Wednesday, October 28, 2009

George A. Romero's Survival of the Dead (2009)

Review #0010

This sixth installment in Romero's fractured, forty-years old Dead franchise is by (very) far the worst. Maybe, we're just tired of the same old set-ups and characters used ad nauseam. Maybe we've seen too many zombie movies altogether, and no novelty could ever stimulate us again. Maybe we're expecting too much from old fox Romero (a towering presence I must add, now that I've actually met him)... Truth is, it's only because we love him to death that we try so desperately to find reasons for disliking his latest outing other than the overall suckiness of it. Truth is, it's lame, it's lame, it's lame. The protagonists are a bunch of military assholes (one of which is the officer who ransacked the kids' van in the previous film!) with all the charm and personality of toilet seats. Tagging along is a Justin Long-type whiz kid, a wisecracking Irish patriarch and his bland horse-riding daughter. Aside from Patrick O'Flynn, who's a real hoot, flipping guns out of his sleeves while peppering the script with tasty one-liners and Tomboy, the tough lesbian chick who makes fun of men while masturbating in an army truck, you'd like to see the rest of the cast die from frame 1. It is arduous enough just to follow them, but it is even harder to see where the flimsy scenario takes them. You see, "Survival" is not a typical zombie film since it focuses on a closed, zombie-controlled area: Plum Island, Delaware. While watching the film, I thought to myself and made a painful realization: it offers us nothing in the way of expectation. One comes to wish the protagonists would never reach Plum Island, because once there, the zombie menace vaporizes. Once there, the film shifts gear and becomes a western centered on a family feud opposing two clans of Irish settlers: the O'Flynn and the Muldoon. As long as you dig a premise involving a closed-circuit western with zombies tacked-on as cattle, you might enjoy this film. But you also have to dig all of the tedious exchanges between the two families, and all the lame bits of exposition peppered here and there (including the spontaneous generation of twins, the re-emergence of old infatuations, and the lamentations of a daughter). The final stand-off is great, but the way there was excruciating. Before the film, George promised us some slapstick humor, and although the film does sport some funny bits (including some great zombie kills), we're still a long way from the cream pies of "Dawn". To be perfectly honest, "Survival" actually looks like the bastard child of "Dawn" and "Day". From the former, it borrows the basic structure involving the "fort" besieged by outsiders, but without the social commentary that made "Dawn" so great. From the latter, it borrows the idea that zombies can be tamed, yet there is no zany Dr. Logan. It also posits military forces as probable survivors, yet there is no sadistic Rhodes. All in all, "Survival" fails because it recycles a lot, and brings nothing new to the stew, no thematic innovation (like the thinking zombie of "Land"), or technical novelty (like the subjective camera of "Diary"). Nothing in fact, to atone for the subpar acting, characterization, scenario, and soundtrack (the Goblins, and even John Harrison are sorely missed). Better luck next time, George.