Survival of the Dead
It would be fair to say George A. Romero is a horror hero of mine and that's largely thanks to his creation of the zombie genre as we know it. Night of the Living Dead was one of the greatest horror films ever made for numerous reasons and Dawn of the Dead was a simply awesome follow up. Day of the Dead continued the saga in a seriously gritty way and then it seemed things had ground to a halt as Romero was cast into the depressing and labyrinth world of movie production and turnaround and struggled to get another "Dead" film made.
When it finally came after years of rumours Land of the Dead proved to be a disappointment for many but to be honest I was so happy to be watching another Romero zombie flick that I had few complaints at the time. It was followed up by Diary of the Dead as Romero went with an approach that allowed him to have more creative control and get the movie made relatively quickly. Unfortunately the handheld style was nothing new by then and the film lacks the epic quality of its predecessors. Finally we come to Survival of the Dead, the subject of this review and probably the last "Dead" film ever.
I have to be honest Survival of the Dead is easily the worst film of the bunch and, as much as it pains me to say this, I thought it was a terrible film.
The action is set on an island, Plum Island, off the coast of Delaware. Two ludicrous throwback families inhabit the island and they are in a bitter feud which was presumably imported from Ireland years before (judging by the names and dodgy accents). The Muldoons and the O' Flynns serve as the backdrop for a group of soldiers turned renegade who decide an island would be a good place to try and survive the zombie apocalypse.
Led by Sarge Nicotine Crockett (Alan Van Sprang) the soldiers respond to a radio broadcast from the now exiled Patrick O' Flynn (Kenneth Welsh). The wily old patriarch's real plan is to rob anyone who responds and he also wants to cause trouble for his enemy Muldoon back on Plum.
The zombies are secondary to the story and the characters, which is nothing new in the series but it doesn't work so well here because the characters just aren't engaging. I guess it's a combination of the writing and the acting but I just never found myself rooting for any of them. There's a hint about some development in the zombies and I briefly hoped for a moment reminiscent of Bub from Day or even Big Daddy from Land but it never transpired (at least not in a very satisfying way).
As you'd expect there is plenty of zombie action and gore but sadly a reliance on CG effects detracts from the action. The direction is still good with Romero at the helm but the pacing is off and the plot hopelessly messy. The awkward mesh of an old western set up with the zombie universe just doesnít work.
Intensely hammy performances, especially from Welsh, donít help matters and Kathleen Munroe as the female lead is deathly dull. Even Van Sprang lacks the charisma needed to make his Sarge character work. There just aren't any standout performances here.
As a Romero film with zombies in it most horror fans will still feel the need to watch Survival of the Dead. There are a few good zombie fights and the usual batch of inventive death sequences we've grown used to over the years but it isn't enough. The film has inevitably been judged more harshly because of the greatness of what came before but it is so woefully beneath the earlier Dead films that it shouldn't really be allowed to form part of the same series.Short Review
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