Survival Of The Dead (2009)
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George Romero is no stranger to mixed reactions. When Night of the Living Dead was released, it made the news more for its usage of (for the time) extreme gore than for its story or characters, and it was even outright banned in some states as a result. Now it's seen as a horror classic. Dawn of the Dead followed ten years later, and that one actually received a glowing review from Roger Ebert. Unfortunately, Ebert was one of the few people who gave it a thumbs up... but much like Night, the movie is now a classic. Next up was Day of the Dead, and that movie was the first to provoke the now-popular "Romero has lost it" reaction from even his diehard fans. These days, you'd be hard-pressed to find a horror fan who will damn that movie.
Review by Chad
Added: April 09, 2010
Romero would then go on to step away from the zombie genre for twenty years, and he returned (in my opinion) in grand fashion with Land of the Dead, a film that showed that the man hadn't lost a step in his time away. Some would disagree with that. Following that was Diary of the Dead, a film that (again, in my opinion) could have been great but turned out to be a huge disappointment. Some would disagree with that assessment as well. Now we have Survival of the Dead, and if you thought that the fans were split for his previous releases, well... you ain't seen nothin' yet.
We begin on a small island off the coast of Delaware shortly after the zombie epidemic has begun, where we find that said island is inhabited by two factions of people who have never seen eye to eye on the simplest of matters, much less how a zombie should be handled. On the one hand, we have Patrick O'Flynn (Kenneth Welsh) and his kin, and they believe that the only good zombie is a dead zombie... a permanently dead zombie. His daughter (Kathleen Munroe) doesn't exactly agree with his outlook, but blood is blood - she sticks by him through thick and thin.
On the other side of the island, we have Seamus Muldoon (Richard Fitzpatrick) and his clan, and they believe that this zombie nonsense is just an illness that will eventually be reversible. Why should he put a bullet in his neighbor's brain, he asks, when it's all but certain that he will be back to his old self some day? Needless to say, things get hairy when O'Flynn rounds up a posse and begins putting down as many zombies as he can, and the man eventually finds himself exiled from the island and sent back to the mainland on a tiny dinghy.
We'll get back to him in a moment, but for now, we switch over to Sarge Crocket (Alan Van Sprang), an army fellow who went AWOL along with a few of his fellow men, and we learn that they have been terrorizing those poor civilians who feel the need to document everything with hand-held video cameras. Flanked by the sex-starved lesbian Tomboy (Athena Karkanis), the Latin lover Francisco (Stefano DiMatteo), and the dimwitted good-for-nothing Kenny (Eric Woolfe), this group has been roaming around looting and just trying to stay alive. They eventually stumble upon a teenager (Devon Bostick) who, with the help of his handy iPhone (insert gratuitous product placement), has learned about a man who owns an island and is handing out free rides. They eventually decide to find this man and head out to that island.
That "man" just so happens to be O'Flynn, and he has been sending stragglers over to his home island in an attempt to get under the skin of Muldoon in the only way that he can. Of course, Sarge isn't your typical survivor, and after a bit of a "conversation", the group and O'Flynn find themselves on a ferry boat with that island set as their destination. When they arrive, they discover that Muldoon is none too happy about the visitors, O'Flynn vows to finally put an end to his rivalry with Muldoon with the help of a well-placed bullet, and oh yeah, there are still zombies prowling the island.
The one thing that really shocked me about the film was the fact that it's simply a modern zombie movie. Let me explain. When I watched the trailer, viewed the publicity photos, and read the official synopsis, Survival came across as either a western zombie flick or a Deliverance-meets-the-undead flick. It is neither of those. Yes, it does feature a guy decked out in a cowboy hat, and true, it does take place on an island that isn't exactly filled with modern technology, but it is firmly set in the modern world with modern characters, so this was a huge sigh of relief.
The second thing that shocked me was how good the movie actually was. Given that I loathed Diary and wasn't exactly enthralled by the concept of this one going into it, I went into the movie with low expectations. I hoped to be proven wrong, and thankfully, I was. Survival does not measure up to the original trilogy and it's almost on par with Land, but it is a whole hell of a lot better than Diary and many other zombie movies being released these days. Yes, Romero still has it, and even though I doubt that anyone will label this as his magnum opus, his fans probably won't snub it either.
