Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Survival of the Dead (2009)

Being Film #9 in Hail Horror 5.  Thanks to Sean at Spectacular Views for the recommendation.

Is there a horror fan left on the planet that isn't at least familiar with George A. Romero's DEAD films?  Both NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD and DAWN OF THE DEAD influenced entire schools of horror, and established the rules by which hundreds of zombie films adhere to.  Romero's game - both in his zombie movies and in his other films like MARTIN, KNIGHTRIDERS and THE CRAZIES - is to address larger societal themes under the guise of horror, more often than not showing the real horror to be the "normal" folks trapped in whatever scenario Romero devises for them.

SURVIVAL OF THE DEAD, Romero's sixth investigation into the world of the living dead, brings us back to the beginning of the outbreak, and is a sequel of sorts to 2007's awkward DIARY OF THE DEAD, a point of view movie about a group of college film students who are there at the onset of the reawakening of the dead.  Deciding to use the event as fodder for a film they're creating, one sequence has them coming up against a group of soldiers turned thieves, out to save themselves and find someplace safe.  SURVIVAL is the story of those soldiers, where they go, and what they find.

What they find is Plum Island, seemingly a perfect to wait out a zombie apocalypse.  Unfortunately, this particular island has a good old fashioned Irish blood feud between the Muldoons and the O'Flynns.  In the beginning of the film we learn that Old Man O'Flynn was kicked off the island because it was his belief that the family and friends coming back to life on the island couldn't be saved, and that a shot to the head was an act of mercy.  Shamus Muldoon and his clan think otherwise, believing that if they can get the zombies to eat something other than human flesh, there's a chance they can be saved.  O'Flynn's daughter Janet is in agreement, so exile it is until he meets up with the soldiers and comes back to settle the score.

Romero is right in his element here, and where DIARY was often stilted and a little ham-fisted due to the way it was shot, SURVIVAL works much better (despite some narration that just falls flat - has no one learned from BLADE RUNNER?).  Both Muldoon and O'Flynn no longer whether or not their point is correct: all they want is for the other to admit that they were wrong, something neither is willing to do until it's too late.  Romero's still got some fun gags up his sleeve, and his flesh-eating ghouls get exploded by a fire extinguisher, combusted from the inside by a flare, and in one case hung from a rope, a poor cowboy on the other end fighting to stay away from the snapping jaws.  Taking a cue from LAND the zombies still have some semblance of their past lives, and we're treated to some great visuals like one poor zombie mailman chained to a mailbox, slowly shambling back and forth the length of the chain as he delivers the same mail again and again.  The effects are mixed - there are some horrible CGI effects, particularly in the beginning of the film, but there's also some decent shots, and enough practical gore to give everything an even keel.

There's not a real scares to be had, though, so if you're looking for something truly frightening you'd probably have to go back to 1968's original film.  I'd argue though that Romero hasn't been interested in scares for quite some time; he's more intent on having a good time and throwing scenarios and situations into a world of his own making, one that reflects in its own goopy and gory way our own.  The biggest surprise I came away with was how much fun SURVIVAL OF THE DEAD actually is, and that it looks like Romero's still got a couple tales left up his sleeve to tell in this world.

A world with just slightly more zombies than our own.

No comments:

Post a Comment