Survival of the Dead

UK Release Date 15th March 2010
Director George A. Romero
Starring Irish Zombies
Runtime 90 Minutes
Certificate 18
Reviewer Mark
Reviewed 17th August 2014

Romero’s 2010 zombie offering doesn’t have the savage satirical bite of previous entries into his Dead series but it still manages to leave a few teeth marks.  Set six days after the outbreak and we’re with the National Guard team last seen robbing the film students from Diary of the Dead. This neat crossover leaves Romero with endless angles to exploit Jason Creed’s film within a film The Death of Death, a trick now ruthlessly exploited in The Walking Dead television series.

The four Guardsmen led by Sgt “Nicotine” Crockett desert their post in order to go it alone, all to aware of the rapid breakdown of all government departments whose policies will get them killed sooner rather than later. Romero is still fully aware of America’s apparent lack of interest or inability to respond to Hurricane Katrina and with recent events in Ferguson the director has been continually correct in his critique of inherent racism at the heart of American government.

Catching a chance Internet broadcast the foursome, now joined by a resourceful teenager make it to Plum Island off the coast of Delaware with the aid of the exiled Patrick O’Flynn, leader of a rival clan to the dominate Shamus Muldoon. O’Flynn wants to exterminate all the dead on the island whereas the deeply religious Muldoon wants to keep them alive until a cure can be found. By introducing “Nicotine” and his troopers to the island O’Flynn hopes to upset the balance of power and take control.

The island setting of Survival of the Dead, the mythical sanctury so often sort in the zombie genre, has a distinct Yojimbo feel to it but “Nicotine” is far less duplicitous than originally suggested in his first outing in Diary of the Dead. Consequently Romero never utilises this narrative strand to its full potential, possibly due to his budget restrictions. 

What we get instead is the most playful and comic movie from the Dead canon, a Hawksian bunch of misfits in a zombie western. Romero has his protagonists working together like in Dawn of the Dead rather than the nihilist disintegration between social groups in Night of the Living Dead or Day of the Dead. Perhaps in the era of President Obama Romero can afford to be slightly more optimistic with America’s chances of survival.

Still Survival does have s strong thread of Catholicism running through it with the Irish and Latino characters strongly opposed to suicide as an escape from becoming one of the living dead and this goes someway to explaining the rapidity of the outbreak. Perhaps Romero should set his next film in South America and exploit the possibilities open to him in that continent.

The widescreen vistas of Plum Island show Romero free from the confines of Diary of the Dead’s first person camera and give Survival its unique feel when compared to the claustrophobia of Day or the shiny 1970’s consumerism of Dawn. Overall Survival of the Dead won’t set the zombie world alight but it isn’t the unmitigated disaster some critics have labelled it as. It’s fun in a ramshackle kind of way and while Romero still makes movies in the genre he created we should always take notice.

Check out the trailer here.

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