GEORGE A. ROMERO’S SURVIVAL OF THE DEAD

0.5 Stars
Year Released: 2010
MPAA Rating: R
Running Time: 90 minutes
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Picking up in the immediate aftermath of “Diary of the Dead,” can a director-writer-franchise creator still believe that his name above the title can bring his followers to the cinematic temple? Pittsburgh maestro George A. Romero’s sixth “Dead” film, vainly titled “George A. Romero’s Survival of the Dead” is nowhere near as imaginative or creative as the 1968 original “Night of the Living Dead” or his previous installment. Maybe it’s hard when 53 million people are dying every year (in normal times). Now, as before, it appears that everyone of those dead people gets up and kills another. For a second, let’s get into the math of the situation. As there are more people who have died on this planet that are currently living, maybe this movie should have been a short subject? It would have saved us the trouble of sitting through this extended lunatic family feud of a nightmare.

Anyway, our narrator is Sarge (Alan Van Sprang) a tough, determined, and grizzled Guardsman chiseled from the mold of Colin Farrell. He’s part of a renegade militia that has it’s own rules of the road. He recounts, in staged flashbacks, the events on Plum Island (“off the coast of Delaware” but filmed entirely in Canada), a scenic autumnal setting, starting with day six of the film’s dead men walking story. Hard-drinking Patrick O’Flynn (Kenneth Welsh), apparently having never dropped his family’s Irish accent despite a presumed multi-generation presence in the community, has his clan killing the dead with an emotionless, brutal swiftness. This allows for the special effects techies to explode heads with an escalating, devilish glee. Daughter Janet disapproves of her dad’s gung-ho, take-no-prisoners attitude, especially when their lynchin’ ways take down the protective, but very much alive, mother of the Muldoon children, playing upstairs but very much dead in their ways. Patriarch Seamus Muldoon (Richard Fitzpatrick) rides in with his “evil deputies” (horses, black cowboy hats, six shooters, shoot outs, and scalpings all lend to the slanted western genre design), as guns are drawn and minds are set. The Muldoons believe a cure can be had, so let’s wait out the deadly storm.

Sarge’s parallel story picks up three weeks later, outside Philadelphia. The commander and smallish gang —Athena Karkanis (Tomboy), Stefano Di Matteo (Francisco), and Eric Wolfe (Kenny)— dispose of some red-necks and pick up civilian Boy (Devon Bostick) and a handy armored bank truck. Suckered by an iPod video made by the shifty Seamus (banished from Plum to the mainland), a dockside battle erupts between the militia, the misguided O’Flynns, and the ever-comin’ dead. It seems the latter like to swim with the fishes.

That’s half the story, as half-way through Seamus and Sarge’s group head back to Plum and certain death—well, for some, but don’t you expect that in this kind of film?

The mayhem in “Survival of Dead” started long before the film begins, with Romero’s bland story. Then he has so many characters posturing about his set, I wish he wrote this as a film within a film, allowing for the audience, critics, and perhaps members of the screenwriting profession to start taking pot shots with real bullets at the overblown egos that strut from one side of the screen to the other. The movie plays more like one of those routine features that populate weekend nights on the Syfy network. Morbid humor falls flat (a fisherman reeling in a zombie, death by fire extinguisher, etc.), although a flare gun flame out looks pretty cool for a few seconds. By the way, the dead are also lousy drivers. Doh!

The film has had a strange journey to (a very few) theaters near you. After a premiere at the Venice Film Festival last September, it went straight to the DVD market in England two months ago. At the end of April it premiered on video on demand, Amazon, and Xbox Live. It arrives on maybe one screen in your town (in the Washington DC market, that unfortunate location is Landmark’s E Street Cinema), where few moviegoers will notice its presence in a box-office arena that finds “Sex and the City 2″ slugging it out with “Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time.”

I hate to put the name Hitchcock in this review, but since that director was often known to treat his actors like cattle, Romero treats many of his dead likewise, in a very literal sense. Beware the stampede, or is that the sound of the audience leaving the auditorium?

“A man dies, he gets stupid,” someone observes in the film. Maybe if a man makes too many films about the dead, the same fate awaits him. Mr. Romero, you are on notice.



Posted on May 31, 2010 in Reviews by
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2 Comments on "GEORGE A. ROMERO’S SURVIVAL OF THE DEAD"

  1. Dave Garret on Wed, 2nd Jun 2010 10:08 am 

    Re: “The film has had a strange journey to (a very few) theaters near you. After a premiere at the Venice Film Festival last September, it went straight to the DVD market in England two months ago. At the end of April it premiered on video on demand, Amazon, and Xbox Live. It arrives on maybe one screen in your town (in the Washington DC market, that unfortunate location is Landmark’s E Street Cinema), where few moviegoers will notice its presence in a box-office arena that finds “Sex and the City 2? slugging it out with “Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time.”

    Not strange at all. This is the exact same approach Magnet used to release the critically acclaimed ‘Let the Right One In.” While ‘Survival’ is not very good, the release strategy of being available on-demand before being in the theatres is soon to be the industry norm.


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  2. Felix Vasquez Jr. on Fri, 4th Jun 2010 10:29 am 

    Two reviews from people who… just don’t get Romero. It’s not a remake and unlike other directors, he’s still making movies for himself. The movie is great, it has a great story, great effects, some delicious gore scenes, and a nice message. I love it.


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