Thursday, October 18, 2012


Romero's "Dead" films are a mixed bag for sure. The first two (Night and Dawn) are classics, Day of the Dead is a little heavy handed and dull, but it has moments. Land of the Dead was a fun return that I have grown to appreciate more as the years have gone by (all 7 of them since it opened), but I still think the opening thirty minutes or so are uneven at best.

Then came Diary of the Dead (you can read my review here) which was essentially a modern day reboot. After Land underperformed, Romero decided to go back to his low budget roots and start the story all over again with more present day sensibilities, and by that I mean he incorporated You Tube and other media type outlets into a new storyline of the dead deciding to rise up one day and terrorize everyone.

Survival is the 2nd of this film series - I have heard nothing about whether or not there will be another one - and pretty much takes place right after Diary ends. It even casts a secondary character from the first film into more of a leading role in this one. And that would be Sarge Nicotine Crockett (Alan Van Sprang) who was last seen roaming the countryside with his former troop members and robbing people along the way who would assume the military was still around and trying to help them. Crockett and his team learn about a sanctuary of sorts on Plum Island in Delaware. Since it's an island it would seem to be harder for the dead to be roaming around on it.

The island, however, has its own human problems with two feuding Irish families, the O'Flynns and the Muldoons. Survival has its very own "Hatfields vs. McCoys" saga at the center of its zombie story. The other problem is that in this "Dead" series, Romero has alluded to the problem being related to a disease or genetic disorder; when you die, no matter how you die, you become a zombie (much like what is currently going on AMC's The Walking Dead). Therefore, while they are on an island, there are still people dying and therefore there are still zombies walking around.

Diary was not great, but it was quite a bit of fun. Romero attacked the film with a lot of vigor, and it felt like the first time since Night and Dawn he was actually inspired with one of these films. The acting was not very good across the board, but it was easy to overlook with all of the good things that the film had to offer. Survival, however, feels tired and uninspired. The O'Flynn vs. Muldoon sections of the film are cliched with a lot of silly rhetoric being thrown around in thick accents and the like; if only everyone could have been holding a beer could it have been even more generic.

The zombies don't even feel like that much of a threat in this film either; the human element is much more of a problem. While that might have been Romero's point, the execution is just not there to make this work. And while I know this film was made a year or so before The Walking Dead premiered (although the comic book would have already been in existence) it's hard not to think now about how much better that show provides this kind of "Humans can be more evil than Zombies" scenario - you could also say the same about the 28 Days Later films.

So pretty much the whole film is the families bickering at each other and then Sarge and his crew show up toward the end and cause some more problems for the island to deal with. The zombies barely factor in to any of this until with about 15 minutes left in the film they bring up this idea that the people on the island have been working on giving the zombies a different food source so they are not a threat while people are trying to find a cure. While it's possible there are some scientists and doctors on the island, they sure as hell don't bring that up, so I'm not really sure if these are the people we want in charge of the Zombie situation.

Survival moves along at a decent enough pace; I was never bored. The acting is much better than it is in Diary (Kenneth Welsh has a lot of fun in his role as the head of the O'Flynn family, Patrick). However, there is just very little else to recommend the movie with. And it appears to be the last of the Dead films (for now), so to say the series ended with a whimper is putting it nicely.


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