SURVIVAL OF THE
STARRING: Devon Bostick, Julian Richings,
Athena Karkanis, Kathleen Munroe, Richard Fitzpatrick, Alan Van Sprang, Kenneth
Welsh, Joris Jarsky, George Stroumboulopoulos, Wayne Robson
2010, 90 Minutes, Directed by: George A. Romero
undead have a friend in Survival of the Dead. He is a rancher on a remote
island who believes that since the zombies that have started popping up recently
were once and, in his view, still are family and friends, they deserve to be
spared. Then this champion of undead rights and his men spend the entire second
and third act shooting those former loved ones in the head if they don't meet to
his idea of evolutionary progress.
With friends like that . . .
Survival of the Dead is
writer/director George A. Romero's sixth installment in his flesh-eating,
walking dead series. Forty-two years after coming to get Barbara, Romero's
zombies have transformed into smart riffing on consumerism, become more
intelligent, started a society all their own, and been the subject a
Here, well, they're just here.
They are the subject of a quasi-moral conundrum (To shoot, or not to shoot; that
is the question) and the pawns of a family rivalry. They are, sadly and
predictably, quite boring.
Romero's premise involves the
remote Plum Island off the coast of Delaware, where the O'Flynn and Muldoon
clans have been arguing as long as their respective patriarchs Patrick (Kenneth
Welsh) and Seamus (Richard Fitzpatrick) can remember. The conflict may have
begun over how to live on the Island - the O'Flynns retaining their Irish
brogues, the Muldoons wearing cowboy hats - but it has changed since the
recently dead started coming back to life.
Now, Patrick and his posse hunt
down all the zombies on their previously quiet island they can find, and Seamus
believe they deserve as much a chance at life as the breathing beings they once
were. Patrick is sent into exile, after his daughter (Kathleen Munroe) begs
Seamus to spare his life.
"Characters repeatedly forget their guns when they go wandering
around in zombie-infested woods . . ."
Some time later, a
head-shooting-weary squadron of rogue members of the National Guard, led by
Sarge Crocket (Alan Van Spring), return to the Plum Island with Patrick, hoping
for nice, serene oasis away from the undead.
Needless to say, the island is
not all peaceful relaxation. On this tiny isle populated only with the relatives
of two men, hordes of zombies are roaming around the woods, where characters
repeatedly tread forgetting their guns for some unknown reason. Muldoon kills
the strangers that Patrick has been sending there but captures the risen dead
and keeps them in his barn.
His idea is to force them into
normal lives again. The local mailman is shackled to a mailbox, repeatedly
delivering the same mail over and over again, and a lumberjack makes a poor
attempt at chopping wood. Muldoon's ultimate plan is to encourage the zombies to
feed upon something other than human flesh. They don't take the bait, even when
it's a pig chained in the middle of the pen.
Muldoon's intentions, wildly
naïve as they may be, are the movie's sole new idea, and even those are
dismissed immediately upon his first appearance after the prologue. Once that
zombie doesn't start chewing on the swine, he kills it on the spot, effectively
butchering the cause of the O'Flynn/Muldoon rivalry along with it.
Romero has apparently dismissed
the notion of exploring any sort of thematic ground with his zombies. There's
something here in how two opposing forces will instinctually fight over
everything and anything (the movie's final shot vaguely pushes that point), but
his generic Western setup and ridiculous plot contrivances - including but not
limited to a random revelation of twins (so one can be a zombie, and the other
can give her dad guff) - undermine it. The National Guardsmen are only along for
the ride, with disposable characterizations befitting eventual zombie fodder.
What's left is the usual zombie
shooting gallery. They've always been easy targets, rambling slowly toward their
potential victims, and the hunters in this installment are so good at killing
zombies that they dispatch them with as much boredom as we have watching them do
so. There's no effort on their part, hence no suspense on ours. Romero simply
shows a lot of zombie heads exploding in bloody detail and repeats from
With Survival of the Dead,
Romero's zombies have proven to shuffle their course. This must be, needs to be,
the end, for the movies have started to too closely resemble their undead stars.
- Mark Dujsik