Sunday, May 2, 2010

Survival of the Dead (2010)

Fear 0/5
Gore 3/5
Entertainment 3/5
Creepiness 1/5

For me, Romero's output over the last few years has been a mixed bag. There were bits and pieces that I've liked from both Land of the Dead and Diary of the Dead, but ultimately, there wasn't enough substance to keep me coming back or revisiting either film. Add Survival of the Dead into the mix and you now have a trifecta of OK-ness.

The film opens with our soldiers who stopped the RV driving, documentarian kiddos in Diary. They've come to the realization that they need to find another area to inhabit as their current space is being over run with hordes of the undead.

Cut to a small island off the coast of Delaware and we see a mob group taking out townsfolk at will who have been infected. A rival group who is in stark opposition to the killing of people without question, has taken it upon themselves to stand up to the ring leader named O'Flynn. Playing like an Irish version of the Hatfields and McCoys, the group banishes the man from the island, his daughter opting to stay behind with the more forgiving and less trigger happy group led by a man named Muldoon. Unbeknownst to them, Muldoon has a greater plan for the island inhabitants which includes the living dead.

The soldiers meet up with our outcasted Irishmen and he leads them back to the island. As soon as they land, they are ambushed by the people who've stayed behind and got onboard with Muldoon's master plan. After losing one of their own while warding off the attack, they eventually come face to face with it. He's kept zombies chained and doing the work they were used to doing while alive: plowing fields, chopping wood, delivering the mail. All in an attempt to reform them in a way, turning them into slaves to suit Muldoon's idyllic lifestyle.

One thing you can count on when getting a new Romero zombie flick is a healthy dose of societal commentary mixed with your hearty stew of blood and guts. The concept of man, even in a time of grave perile, still shaping something for his own self-serving gain, was an interesting one. To a lesser but no less shocking extent, the soldiers (early on) come upon a group of rednecks who've killed a handful of african american zombies, decapitated them and stuck them on head posts was also a bit unnerving. To think that even faced with the terrors brought about by legions of the undead sloughing about, man can still be cruel and bigoted was definitely a terrifying thought. Never subtle in his commentaries, I did feel that there were too many times were it could have been less obvious and let the viewer figure it out for themselves. A little too heavy handed for me.

But the biggest detraction from the film is its heavy reliance on CGI. For the life of me, I can't figure out why Romero would rely heavily on it for the vast majority of the film (the first practical effects don't come into play until the last 20 min. or so). I thought, being of the old school and surrounded by amazing talents, Romero would be a champion for the continued use of what's fast becoming a lost art form. Instead what you get is CGI blood and even zombies. More often than not, I felt like I was watching a cartoon.

Still, as a blogger on Twitter said, a Romero zombie film is better than 90% of the zombie films currently being put out en masse.

Cortez the Killer

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Pax Romano said...

I enjoyed this one - I think that Romero was really trying to tell us several different stories here, but of course, he had to frame it around a zombie uprising.

I've seen the film twice now, and have a feeling that this is the one that is going to grow on folks much like Day of the Dead did.

As for the CGI, I don't begrudge any of that, because when push came to shove, the real gore was pretty decent (that horse disembowelment really got to me).

Cortez The Killer said...

I liked what was going on conceptually. I just wish the message was a little more subtle instead of a bludgeon. It could grow on me with a future re-visit.

But I imagine that I still won't be able get past the overly cartoony CGI. It made it hard to take the film seriously.

That horse disembowelment WAS gnarly.

Dolewhite said...

At least your review wasn't overly negative and for the most part, people seem to think it's decent from what I've read (including Pax's review too). It's getting a little more love than Diary did, that's for sure.

Jeff Allard said...

I wanted to give this another look before going ahead with a review of my own but my first impressions were that I really dug it. It's flawed, to be sure, but it has a quirky personality to it that seperates it from the cookie-cutter Hollywood mentality. Romero continues to be a true independant spirit and that's worth celebrating.

Cortez The Killer said...

@Dolewhite AKA Matt, its definitely better than Diary with a lot more interesting things going on conceptually.

@Jeff, can't argue there. He's certainly original and goes against the grain. Dang it, I'm starting to like it more already. But the CGI *shudders*.

Chris Hallock said...

Hopefully I can get in for a free theater screening tonight with Romero introducing. I'm not sure if he'll stick around for a Q&A, but I'd love to ask him a few things about his last few contributions to horror.

Cortez The Killer said...

Chris, I saw your post on that. That sounds incredible! Hopefully you get in. I know you'll ask some great questions. Keeping my fingers crossed for you buddy!

Carl (ILHM) said...

Im not excited for this at all after DIARY, time to hang up the coat for ol George IMO...