On Friday, April 30, 2010, George A. Romero released the latest movie in his on-going zombie series Survival of the Dead. Romero granted fans the odd opportunity to view the film early through video on demand services like Amazon.com, the Playstation Network, and Xbox Live Arcade before it releases in theaters at the end of May. It was a pricey venture at 12.99 for the HD rental and 9.99 for the SD rental. But considering Romero doesn’t make any money off of Night of the Living Dead (it is now in the public domain), I decided to toss him a few bucks and rent the HD version. Considering how much he’s influenced almost everything geeky that I enjoy, I figured it’s the very least I owe him.
Before reading any further, I think it’s important to know that I am an avid fan of all of Romero’s zombie films… except this one.
Do you have any idea how hard it was for me to give this movie a “Don’t Bother” rating? I’m the guy who reviews all the mockbusters for the site. In fact, not all my mockbusters have received “Don’t Bother” scores. But I have to give Survival of the Dead a “Don’t Bother.” It’s a must. This movie is terrible. And it pains me to write these words, but the reason the movie is so bad is solely the fault of George A. Romero.
The movie follows the story of a National Guard fireteam as they struggle for survival in a post zombie-outbreak America. The team was actually first seen in Romero’s latest film, Diary of the Dead. If you’ve seen Diary, you’d recognize them as the soldiers who pulled over the main characters’ caravan and robbed them at gunpoint.
No, they weren’t painted as model citizen-soldiers, but then again, a zombie apocalypse might change everyone’s behavior. While I can’t condone their actions, I can understand their motivation.
While on the road, the four soliders decide to head to Plum Island off the coast of Deleware (where the Irish accents are thicker than in Glasgow). On the island, two feuding families have been struggling with each others’ existence for over 100 years. But since the zombie outbreak, the disagreements have turned violent. The head of the O’Flynn family, Patrick, lives by the ideology that zombies are a 100% menace to society. After all, they do kill and eat people. He takes it upon himself to rid the island of the infestation as he appoints himself as the head zombie executioner. He has the dirty job of killing close family members and friends once they turn to flesh eaters.
On the other side of the ideological spectrum is Shamus Muldoon who feels that zombies might not actually be dead. He is motivated by his religion and feels that zombies can be cured and therefore, he doesn’t believe in killing them.
Once the soldiers fight to gain control of a ferry and make their way to the island, the story falls apart… quickly. It’s there that Romero does everything in his power to break everything he’s built in all his past movies. He tosses in a cheaply written forbidden love between to warring family members. He sneaks in a last minute “surprise! I have a twin sister!” situation. There’s a damsel in distress story. And what’s possibly the worst, is he has made some of the zombies semi-functional, like this young zombie-woman who can not only ride a horse, but jump hurdles as well.
Zombies can’t ride horses. They shouldn’t ride horses. Can anyone else see the problem with zombies riding horses? What next? Piloting helicopters? I know someone is going to say “well, when someone dies, technically the brain may still house the memories of blah blah blah blah.” I don’t care. Making zombies functional takes the “mindless” out of “mindless zombies.” And something about that makes them less scary as well.
Fans didn’t like the functional zombies much in Land of the Dead and they’re going to hate it in Survival of the Dead.
The soldiers die off one by one in typical zombie-movie fashion, either by zombie infestation or by the hands of another human.
The entire movie wraps up, not with a last stand for survival in the fight against the undead, but in a battle of family vs. family in an O.K. Corral-like gunfight complete with big western hats and rifles.
I’m not one of those people that “doesn’t get” zombie films. I understand that in a lot of zombie films, the real enemy is actually the remaining humans and sometimes its harder to live with them than it is to live with the monsters outside. But this movie paints it on a little thick. As far as zombies go, Survival of the Dead might actually have the fewest number zombies ever seen in a zombie film.
The acting, for the most part, is fantastic for a zombie film. The special effects are a little below par but they’re definitely passable. The make-up and atmosphere are all perfectly done. Everything was correct in it’s place.
But not the story.
Zombie purists may cringe when they see the outcome of this film. And I hate to write those words since it was Romero who altered “zombies” into the modern definition that we know them by. If anyone could alter that definition or quite possibly change zombie behavior and have it accepted by the masses, you’d think he’d able to do it. But here we are.
I honestly cannot recommend this movie, not even as a rental. I’m certain this review won’t stop many of you from renting it to see for yourselves. But I can guarantee that most of you will see this movie for the train wreck that it is. Here’s hoping that George has another ace up his sleeve.