Alan Van Sprang
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Survival of the Dead (2010)
9th Mar 10
Shoot the zombies, or let them continue to exist? That's the big question on Plum Island - home to fake Irish people and crap CGI.
If you thought that George Romero's last zombie film, Diary of the Dead, heralded a downward trajectory in our great zombie father's cinematic output, you were dead right. While it clearly didn't have the bite of Romero's initial trilogy, Diary nevertheless indicated that Romero had guts enough to strive for new ways of imparting his unique take on zombology, without messing it up completely. It wasn't particularly memorable, that's for sure, but it wasn't bad.
Unfortunately, his latest, Survival of the Dead, is bad. It is with great regret and sorrow that I admit this to myself, never mind having to spread the awful news. Taking place on Plum Island, off the coast of Delaware, it pitches an invading renegade military unit led by 'Nicotine' Crocket (Alan Van Sprang) amidst two feuding island families. One is led by Patrick O'Flynn (Kenneth Walsh), who believes in putting zombies out of their misery, the other by Seamus Muldoon (Richard Fitzpatrick), who strives to keep the undead, well, undead, until research suggests otherwise.
You might have noticed the Irish names of two of these principal characters. These are not descendents, but first generation Irishmen, played by American / Canadian actors. Such casting is nearly always a big mistake; it makes for laughable results for some, while it's just plain insulting to others, i.e. Irish people. Like me. It's not long into the running time and already I'm beginning to think that some impostor is running around making shit zombie films and calling himself George A Romero.
It's not only a fake Oirish zombie movie, it's also a Western; a fake Oirish cowboy zombie movie, in essence. Do you think that perhaps Romero is trying so desperately to do something new that he's unwittingly concocted a movie beyond the realms of any logical reason? For a start, we all know that the Western and horror genres are less than compatible bedfellows, especially if you're trying to do something serious in tone, which it seems Romero isn't. The scripted wisecracks of his yesteryear are largely gone, replaced with babbling incoherence; this is a lot less funny than it thinks, and everything feels so scripted. This isn't helped by stilted acting, not to mention a plethora of characters who are a hard to care for. Who the fuck are they anyway? Why is that woman randomly masturbating at the beginning of the movie? What are these people doing in a George Romero zombie movie? Who let them in? I demand answers.
If you're the type of horror fan who relishes in new and inventive ways of living dead disposal, then Survival of the Dead might at least push a few of your buttons. The zombie carnage does come pretty thick and fast, as Romero tirelessly pushes the boundaries of innovative techniques. The prize for most original zombie disposal this week goes to the guy who plants the fire extinguisher nozzle in a zombie's mouth and releases its contents - quite amusing, and there are at least a few moments of this ilk to prevent you from reaching for that 'OFF' button. But the CGI effects are, quite frankly, shit, and it all tends to become very tiresome after a while. In its favour, the pace of Survival does keep decent momentum, so you may not find yourself becoming bored through lack of action, but simply frustrated by a general dearth of direction or purpose.
To say this is disappointing is a massive understatement. Having grown up with Romero's films, one is generally willing to forgive the odd mistake. The Dark Half wasn't exactly the most accomplished King adaptation going, while Bruiser was just weird and incoherent, despite the presence of Tom Atkins. These days, GAR's name is so closely associated with zombie movies that either he is unable or unwilling to venture into more personal work, which is a great shame, because this is one too many for Romero's living dead.