He’s a legend, there’s absolutely no denying that about director George A. Romero, the great grandfather of the zombie flick. But is he a legendary filmmaker? Well… probably not. His last few zombie movies haven’t really been all that good with even a number of his most fervent followers giving those films an emphatic thumbs down, and some would argue that none of his zombie movies are all that good when taken out of their revolutionary context. Not me mind you because I swear by Ken Foree and ‘Dawn of the Dead’, but that’s what some others say. Those bastards! I will say that I hold Romero’s 1973’s ‘The Crazies’ and 1986’s ‘Creepshow’ in higher regard than I do ‘Night of the Living Dead’ as blasphemous as that may be. And I love the late Dwayne Jones. All of that leads us to the grand George A. Romero’s latest zombie epic ‘Survival of the Dead’ which, truth be told, isn’t even zombie movie really. It’s a movie about something else with zombies in it. It’s that ‘something else’ that has me slightly befuddled on how to take this movie.
At the time we join in this movie the dead have been walking the earth for a while now and that’s where we make the acquaintance of one Patrick O’Flynn (Kenneth Welsh) who, along with other members of his clan, are putting the dead down on this island enclave that he resides on. This doesn’t please O’Flynn’s lifelong enemy Seamus Muldoon (Richard Fitzpatrick) who thinks there might a zombie cure down the line and instead just wants to chain up the dead until the Good Lord provides this cure. Eventually Muldoon’s theory wins out since he has more people and more guns and with the blessing of O’Flynn’s daughter Janet (Kathleen Munroe) he is exiled off this little island.
This leads us to our narrator Sarge ‘Nicotine’ Crockett (Alex Van Sprang), a hard ass ex-soldier who leads a small renegade band of armed fun-loving pirates who steal what they need to get what they want. On one of their adventures they pick up a young man
(Devon Bostick) who guides them to the exiled Patrick O’Flynn who in turn guides our crew to the island that he was thrown off of with the promise of a better life. Patrick O’Flynn was lying. Of course our crew probably should’ve known O’Flynn was lying since he tried to kill them upon meeting them, but what’s a little attempted murder between friends?
When they get to the island, our crew is first greeted by a sniper, then by some more undead, then they find a bunch of dead people in the sea who were never undead and its about this time they realized that there is trouble on this little island paradise. Patrick O’Flynn just wants to finally do away with Seamus Muldoon and Muldoon wants to do the same with O’Flynn, that is in-between Muldoon trying to find a way to make zombies eat something other than humans. And that’s pretty much it I think. I’m not really sure.
Since most of us have seen an awful lot of movies it stands to reason that the majority of us have also seen an awful lot of zombie movies and when compared to those zombie movies that most of us have seen, this one is pretty good. The production values are good, the director is skilled, the gore shots are plentiful and of a high quality, and the acting performances are above average. For disclosures sake my favorite zombie movies are those Fulci style Italian exploitation zombie flicks, Zombi in particular of course, but then I like Italian exploitation flicks in general so what can I do? Zombies vs. Sharks? Come on man.
The thing with ‘Survival of the Dead’ is that I’m not quite sure what Mr. Romero was going for with this one. Most of his zombie flicks tend to go beyond simple zombie desecration and focus on some larger social issue but if there’s a larger social issue with this one, then it went completely over my head. Maybe it’s religious fanaticism, but I don’t know. Plus the zombies themselves are basically an afterthought here because at almost no time does anyone in the cast actually feel threatened by the zombies and if they don’t feel threatened by the zombies then we don’t feel threatened by the zombies. Like the zombie flick ‘Fido’ the zombies are almost domesticated here.
So since the zombies in this flick are an interactive prop, your like or dislike of this film probably rests on how much you give a damn about the battle between the O’Flynn’s and the Muldoons, and truth be told I didn’t give much of a damn about either of those clowns. The soldiers were more interesting as characters and actress Athena Karkanis has set of eyes on her that could hypnotize a rattlesnake but the more interesting soldiers who had the more interesting back story had to split time with the far less interesting family squabble, and in my worthless opinion the overall movie suffered because of it.
I guess the question we have to ask would be if George A. Romero can’t do anything new with zombies, how in the world will zombie movies survive? Zombie movies will survive just fine because the words ‘something new’ and ‘movies’ aren’t used together much anymore these days and while ‘Survival of the Dead’ was competent I think we were just hoping for a little more than simple competence from someone with the pedigree of a George A. Romero.