Monday, 30 August 2010

Survival of the Dead (2009)

Survival of the Dead is the sixth entry in George Romero's Dead series (following Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead, Day of the Dead, Land of the Dead and Diary of the Dead). Whilst the first three movies are held in considerable high regard by fans and critics alike, the duo of films preceding Survival of the Dead (Land... and Diary...) have been met with unfavourable and often hostile reaction. Can the latest entry into horror's longest running franchise buck the downward spiral?

The events of
Survival... takes place approximately four weeks after the initial outbreak of the dead returning to life and is set on or around Plum Island off the coast of Delaware. The island is principally populated by two Irish families, the Muldoons and the O'Flynns, whose warring patriarchs Semaus Muldoon and Patrick O'Flynn, have found their recent opposition of views about how to deal with the dead to be the latest in a long string of disagreements. Muldoon hopes to replace the desire to eat human flesh and utilise the dead around the island's homes and farms whilst O'Flynn prefers plain old simple extermination!

After being forced to leave Plum Island by Muldoon, O'Flynn launches an internet campaign (as Captain Courageous) inviting survivors to join him on Plum Island - a simple ruse to bring unsuspecting folk down to his boatyard lair where he robs them of their money and valuables.

It doesn't take long for a handful of awol National Guard to discover Captain Courageous and the apparent safety suggested by
Plum Island. Led by Sarge Crocket, the soldiers are those that held up the group of amatuer movie makers from Diary of the Dead, now accompanied by an annoying youth that seems to appear out of nowhere during an early exchange with a group of woddsmen!

Returning to Plum Island with the soldiers, O'Flynn rekindles hostilities with Muldoon which inevitably leads to a final and bloody shoot out with the added complication of a stable full of the living dead!

Whilst there are some interesting ideas raised in
Survival of the Dead (principally the islanders reaction to outsiders - in this case the dead taking on the role of `outsider`) the execution is sadly lacking and to these eyes and ears the film came over as a poor man's Day of the Dead only set on a farm rather than a military compound. One of the most important `characters` in a Romero Dead movie has always been the location, usually restrictive, isolated - Night's house, Dawn's mall, Day's underground facility, Land's tower block and even Diary's van/house - and the open fields of Plum Island just don't elicited that sense of remote seclusion. The main characters are thinly sketched out and dialogue often cliched. By 30 minutes I wasn't really bothered who was going to survive and who was going to end up as zombie chow. Although containing some decent gore shots there also seems a proliferation of CGI effects that are unconvincing. There are flaws that you could sail O'Flynn's ferry through - wifi internet accessibility and electricity a month after society has ground to a standstill being just two.

It's hard to put a finger on how or why Romero seems to have lost his bite with the living dead.
Land of the Dead was a crushing disappointment and whilst I found Diary of the Dead did improve slightly on a second viewing it still falls well short of expectations and there was enough in the film to make me want to rewatch it - something I didn't get from Survival... It's also easy to forget that Day of the Dead wasn't initially well received upon release but it did gain in reputation over time. I can't see that happening with Survival... Maybe at 70 Romero has just lost his hunger.

Rob Bewick

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