Survival of the Dead (2010)
Mr. Romero, for you, the zombie movie well has run dry.
For some, George A. Romero's drought began a long time ago. Many fans had sounded the alarm in 1985 with the delayed release of the troubled Day of the Dead. The quality was definitely in a sharp decline since the immortal Dawn of the Dead in 1979, so it should come as no surprise that now Romero just doesn't have anywhere else to go with it. The proof is his latest, Survival of the Dead.
Even though Romero, essentially, invented the modern formula of the 'living dead' horror film in 1968 with the brilliant Night of the Living Dead, that doesn't mean he should always get a pass whenever he presents his latest attempts to jumpstart this franchise. Day of the Dead, although gritty and involving, was marred by a slashed budget and a cast that practically inhaled the scenery. After that disappointment, he dabbled in some other film projects, some good (Monkey Shines), some bad (Bruiser). But in 2005, he came back with Land of the Dead which attempted to bring back the classic zombie film to the present. And although that film was entertaining, it was clear he was being overtaken by the many newer and fresher interpretations on the genre, such as 28 Days Later. Next was Diary of the Dead (2007) which married the zombie film with the mock-documentary style of The Blair Witch Project and Cloverfield, and the law of diminishing returns set in hard.
Now comes the feeblest of them all, Survival of the Dead, a film so lethargic that it succumbs to the very basic cliches his earlier films did so well to avoid. This new entry follows a group of military soldiers as they get involved in a family feud on a remote island off the coast of Delaware. The feud involves the O'Flynn family, who want to wipe out all zombies and potential zombies as quickly as possible, and the Muldoon family who want to imprison the zombies in case a reversal cure can be found to restore the zombies to their former human state. Why Romero has these island citizens speak with absurdly thick Irish brogues, as if they just arrived on Ellis Island circa 1850, is anybody's guess.
Basically, the entire film just consists of a few minor zombie skirmishes; some humans get bitten, some zombies get shot, and so on, until the blissful end. There is very little plot, some empty dialogue, and a couple of idiotic 'twists' in the feud dynamic that don't really matter much. Who do we root for? No one. The petty squabbles between the two families render both sides unsympathetic; and as far as the soldiers go, we'd want them to stay alive if not for the fact that they take every opportunity to do stupid things to get themselves zombiefied. The acting by the cast is adequate but unremarkable, with only Kenneth Welsh (TV's Twin Peaks), as the O'Flynn patriarch, having any impact.
Unfortunately, Survival of the Dead can't even be given good marks for the makeup or special effects, either, which will certainly disappoint gorehounds. The reliance on very obvious and fake-looking CGI is particularly annoying. Computer generated blood and brains does not a great zombie movie make. The gallows humor that played such a crucial role in the success of the earlier Dead films is also pretty labored and weak.
The film is short enough that it is, at least, a painless way to kill 90 minutes. But if Romero can't come up with a new Dead that has more invention or energy than this, then it would be safe to just pack it up and move on to something else. The fans will understand.