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Survival of the Dead (2010) *

May 29, 2010

Written by: George A. Romero

Produced by: Paula Devonshire

Directed by: George A. Romero

Rated R for strong zombie violence/gore, language and brief sexuality

90 min.

U.S. Release Date: May 28, 2010

Video On Demand Release Date: April 30, 2010

The “zombie master” himself is back to write and direct the newest installment in his famed series of zombie films.  After creating such cult-classics as “Night of the Living Dead”, “Dawn of the Dead” and “The Crazies”, George A. Romero has definitely been around the zombie block, if you will.  In “Survival of the Dead”, the protagonists encounter “evolved” zombies on an island off the U.S. East coast.  In most of Romero’s past zombie thrillers, there is an unrelenting feeling of suspense as characters run for their lives from a drove of slow-walking dead.  Is “Survival of the Dead” as effective, or has the “zombie master” zombie-walked himself from solid B-movies into the C-category?

A small group of zombie-killing militants are aimlessly wandering around the country looking for safety when they stumble upon a YouTube clip (don’t ask me how AT&T’s 3G network was up in a post-apocalyptic zombie-filled world!) showing a man advertising an island off the coast of Delaware that provides the perfect protection from the mainland.  This island plays host to a battle between two old (and horribly stereotypical) Irish families who have a long-standing animosity toward each other (don’t ask me why).  One of the families is trying to learn how to “tame” zombies into eating a non-human food source.  As the militants find the island, they must choose sides in this battle that may determine the fate of zombies in the world.

Right off the bat, the quality of any film is easy to prognosticate by the quality of acting within the first few scenes.  The lack of acting quality in this movie hits you like a ton of bricks in the opening minutes.  There is no single performance of note to spotlight in “Survival”, but rather that the entire film features an ensemble performance that can best be categorized as C-level.  On rare occasion, a good acting performance can pull dead writing out of the muck to result at least in an entertaining film.  What I just described definitely does not occur here, as the acting turns many scenes from “cheesy” to “laughable”.

In addition to the poor acting performances, this story – the very foundation upon which acting is built – is terrible.  Much like the fate of the wandering dead, the actors are damned to mediocrity when the script is as bad as this one is.  If there is no character development written into the script, there is no reason for me, the viewer, to care about the characters.  When the viewer doesn’t care about the characters in a zombie film, where is the tension?  Where is the motivating factor that nearly all zombie films possess?  I, the viewer, continue to watch a film and care because I want to know that the protagonists will live through this crazy experience (a zombie invasion).  If I don’t care, then why watch the film?  This is the crime that is committed by this script.  Rough stuff, Romero.

Finally, the very aspect of this movie by which it is characterized – the zombies – are a complete non-factor in “Survival of the Dead”.  In their presence, the human protagonists seem annoyed at best.  In a normal zombie film, the music swells, the audience can see the zombie slowly approaching but the character cannot, and suspense is built.  As the zombie lunges at the human character, the music spikes, audience members jump in their seats, and so on until the end of the film.  The zombie scenes in “Survival” aren’t even as anti-climactic as those in any of the films in “The Mummy” series, believe it or not.  Zombies pop up out of nowhere with no musical inflection, and the human protagonists show no fear, but rather annoyance as shown with a heavy sigh, they grab their guns and shoot the zombie in the head… scene over.  With the impeccable execution and poignant symbolism that Romero has shown in many zombie films past, this latest effort makes me wonder if he hasn’t lost his “groove” altogether.

This movie is bad.  The sad thing is that it is difficult to pinpoint exactly where the “badness” begins.  The acting is rough, the story is in shambles, and worst of all, the zombies aren’t treated with any sort of reverence.  After experiencing this film, I understand why it was made available on-demand so much earlier than its limited theatrical release.  Romero had to cash in on his die-hard fans before the stank of “Survival of the Dead” got out.  Aside from being trapped indoors and having seen every other available film in the on-demand library, any type of moviegoer should avoid this one.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Francesca Carboni Perry permalink
    May 31, 2010 3:03 pm

    But what Romero should be proud of is the depth and intelligence of this review. He didn’t really deserve it and should thank you.


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