Survival of the Dead by George A. Romero
- Director: George A. Romero
- Genre: Horror Zombie
- Duration: 90 minutes
Rated R for strong zombie violence / gore, language and brief sexuality
With: Alan Van Sprang, Kenneth Welsh, Kathleen Munroe, Devon Bostick
“My name is Patrick O’Flynn”
“Who keeps them in chains?” “
From his 1968 zombie classic Night of the Living Dead brought a seismic change to the horror landscape, director George Romero’s “Dead” films – now totaling six in all, not to mention an unofficial zombie-like entry in Crazypeople – have become a case study of how genre films can comment on the era, smuggling subtext on issues that straight dramas are reluctant to tackle head on. Scratch the surface and find a withered satire of consumerism (1978’s Dawn of the Dead) or a critique of the arrogance of the Green Zone (years 2005 Land of the dead) or, more recently, an attack on media-generated lies that doubles as a portrayal of the YouTube generation (2007 Journal of the Dead).
With its new release, however, the restless inspiration that brought Romero’s previous incarnations to life is starting to feel more like a force of habit. Although an operation more beautiful and more fluid than Personal diary – who was too happy with his sloppy DIY aesthetic – Survival of the dead is a zombie zombie movie, going through the countryside without a thought in mind. If there is a subtext here, it would take a lot of squinting to locate it.
As a variation of the subgenre itself, the film presents an intriguing idea: What if zombies could be persuaded to feast on something other than humans? And if their behavior can be changed, then can they also be redeemed? – but fails to follow through.
Pick up where Personal diary leave behind, Survival of the dead shifts attention to a handful of rogue National Guards who were peripheral characters in the previous film. As humans are dying at an accelerating rate – 53 million each year, not counting the suicides and murders that stem from the chaos – the soldiers, led by Sgt. “Nicotine” Crockett (Alan Van Sprang), seeks refuge on a small island off the Delaware coast where the “dead heads” are said to be under control.
Once there, Crockett and his motley team find themselves in the middle of a clan war between two Irish patriarchs with differing ideas on how to avoid the zombie apocalypse. Patrick O’Flynn (Kenneth Welsh) insists on hooking up every dead and infected person with a bullet to the head to make sure they don’t join the ranks of the living dead. His counterpart Seamus Muldoon (Richard Fitzpatrick) believes in the possibility of redemption, so he experiments with keeping the living dead in chains, waiting for a cure while trying to wean them from their flesh-eating tendencies.
There is a lesson to be learned from this Hatfield-McCoy feud, something about the failure of humans to unite in a common cause, even when it is a serious threat to the species. But while you’re scratching your chin over the idea, Romero deals with light jokes, overheated (and terribly played) family melodramas, and ever more inventive ways to shatter the sweet melon out of a zombie’s skull. In the past, the director has usually had an irreverent response to the questions of the day; Survival of the dead This is the first time in the series that he hasn’t seemed to bother looking for one.