I never realised that gay women pleasure themselves anywhere, at any time and under any circumstances…thanks to Survival of the Dead I now know this. Consider me educated.

SURVIVAL OF THE DEAD

Directed by: George A Romero

Written by: George A Romero

Featuring: Alan Van Sprang, Kenneth Welsh, Eric Woolfe, Kathleen Munroe, Julian Richings, Devon Bostick, Richard Fitzpatrick

A rogue National Guard unit and traversing across the USA after it is obvious that the country is falling apart due to a deadly zombie outbreak. Lead by ‘Sarge’ their only sensible course of action is to hole up somewhere safe and look after themselves no matter the consequences. After a run-in with some unsavioury bandit-types who are using an armoured delivery truck they hook up the ‘the boy’ who tells them of a community on an island off the coast of Delaware that are inviting all and sundry to come and be safe from the outbreak. The group quickly decides that an island isolated from the mainland might be their best bet and head towards Plum Island. Unfortunately, they are unaware that two families have been fighting an ongoing feud for decades, or even centuries, on Plum Island and even a zombie apocalypse is not going to cool the bad blood…

From this film to my first time watching Dawn of the Dead in the Gaumont in Southampton is 31 years. A lot of water and gore has flowed under the bridge since then.

Whereas Dawn of the Dead was an expansion and well-crafted evolution of the original Night of the Living Dead, trapping our resourceful survivors in a ‘new-fangled’ shopping mall against overwhelming hordes of living dead and then ‘anything to survive’ bikers, Survival of the Dead, although not a direct sequel but more a parallel in the same mythology, is messy and over those many years the story and points Romero is trying to make have become shambling, unthinking shadows of themselves, like the living-dead in his zombie films. Senseless, stumbling, with a half-remembered purpose driving them onward.

To be frank as a slow-witted old man I am not sure what the ‘social commentary’ of this iteration is – possibly the pointlessness of feuding for decades but did anyone really need that? The overwhelming desire for humans to have enemies to focus on – who knows? It is fair to say Romero can be very heavy-handed with this side of his storytelling but in this film it was muddled and confused. In lieu of the moralising we get some really poorly staged and nonsensical ‘comedy gags’ – the fisherman on the roof about halfway through really irks with me. It did not make the slightest bit of sense in the context of the story and worst of all it was not funny. Some of the comic slayings of the zombies are poorly staged, not funny, and remove any horror or tension from the overall story. Very poorly judged but worst of all they are badly written.

Poorly written is what has to be thrown at the entire film too. For an experienced film-maker and a ‘master’ of this particular genre, most of this film is, well, basically….crap. Are there any islands off Delaware? If so, are they populated by Canadians trying and failing, at Irish accents? I mean come on, in the 21st century? Then of course we get the biggest load of hogwash that keeps cropping up in zombie films, including the much-lauded TV show The Walking Dead, a character, or characters, believes, despite the evidence of their own eyes and experience, that the dead can somehow be cured of death. I mean they are clearly dead and they tried to eat you but let us keep them safe and around in the hope that despite the world being utterly desolate someone will ‘cure’ them and presumably bring them back to life? Therefore, they not only have to cure the thing that makes them reanimate but they also must cure death. Plus of course they so much want their dead friends and relatives to be cured of this thing that makes them living-dead they are prepared to kill living people? It makes my headache. Had this premise been used once or twice in this type of film then okay but now every time there is a story set in this world there is always a group of idiots who behave like this.

The acting ranged between poor and adequate, within even the better performers directed into scenery-chewing and out of context rage from time to time. Not always the actors fault as the director gets the final say on how the character responds usually. Some of the set pieces reminded me of rubbish soap operas, others not so bad considering the film being watched. A proper Curate’s Egg.

Funnily enough, this film is an actual direct sequel or is set in the same timeline as the god-awful Diary of the Dead with the ‘colonel’ in that film now demoted to the ‘sarge’ in this film being the rogue national guard that robs the heroes of Diary of their supplies. A bit of git really. In this film he is not – although the basic premise of these films, no one will band together and help each other out to overcome adversity but instead will kill, cheat and rob anyone just to survive, is at best cliché and truth be told history shows us overall mainly incorrect.

Having really shown a deal of contempt for Survival of the Dead, this is only the second time I watched the film, I bought a US region DVD just to get to it at the time, the premise for the story, what our ‘heroes’ do to survive is in fact the groundwork of a good and interesting story.

Better written, made more like a horror film showing the threat and extent of the plague this could have been a great end to the Romero zombie films. The conflict of National Guard troops having to strike out on their own after realising their structured world has collapsed, the plan to get somewhere safe an island being an excellent choice, (or freezing cold Canada perhaps?) makes sense and the problems of how they get there. That could have been a great premise for drama filled with thrills and horror. Equally finding that the island was not the haven they had hoped for – again a good outline, a promising idea.

The execution on the other hand was poor. I do not know why, and many factors could have resulted in this mess, not necessarily Romero’s fault but he must have had a hand in this. The ham-fisted comedy, the hilarious ‘Oirish’ feud, zombies riding horses, people months into a zombie plague still thinking they can walk up to the creatures and the human-flesh-eating zombies will not take a chunk out of them. It does not follow basic logic, even within the fantasy world of a zombie apocalypse. where cynical disbelief must be left at the door.

Overall Survival of the Dead is very much a diminishing return and perhaps after Day of the Dead Romero should have concentrated on something completely different because since then the evolution, the message he tried to get across, restricted by budget or studio executives, got more and more diluted and eventually lost in a haze of poor acting, poor writing and any sharp edges were dulled by overfamiliarity and what seems to be a stagnant imagination.

Shame really. Perhaps if this idea were taken up, rewritten, polished and another better attempt was made of it you might have a great zombie film – then if it were really good, everyone would stop making them.

2 comments

  1. The biggest flaw in the film isn’t the acting or the budget- one can live with those being below par (as they often have been in Romero productions). The biggest sin of this is that it doesn’t do anything new. At a time when the zombie genre was producing interesting takes like 28 Days Later, Zombieland and even Romero’s Diary of the Dead (which is great), it falls back on tired tropes. It is almost self-parody.

    Like

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