This latest installment of George Romero’s DEAD saga is about on par
with his previous efforts
LAND OF THE DEAD and
DIARY OF THE DEAD:
flawed in many respects, but pretty good for the most part.
In recent years George Romero has tried repeatedly to
mount non zombie-themed projects, yet with this 2009 effort he was back
once again in territory he pioneered with the iconic NIGHT OF THE LIVING
DEAD. It’s Romero’s sixth OF THE DEAD film, and as usual was made
As of this writing (mid-2010) SURVIVAL OF THE DEAD has
yet to be widely released, but has already become one of the most
contentious of all Romero’s films. It’s inspired at least one petition
asking Romero not to direct any more DEAD movies, which I feel (even
though I like this film) isn’t such a bad idea.
In the wake of the zombie contagion introduced in NIGHT
OF THE LIVING DEAD, DAWN OF THE DEAD,
DAY OF THE DEAD, LAND OF THE DEAD and
DIARY OF THE DEAD, life on a secluded island is torn apart by a
decades-old rivalry between two stubborn old men: Nicotine Crocket and
Patrick O’Flynn. Following a particularly nasty showdown Crocket orders
O’Flynn off the island. O’Flynn obligingly sails away, and sets up shop
in a port to which he lures desperate people so he can rob them.
Enter a ragtag band of well-armed soldiers whose ranks
include the temperamental Seamus, a tough young woman aptly monikered
Tomboy, and a teenager who falls in with them. After a shootout with
O’Flynn and his lackeys at the port, the soldiers head off to the island
with O’Flynn in tow.
They reach the island, which is crawling with zombies
and, even worse, Crocket and his underlings, who patrol the area with
rifles. Also afoot is O’Flynn’s deceased daughter, now a zombie who
rides a horse around the island.
In short order, Tomboy is captured by Crocket’s goons
and used to lure Seamus and co. to Crocket’s farm. There Crocket is
attempting to wean zombies off human flesh by encouraging them to eat
animals. Thus far he’s had no luck, but plans to use O’Flynn’s zombie
daughter as his latest subject, with her own father as a witness to the
experiment. Everyone, however, is in for a shock, as the dead girl’s
still-living twin sister(!) is looking to help her father even the score
against Seamus, the soldiers are getting increasingly trigger happy, and
the ever-present zombies are hungering for human flesh.
Romero has claimed that he comes up with the thematic
content of his scripts before the story and characters. If true, that
explains why SURVIVAL OF THE DEAD plays like a near-western with
political overtones rather than a proper zombie fest. No, it’s not quite
the “zombie western” it was initially sold as, but does have definite
western elements. The living dead serve essentially as background to the
human drama at the film’s center, and nor is the bloodletting ever too
novel or inspiring (especially since so much of the gore is--yecch!--CGI).
If anyone is doubting that Romero has had his fill of zombies, I believe
this film offers ample evidence.
It is, however, efficient and entertaining. The style
and personality of Romero’s best films are largely missing, but he’s
succeeded in crafting a diverting action-oriented chiller. The acting by
a no-name cast is adequate (a big step up from the lousy performances of
DIARY OF THE DEAD), and Romero’s script does a good job balancing his
political concerns with a fast moving, action packed narrative. The
action sequences are often tarnished by the limited budget (a frequent
problem with Romero’s films), but the scope and ambition of the
enterprise are impressive nonetheless.
SURVIVAL OF THE DEAD
Blank of the Dead Productions/Magnet Releasing
Director: George A. Romero
Producer: Paula Devonshire
Screenplay: George A. Romero
Cinematography: Adam Swica
Editing: Michael Doherty
Cast: Alan Van Sprang, Kenneth Walsh, Kathleen Munroe, Devon Bostick,
Richard Fitzpatrick, Athena Karkanis, Stefano DiMatteo, Joris Jarsky,
Eric Woolfe, Julian Richings, Wayne Robson, Joshua Pearce