Monday, March 15, 2010

Survival of the Dead (2009)

I might be the wrong person to write a review of George A. Romero's Survival of the Dead, just because I'm such a big fan. But what makes me a good reviewer is that I'm not lost in nostalgia. Though I love almost every single movie Romero has done, there's no holy cows for me. So is Survival of the Dead perfect? Nada! And that's fine with me. A perfect Romero-movie is a boring Romero-movie. None of his zombie-movies are perfect. Actually most of them has flaws. No, correction: every one of this zombie-movies has flaws. Some bigger flaws and some minor, but like with the work of Jess Franco, it's pointless to look at the crappy make-up effects in Dawn, or the terrible pacing that occurs in Night, or the way to talky beginning of Day. The clumsy script in Land and the not-so-original premise in Diary. It's all there and belongs there, because the movies themselves are perfect when it comes to story, to characters, to message. So with Survival.

Alan Van Sprang is back as Nicotine Crocket, the chain-smoking military that we first met in Diary of the Dead. He's traveling around with some other military survivors and destiny brings them to a small island outside the US coast. The island is run by Seamus Muldoon (Richard Fitzpatrick), a highly religious old man that believes that God has told him to keep all the zombies alive. His worst enemy is the violent, nasty, lying Patrick O'Flynn (Kenneth Welsh) who's been thrown of the island and is now surviving by selling boats and maps to the island to desperate survivors. Crocket teams up with O'Flynn and when they come to the island they get all mixed up in the long running rivalry between the two old men... which of course only can end in disaster.

So what we have here in an island that is more or less Republican hell. Both Muldoon and O'Flynn are hopelessly lost in their own politics - one on a mission from god to protect his island from all that are not from there - zombies and humans - and the other one just want to kill everyone because that's his right as an American citizen. In between is the "good" military - which is unique to be Romero, these are the most sympathetic military he ever had in a movie. Well, good and good. They are more neutral, but still are the one's we're betting on. What I like a lot is that it's hard from the beginning to tell who's the bad guys - if there are any - and it changes over the movie. Romero also revisits his old favorite theme of rednecks shooting zombies, and this might just be their story after all. 

As a movie Survival is one of his slickest movies in recent year. The pacing is good, and it's never boring. There's always a twist around the corner and lost of zombies. After the huge success of Diary Romero wanted to make something more commercial again, and this is it. You'll have a mix of Day, Diary and Land, but with a lot less budget it seem. There's no big mass scenes of zombies attacking, more one by one or in small groups, but it never distracts from the story. It's just a movie that centers around a small group of people in distant part of the US. There isn't that much zombies around. Romero directs with the skill of a master and the low key humor and dialogue might put some conservative horror fans off. Not me though.

The gore? Yes, it's way gorier than Diary of the Dead, but still never comes up to the mayhem in Land or Day. There's a LOT of very gory and bloody head shots, some fun impalings, a bizarre scene with a fire extinguisher and a zombie, some nasty neck bites, some intestines. Everything is well made, and is a mix of CG and physical effects - so nothing to complain about really. I have a feeling that it could have been longer though. Some scenes felt cut off, and you will notice which scenes when you see the movie. 

Survival of the Dead is a well acted, gory and very political zombie-movie with a lot of great ideas and scenes. I understand if some people will have problem with it, but I still think Romero is the king of zombie-movies and this is still better than a lot of the other crap coming out nowadays. Romero is an old-fashioned storyteller and when it comes to him I thank him for that. 

He's the ultimate American storyteller of gore and politics. Never stop telling those stories, George.


CiNEZiLLA said...

Oooooooohhhhhhh! I really want to see this one. It doesn't matter what Romero brings to the park, I'll get behind it and like it no matter what. The times have a changed and we won't see a another Night/Dawn/Dead, but as long as George shoots them, I'll watch them. Have you seen DEAD SET? It's very much Romero and very much El Zombo Rapido as they run like hell. It's a great little miniseries just under three hours that I really recommend you check out!


Ninja Dixon said...

It's classic Romero in every details, and I'm sure you will enjoy it! Romero is such a bright guy, such a damn smart man - and to be honest, I would kill to go out and grab a beer with him!

Paul Cooke aka Buckaroobanzai said...

Fred, this is actually getting pretty freaky now as we seem to be watching the same movies at the same time. I kicked back with Survival Of The Dead over the weekend. A bargain buy on PAL UK DVD Blu-Ray at £12.99. It's a quirky flick that tells a different side of the Zombie story in an enjoyable enough way. Romero delivers an entertaining slant on the Undead lore once again. Loved the military link in with Diary Of The Dead. Overall it kinda plays like a very good episode of Tales From The Crypt & has that old EC Comic book feel to it, which isn't a bad thing. Definitely worth seeing.