There is one caveat here, one little detail that will make or break the film for you: there's very little zombie action. Now, none of the man's movies have been opening-to-credits zombie carnage, as they all told a story of human survivors with the walking dead serving as the backdrop for said story. That idea is taken to the extreme here, and the result is a movie that almost doesn't feel like a zombie movie at times. The humans are fighting over the fate of the deceased, but they could very well be fighting over anything and not much would need to be changed in the grand scheme of things. This is where the detractors will come in and bash the film, but personally, I felt that it worked. Romero was obviously working on a limited budget here, and instead of focusing on a movie with a lot of half-assed zombie action, he decided to present a film with a solid story and use his cash to deliver a handful of quality scenes. Quality over quantity with a great storyline to compliment it, if you will.
Now, all of this praise does not mean that Survival was a perfect film, because it wasn't. The one thing that really hurt the movie was the way that Romero couldn't quite decide whether he wanted to make a horror-comedy along the lines of Shaun or if he wanted to make a "legit" zombie movie. Granted, most of his previous films have employed a sight gag or two, but here, he takes that one step further with almost embarrassing results. Watching a man shoot a flare into a zombie's chest, a flare that engulfs the zombie's head not unlike Ghost Rider, and then walking over to it to light a cigarette? Witnessing a fellow fishing for zombies? These and a handful of similar scenes just felt completely out of place here and did a number on my enjoyment of the film.
I also wasn't too thrilled with the CGI effects used here. I'll take average practical effects over average CGI effects any day of the week, and this film shows why I think that way. It's a crying shame that a movie made over thirty years ago has better gore effects than this one, and a reliance on CGI is the lone reason why that was the case. Some of the scenes found here could have been great with the help of a Savini protégé, but instead, some guy at a computer mucked them all up. This is not to say that the entire film was a wash in the gore department as there were also some great practical effects on display, but the overreliance on CGI did drag it down a bit.
Overall, Survival of the Dead does get a thumbs up from me even though it has its fair share of problems. Romero has done and can do a lot better than this, but that is not to say that his latest is unenjoyable. It fits into his Dead universe quite nicely, and taken as "just another zombie movie", I can readily say that it's better than a lot of the garbage lining shelves these days. Some of you will certainly disagree, but it wouldn't be a Romero flick otherwise. 8/10.
- added 05/14/2010, 12:08 PM
Thoroughly enjoyed this one. I loved the level
of humor in it and the whole Irish thing made me
smile. Romero really put some thought into this
script and it shows. For me, this was more
enjoyable than both "Diary of the Dead"
and "Land of the Dead". Too much CGI,
at times, but otherwise a nice romp. 8/10.
- added 05/29/2010, 04:58 PM
Finally got around to watching this last night
and I must say I quite enjoyed it. I love how
Romero is sticking with the Zombies
"Evolving" idea. For me this makes
future installments worth looking forward to. 8/10
- added 05/30/2010, 07:56 PM
Yeah, I'm not really why this movie is getting a
bad rap. I think it's pretty damn fun. Feels more
like the original trilogy than either Diary or
- added 05/31/2010, 12:51 AM
Some REALLY poor
story decisions and some overly ham-fisted humor
elements keep this from living up to the original
trilogy... but it is certainly head-and-shoulders
above either of Romero's more recent efforts.
I basically agree with the reviewer's
assessments in regards to the film as a whole...
only more so.
This was just a few script
re-writes shy of a much better film...
mean... the whole "twin" angle....
REALLY? Almost painful to watch, truly...
All in all, quite entertaining... but not nearly
as good as it should have been.
intriguing concept given short shrift through some
A better effort
overall than the last two to be sure... but still
not worthy of a place besides the first 3 classic
As a Romero fan, I give it a generous
7/10... but if I didn't love the guy and admire
what he represents among low-budget filmmakers, it
would score a bit lower.
Andy van Heel
- added 08/27/2010, 02:59 AM
This movie was just really bad. A real
dissapointment, becaus I'm a big fan (exept for
Poor acting, awful story (what's up
with the twins?), no scares or athmosphere.
Fusion with western theme prooved also a bad
George, what happend man? Where did you
go wrong? Now go back to the drawing board and
make us a good zombie movie, god know I've been
waiting a long time for one...
- added 09/13/2010, 12:35 AM
I actually quite enjoyed this. I wasn't bored,
and I even enjoyed the cheesy lines and what you
thought embarrassing moments. 7/10 for me.
- added 09/13/2010, 06:28 PM
A few good moments, but overall I'm convinced
Romero has lost "it".
- added 12/04/2012, 12:59 PM
I liked this a lot more than its immediate
predecessor, Diary of the Dead. Much better
acting, better production and less of George's
patented get on my soap box social messages. But
geeze, it is time for George to try and scrape
together funding for another type of movie WITHOUT
zombies. I love zombie movies, but younger
filmmakers are taking the genre in whole new
directions, while George seems caught in an