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Survival of the Dead (R1 DVD)

Review by: 
A.J. MacReady
Release Date: 
Aspect Ratio: 
Directed by: 
George A. Romero
Alan Van Sprang
Kenneth Welsh
Devon Bostick
Bottom Line: 
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George A. Romero is back with another entry in his “Dead” series, kiddies.  What we want to know is this:  is  it a respectable, worthy entry in the canon - or does it suck?  I’m not sure I can answer that.  Reason being, all of us are (one way or another) fan boys/girls left dealing with what he creates.  I, for one, absolutely loved Land of the Dead.  That’s probably my third favorite of the flicks after Night and Dawn.  Day, I happened to enjoy more than Diary, but I like Survival more than that.  Confused yet?  Lemme explain.

SOTD (which is how I’ll refer to it from here on out) concerns a group of soldiers gone AWOL after the events of Land.  We even saw them for a minute in Diary (recapped for us onscreen here in case we either forgot or didn’t catch that one), reduced to ambushing and stealing from the douches (sorry, I mean “main characters”) from that flick.  Here we get to know them more:  Sarge, the resident badass (Alan Van Sprang - and take a minute with me to realize how cool it is to say his name out loud. . .emphasis on the SPRANG. . .isn’t that cool?  No, I’m not high.  Shut up); Tomboy, the cute as hell lesbian badass; Cisco, the Spanish Casanova badass; and - I think - Kenny, the other badass.  Whatever.  So they’re all badasses who take no shit and are ready to move on.  They pick up some random kid (Devon Bostick) and he hips them to this island off the coast of Delaware where there’s supposed to be safety from the flesh-eaters currently making life so hard.  They head out for said island after a bit of difficulty.

What they aren’t aware of is the fact that the island (again, off the coast of Delaware) is the battleground of one hell of a blood feud between two families, led by Patrick O’Flynn (Kenneth Welsh) and Seamus Muldoon (Richard Fitzpatrick) who hold two very different ideas about what is to be done with the undead.   One wants to kill them without regard and the other wants to. . .I don’t know, domesticate them should there ever come a cure.  Teach the dead to eat something other than us.  Because they ARE us and they can’t bring themselves to kill their families even if suddenly those family members want to eat people alive.  Our main characters find themselves in the middle of this Hatfield/McCoy bullshit gone to hell and have to find a way out of it.

So that’s the setup.  Question is whether or not it’s worth watching.  I think it is, but at the same time I’m not sure what Romero had in mind as far as the telling of it.  It’s all pretty straightforward, which all of the Dead films seemed to be but had more on their plate, symbolically speaking.  See, the thing is, I get that he must HAVE some kind of sociological allegory going on here, I just don’t think I’m smart enough to catch it.  Land, I got; same with Diary.  But here?  Some people think one way while others think another and there’s no way they’ll ever see each other’s side?  Is that it?  Cause if it is, it’s way more simplistic than anything he’s ever done before, and while that’s not a deal-breaker, I’ve come to expect MORE from the man.  I certainly enjoyed the flick while it was going on.  But I’ve been trained to see something deeper than just what’s going on on-screen in his films.  And I couldn’t here, other than just the surface.

Understand, if this was made by anyone else. . .I still don’t know how I’d feel.  Sure, he gives us some zombie kills we’ve never seen before.  I’d expect no less.  And the writing is JUST GOOD ENOUGH to see it as simple entertainment.  But I have to wonder:  how much does my bias come into play?  Because bottom line is, Romero is not called “the father of the modern zombie movie” for no good reason.  And he’s held that title since the fucking ‘60’s.  So I wonder, if someone else would have made it, would I have hated it cause it was only as much as it was?  Or did I still enjoy it because Romero made it and it - even as a disappointment in terms of what I would expect from him - was better than what anybody else would have done?  I really don’t know.  What I do know is that I laughed sometimes, and Van Sprang (while not a badass on the level of the greats) was entertaining and certainly enough of a kickass motherfucker, and Kathleen Munroe is who I think about when my mind comes back to this movie.  She’s obviously beautiful and the soul of the piece.  The FX are good enough - even if I wish Sir George didn’t rely so much on CGI nowadays after all his great work with KNB.

The DVD comes with a kickass transfer and Dolby Digital soundtrack.  There’s a commentary (which I didn’t listen to) and a behind the scenes doc (which I didn’t watch but IS 75 minutes long) - in the spirit of full disclosure.  There’s a short film, “Sarge,” some other behind the scenes footage, storyboards, etc.

I love Romero’s zombie movies.  When this one was over, I was glad I watched it, but I didn’t love it.  I merely liked it.  And for other flicks, that’d be enough.  I may have enjoyed this more than Diary of the Dead, which I REALLY didn’t like, but goddamnit - I wanted so much more than just “liking” this.  Hopefully you will.

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