I want to preface this review by stating that I’ve been a GEORGE ROMERO fan for quite some time now. I consider his original zombie trilogy of NIGHT, DAWN and DAY OF THE DEAD to be the best that genre (which he invented) has to offer. I even enjoyed his fourth highly anticipated zombie sequel, LAND OF THE DEAD a lot. From the vintage UNIVERSAL logo to the dozens of Iraq war and George W. Bush metaphors, I thought LAND was a great return to form from the old master. His non-zombie movies are pretty damn good too! MARTIN, KNIGHTRIDERS, CREEPSHOW and MONKEY SHINES are all excellent films, that show there’s a lot more to the man than zombies. I can also truly appreciate the fact that he works almost completely outside the Hollywood system and usually makes all of his films independently. Unfortunately, it seems the only way he can get money to make a movie as of late, is if there’s a “OF THE DEAD” at the end of every title.
I went into the advanced screening of his latest zombie movie SURVIVAL OF THE DEAD with an awesome amount of trepidation. I utterly hated DIARY OF THE DEAD. I thought it was a useless reason to make a movie and added nothing to the series or the genre in general. It didn’t even seem like it was made by the same guy. I’m happy to report that I found SURVIVAL to be a big improvement over DIARY. But, it’s still not that great of a movie.
SURVIVAL is not a mock-doc like DIARY was. It has a straight narrative like his previous films. It is however a “sequel” in the way that it follows a minor character from DIARY in their own storyline, during the same zombie outbreak. Sarge “Nicotine” Crocket (ALAN VAN SPRANG) is leading a small band of armed national guardsmen through the zombie-apocalypse of Philadelphia. They come across a message posted on the internet by an old guy named Pat O’Flynn (KENNETH WELSH), who is offering boat rides to a nearby island. Turns out it’s an ambush, but the bushwhackers are no match for the guard and Sarge and company take their boat. The old guy from the internet manages to get on board too and convinces Sarge to help him take back the island he’s from. Turns out that he’s been exiled from the island because of a difference in opinion with another resident named Seamus Muldoon (RICHARD FITZPATRICK), over what to do with the dead. O’Flynn prescribes to the notion of shooting them all in the head. Muldoon wants to keep the zombies around and train them how to do chores and eat animal flesh. So far, he hasn’t had much success and before you can say “Monroeville Mall”, everyone’s up to their armpits in zombies.
SURVIVAL has a strong BIG COUNTRY vibe and plays like a western at times. The social commentary that ROMERO’S going for in this one (according to him), concerns the huge split we’re seeing right now between the Left and the Right in our country. The two feuding Irishmen represent both sides refusing to listen to each other and work out the problem that faces them both. This is the part of SURVIVAL that I like the most and it echos the “man is his own worst enemy” thread from the other DEAD movies.
I didn’t like the “more of the same shit” feeling I got from the rest of the movie. There’s a lot of things about SURVIVAL that remind me of a cheap, less scary version of DAWN OF THE DEAD, only on an island instead of a mall.
I also thought the acting was pretty sub-standard throughout and I didn’t really like any of the characters I was supposed to like. The main guy Sarge is pretty poorly performed and most of the Irish accents sound awful (especially KATHLEEN MUNROE’S).
But, the worst thing about SURVIVAL OF THE DEAD is the dead! They’re fucking boring and not in the least bit frightening. Also, as with the case of DIARY, the gore scenes are mostly CGI and it’s BAD FUCKING CGI! There are two really creative zombie kills that are ruined by the use of CGI and made to look almost BUGS BUNNY style cartoonish! Shitty!
After the movie was over, GEORGE ROMERO came out to do a Q & A with the sold-out crowd at the L.A. Film School. He talked about how if SURVIVAL is successful, he wants to make two more DEAD movies that also follow minor characters who were introduced in DIARY. If he does, I’ll hope for the best. He said that basically he’s been ripped off financially for all the old DEAD movies (especially NIGHT which is public domain) and I think that’s one of the reasons he decided to reboot a new series of DEAD movies that are separate from the others. It makes sense, but I wish this new series was a lot better.
ROMERO said he’s also working on a zombie NOVEL! He didn’t elaborate any further than that, but said that he wanted to tell an even bigger “OF THE DEAD” type story that’s in the vein of MAX BROOK’S ZOMBIE SURVIVAL GUIDE. I’m looking forward to that.
There was also a lot of talk about the original script for DAY OF THE DEAD and the more I hear about what that film could have been like, the more I want to read it, because it sounds fucking EPIC! That draft never got made, because at the time it would of cost way too much money. It featured a fully trained and armed ZOMBIE ARMY that are used by the military guys to fight the other zombies! They were “rewarded” with “fleshy” snacks. The source of these snacks was to be a group of prostitutes, who are “used” by the soldiers to create a BABY FARM! The babies are the zombie snacks! How totally FUCKED UP is that? That idea was meant to be a comment of sorts on the abortion issue. WOW! Someone should have made THAT instead of the DAY remake they did a few years back. Oh well.
At one point, ROMERO talked about an original idea he had for a new horror movie. I won’t tell you what the idea was, but I will say it sounded very interesting. This is what I think is so sad about the man; he still has a lot of awesome ideas, but he just can’t get them financed unless there’s a bunch of zombies eating people in it. I hope he gets to make it someday and finally give the DEAD their much deserved rest. Nerd out!