how to pull it off in production.

That gloss dark, dark red paint is evident on the hands and feet of Machete too, so perhaps their using this gloss application to appear like dark blood on all the darker clothes. If that was the effect they were going for, it clearly didn't work for me. The small details on Machete's jacket are done in silver, but are a tad sloppy, and my figure has several spots of silver paint on the jeans where the painter clearly goofed up. Gotta watch the tip of the brush, dude!

It's the work on the face that bothers me most about Machete though. They went with a gray and white look for the decaying flesh, but there's such a huge difference between the lightest areas of the nose, cheekbones and some of the hairline and the darker areas of the neck and cheeks that it cheapens the look of the figure, and really hurts what might otherwise be a great sculpt under there.

Articulation - **
These aren't super articulated, but most folks probably won't need that in their zombies.

Big Daddy has that neck joint I mentioned earlier, which won't allow for side to side tilting like a ball joint, but does provide more movement than a traditional cut joint. He also has ball jointed shoulders, joined only at the torso, and cut wrists. That be it.

And that's it for the Butcher too. His neck joint works slightly better than Big Daddy's though, and it doesn't appear to be causing an issue with the joint. It's possible however that the joint was cast in a plastic that matches the general paint color of the neck much better, so any rubbing is less noticeable.

Machete actually adds one point of articulation. But don't get too excited, as the cut waist really won't open up too many new posing possibilities. His neck joint is the most restricted of the three since he has longer hair, but the shoulders and wrists allow for some decent poses.

Accessories - ***
When these were originally advertised, they had bases and brick wall backdrops that could be interconnected. The removal of these bases as part of the cost cutting is definitely a loss.

Big Daddy does have some sweet goodies though. He comes with the two tools he used in the film - the jack hammer, and the automatic rifle. These can fit in the right hand, but there's also an additional right hand with a *slightly* (and I mean *slightly*) different hand sculpt that's intended to work a little better with the gun. However, I couldn't pop the right hand off - when I tried, it was clear that the soft peg was going to tear before the hand came free. Rather than end up with a bad right hand, I just stuck with using the initial hand with both the gun and the jack hammer.

He has two pieces of the 'BAF', the head and the left arm. These have lots of good gory sculpt detail, but the paint is a bit over the top, actually taking away a little of the realism. The victim was married, since he's wearing a wedding ring on the left hand.

The Butcher has only one weapon, his butcher knife. It's made from a nice, hard heavy weight plastic, so there's no warping or wilting of the handle or blade. The paint ops are good too, making it an excellent accessory.

He also has some pieces of the victim, including the left leg, torso and intestines. These are also very nicely sculpted, with flattened sides where they will lay against the ground, but the paint is over the top, hurting the overall appearance a bit.

Machete comes with a toothbrush. No, of course not, he comes with a machete, but I wanted to be sure you were paying attention. Like the Butcher's knife, the machete is made from a nice, hard plastic, so it won't warp or wilt over time up on the shelf. He also has three more pieces of the victim: his right arm, right leg (and pelvis, all as one piece), and some more intestines. You can never have too many intestines.

When I call the victim a 'baf', I'm being a little loose with the term. Usually build a figure is actually something you put together from pieces and in the end you have an actual figure. A couple of the pieces can attach to the others - a leg and an arm - but for the most part, this victim stays in pieces, to be strewn about their feet. The intestines are sculpted though so you can place them up against the gaping wounds in the pelvis and torso, and they appear to be spilling out.  Isn't that adorable!  He also has plenty of that extremely dark blood over the majority of his pieces, and it's definitely over done. I like the idea of a BAF, no matter what the scale, but this one isn't quite as well done as I'd hoped.

Fun Factor - ***
I'm not sure I'd sleep well at night in the same house with a kid that thought these figures were 'fun', but I have to admit that the younger fans of horror movies could put them to good use as the bad guys in their war of the undead. There's not much articulation, but they are mighty sturdy. Just remember to keep your door locked at night.

Value - **
Remember the final months of Palisades, as the prices of their main lines started to rise to the $15, $16 and even $17 range? Hmmm.

I paid $16 each for these at Hot Topic. Now, Hot Topic sells comparable figures from NECA for $13 or $14, tops. Why the big price jump on these? Fortunately, you can pick them up at online retailers in the more appropriate $12 - $13 range, but considering the paint quality, that's still a bit high. Had these sported the type of paint work we know SOTA is capable of - as is NECA and McToys - then they'd be a good buy at $13. But with this sloppy paint, the price tag is harder to swallow.

Things to Watch Out For - 
When you go to pull off Big Daddy's hand, take your time. Mine was clearly going to break, so I decided to simply live with the one hand doing double duty - you may find the same is true for you.

Overall - **1/2
The big question on everyone's mind when it comes to SOTA is - will they be here at the end of 2007?

These are actually pretty solid sculpts, and might even be excellent, but the weak paint hides any perfection underneath.  I often point out when great paint improves a mediocre sculpt, but this is one of those occasions where a poor paint job makes it difficult to properly judge the sculpt below.

Clearly, SOTA is cutting unit costs when it comes time to produce these things. They're willing to spend the up front cash on the sculpts and molds, but when they got to the actual production, they skimped.  If they want to survive this bumpy year, they're going to have to correct this asap.

Score Recap:
Packaging - **1/2
Sculpt -  Big Daddy, the Butcher ***1/2; Machete ***
Paint - **
Articulation - **
Accessories - ***
Fun Factor - ***
Value -  **
Overall - **1/2

Where to Buy -
I bought mine at Hot Topic, but you want to avoid that if you can since they're so much more expensive. I don't even want to think about what Spencer's will charge for these. Online options include:

- CornerStoreComics has them in stock this week for $34 for the set, or $12 each.

- Amazing Toyz also has them listed at just $34 for the set, or individuals at $12 each.

- Time and Space Toys has them at the pre-order price of just $36. That's just $12 each before shipping.

- Killer Toys has them listed as a pre-order of $40 for the set of three.

- Dark Figures has them at $43 for the set of three.

- for the UK readers, Forbidden Planet has them for 11 pounds each on pre-order.

Related Links -
Looking for more zombie toys? Check out:

- my review of Cult Classics 4 that included the plaid shirt zombie from Dawn of the Dead and the zombie fighter Shaun from Shaun of the Dead; and the Cult Classics 3 Flyboy Zombie from Night of the Living Dead.

- then there's my review of Earl, from Mezco's line Attack of the Living Dead.

- check out the Marvel Legends monster boxed set that included the zombie from Tales of the Zombie.

- and don't forget the cool (but expensive) zombies from the sixth scale Dust series.

- these figures are actually part of SOTA's Now Playing line, and I have reviews of series 3, series 2, and series 1 (broken into Darkman, and Nightmare Demon). There's also the large scale Lord of Darkness and Pumpkinhead figures from SOTA this year were part of the overall Now Playing line. And finally, the most recent release was the boxed set based on Carpenter's remake of The Thing.

Figure from the collection of Michael Crawford.

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