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Monday, September 17, 2012

Day 261: Survival Of The Dead

Survival Of The Dead
That zombie on the left just realized he left his wallet at home

It's no secret that I am a huge fan of George Romero's "...Of The Dead" series. Ever since watching the original Dawn Of The Dead with my father, on VHS no less, I've been hooked to Romero's brand of zombie movie. The combination of action, violence, scares, and social commentary create an epic and enthralling series of movies. While there is a debate over which movie is the best, I've enjoyed all of them. Even the newer ones, though lacking the same spark as the original three, still have their classic moments. I looked forward to seeing what Mr. Romero had to offer in his latest zombie installment.

Survival Of The Dead is a 2009 zombie movie directed and written by George Romero (Night Of The Living Dead, Creepshow) and starring Alan van Sprang (Saw III, Diary Of The Dead) as Sergeant Crockett. Crockett deserts his post with the National Guard not too long after the zombie outbreak spreads across the country. Joined by his fellow soldiers and friends Kenny, Francisco, and Tomboy, we see the group rob a group of college students, referencing the previous Romero movie, Diary Of The Dead. Not long after, the come across a group of rednecks in the woods. A standoff occurs, with the soldiers getting the better of the rednecks. They are joined by a teenager (Devin Bostick, Godsend, Diary Of A Wimpy Kid) and take an armored car full of money. The boy shows the soldiers a video of Patrick O'Flynn (Kenneth Welsh, The Aviator, Twin Peaks) who is advertising on the internet the safety of Plum Island, off the coast of Delaware, to any survivors. Unbeknowedst to the soldiers, O'Flynn has recently been kicked off the island by his rival Seamus Muldoon (Richard Fitzpatrick). The O'Flynns and Muldoons have been feuding for years and the rivalry was brought to a head when Patrick wanted to kill all the zombies on Plum Island. Seamus believed that while a cure may be available in the future, the zombies were still family and could have their humanity restored. After a gunfight between the outcast O'Flynn's and the soldiers, Patrick joins their group and takes them to Plum Island. We learn that other outsiders had arrived at the island only to be killed by the Muldoons. Patrick's daughter Jane has been turned into a zombie, but still rides her horse across the island. His other daughter Janet is still alive and offers to help Crockett and their group when Tomboy is captured by Seamus. With an island full of zombies and the family feud about to explode, how will Crockett and his group survive?

Who wants ice cream?

George Romero's zombie movies have always been in an ever-expanding scope. In Night Of The Living Dead, we start at a small farm house with just a few people. Eventually, the story grew to the entire coutnry being overrun by zombies who have begun to remember their past lives. Survival Of The Dead's story is inexplicably small in scope, focusing on a family feud rather than the usual small group of people trying to survive. We have a hint of that with Crockett's group, butt he main focus is really on the O'Flynns and Muldoons. For the life of me, I can't figure out what would possess George Romero to write about two Irish families fighting on a small island near Delaware. On top of that, he also throws in elements of Westerns by having cowboys and farms involved.Where does this come from? We went from zombies in malls and cities to an island farm? The location is beautiful, so that's no the problem. It just the addition of two Irish families feuding that left me a bit dumbfounded.

The family feud aspect doesn't make much sense either. I mean, if these were the only two families on the island, shouldn't they be inter-married and if not, don't they just have a massive incest problem on their hands? Romero goes for his usual social commentary, exploring the undying (pun intended) feud between families, but it falls flat. The movie would have been better suited as a Lord Of The Flies style breakdown in society with zombies thrown in. (Actually, that's a good idea. I'm trademarking it now.) The feuding doesn't make for a particularly interesting watch, especially considering just about everyone involved in the movie has certain irredeemable qualities. The movie has no hero, only villains. I suppose that can be seen as being "true to life" but that's rather existential for a zombie movie. Still, we need someone to cheer for and the main character isn't that person. Crockett is no hero because we see him robbing the students from Diary Of The Dead. I liked the direct connection from one film to another and it shows a lot of creativity and forethought on Romero's part.

"Stop asking about me lucky charms. It hurts me feelings."

Survival Of The Dead is the sixth movie in George Romero's "...Of The Dead" series of movies, though the movies no longer progress in a straight line. We can't completely ignore the first four movies since many of the same themes are touched upon in this film. What separates Survival Of The Dead from the others is the clear attempt at being funny. While his previous movies may have a scene or two with black humor, Survival goes for multiple scenes to actually make you laugh out loud. The comedy is too goofy for what is otherwise a serious movie. The kills and violence in the movie are pretty creative and will make you crack a smile. Unfortunately, they rely too heavily on computerized effects which look a little too fake for my taste. The acting is fine and Romero's direction is still good. There are a few scares and enough blood to keep the diehards entertained, but not enthralled.

"No hickies!"

There are lots of zombie movies out there, but George Romero is still the zombie godfather. We have come to expect a lot from him and it's a true testament to his previous films that we hold him in such high regard. With that regard also comes high expectations, much higher than your typical horror movie. Perhaps I expected too much, but Survival Of The Dead just didn't come close to his previous films. It's small-scope, strange story, weak social commentary, and forced humor are disappointing to see. The movie is still watchable, but it's clearly Romero's weakest zombie film. There have been reports of two sequels in the works and one can only hope that they're better than Survival Of The Dead.


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