SURVIVAL OF THE DEAD: ALMOST, GEORGE, ALMOST
Upfront honesty here Mr. Romero, I don’t pray at the altar of your alleged greatness. I think Night of the Living Dead is your best work (out of all of your movies) and every single zombie movie after that one has a sharp decline in quality.
Yet I still go and see your movies. Why you might ask? I think the reason why is because I like apocalyptic movies. I see them as a situation I could shine in. So I go into your pictures nursing the flickering flame of hope that this time it will be different and you will make a good movie and by god George R. Romero, you stuck it to me again. This one is particularly painful since you had about ten minutes of a good movie. Yes, you read that right, I said a Romero zombie flick was decent for around 10 minutes. That is a marked improvement in quality over the last batch of bad zombie films Romero’s made including the one that this movie is spun off of.
Survival of the Dead follows, more or less, a squad of National Guardsman that were first featured in Romero’s previous zombie movie, Diary of the Dead (awful, awful movie). These jokers decided to go rogue and were ripping off people on the road. That is until their leader “Sarge” Nicotine Crocket’s face gets plastered all over the still functioning Internet (one of myriad of problems in the movie that will be dealt with later). We don’t meet “Sarge” and his red shirts until about eight minutes into the film although “Sarge” does do a voice over bit at the beginning. Instead we start with one of the better characters in the Romero zombie universe, “Captain” Patrick O’Flynn on Plum island.
“Captain” O’Flynn, along with his extended (I guess) clansmen and retainers (yes you read that correctly ) are killing zombies on Plum Island. “Captain” O’Flynn is a colorful character equipped with a broad Irish brogue for some reason. I say that because the island in question is off the coast of Delaware for Christ’s sake in 2009. We also meet the other side of a long running Hatfield and McCoy situation on the island, Seamus Muldoon, who also comes equipped with an accent so thick it sounded like he and O’Flynn just got off the boat from County Cork yesterday. Muldoon manages to get the drop on O’Flynn and ejects him from the island after O’Flynn’s horse riding daughter brokers a deal. Did I mention that this movie is also, for some inexplicable reason, a western? That’s right a WESTERN that takes place on AN ISLAND OFF THE COAST OF DELAWARE IN THE YEAR OF OUR LORD 2009.
There were some more things that happen and a big fight and then the movie was over. Frankly, after the first 10-12 or so minutes the Survival of the Dead completely falls apart and I can’t muster enough interest to review the rest of the story. Instead I am going to do the good/bad thing in bullet form because I don’t want to waste any more time with this crap.
THE GOOD (which amounts to about 10-12 minutes of the movie)
- Patrick O’Flynn (for the whole movie) played by Kenneth Welsh. This guy got it. He played his sleazy character with a level of malicious glee that was fun to watch. He is also the only person in the whole movie that can act and he realized the movie stank so he figured he should amuse himself by joyfully chewing every bit of scenery he gets his teeth into.
- Like I said the first 10-12 minutes with the scenes on Plum Island and with “Sarge” and his red shirts showing how they survive the Zombigeddon. The “Sarge” character could have been an interesting protagonist but then in typical Romero fashion, he has to shoehorn in his stupid ham-fisted social “commentary” so he forgets about developing and using the character so “Sarge” languishes in unformed mediocrity for the rest of the movie.
- There is nothing else.
THE BAD (which is most of the movie)
I’m not kidding about that so I’ll just list the things I found to be the worst of the worst. There are some spoilers, if you care, so read at your own risk
- The writing, acting and directing. The lighting, the continuity, SPX and the music. Everything technical actually.
- Seamus Muldoon is a one note character that started off as an interesting idea, the guy who wanted to save the zombies, then ham-fists strike again. Muldoon then disappears for nearly a half an hour and when he reappears he’s killing Zombies willy-nilly AND trying to get them to eat something else besides humans? WTF?
- The world has collapsed and there is nothing to buy so why should characters worry about the 1.3 million dollars in the armored truck the guardsman are riding around in. Talk about dead weight. Paper money at that point is just green paper worth precisely nothing. Plus, dummies, YOU HAVE GUNS. You can take what you want LIKE YOU HAVE BEEN DOING. (Ham meet fist)
- This one is personal but it’s not the 1950s and nobody calls an NCO “sarge”. It was fucking grating on my ears to hear that. Also, I know you don’t have a big budget for the movie but again, it is not 1950. The US Army and NG DON’T use WW2 JEEPS anymore and haven’t since the early to mid 80’s. You couldn’t rent a Humvee for an hour or two?
- The uniforms of the NG. You couldn’t pick up a phone and find that A.) there is insignia on them because they are in the Army and that B.) the Army and NG don’t wear the woodland pattern Utilities anymore and haven’t for like 4 or 5 years.
- Romero’s jones to have zombies “learn.” They’re dead, right? Romero spent a lot of time saying this. You’ve said over and over again that there isn’t any electrical activity in the Zombie brain and that the body is completely dead. So how does a zombie “learn” or for that matter “remember” being human? Their brains are dead completely.
- Grenades don’t explode with a fire ball that will take the front of a building off. Again, phone call.
- For a guy that made his bones on practical effects, you rely heavily on bad CGI this time out. Specifically when killing zombies on the ferry. How the hell does a flare do that kind of damage let alone the foam from a fire extinguisher?
- I mentioned that this was a western right? Characters wear cowboy hats, dusters and carry single action Colt pattern revolvers, lever action rifles and side by side shotguns. Also they ride horses, rope zombies RIDING horses all the while LIVING ON AN ISLAND OFF THE COAST OF DELAWARE IN THE YEAR OF OUR LORD 2009.
- Why do some of the characters sound like they just got off the boat from Ireland yet others don’t? You went to the trouble of making sure your viewers knew that people had been living on the island for hundreds of years, that they have the Internet and TV and that characters easily come and go from the island. Why do they sound like recent immigrants?
- One more weapons related gripe. The M-16A3 rifle isn’t fully automatic, it fires a three round burst. Again, one phone call George, that’s all it would have taken.
- Zombies riding horses? Zombies remembering they have grudges with other zombies and have duels with them? Jesus old man, you have slipped into dementia.
I could go on for a hundred more entries but by now you get the idea, the movie sucks. Don’t watch it, don’t support Romero and his shitty movies. The movie is awful and it could have been good. There was a glimmer of hope after all. I can’t in good consciousness give Survival Of the Dead anything but the dreaded giant orangutan double eye poke fuck you times 3 to this movie. Retire George, retire right now.