Survival of the Dead
Which Ones Are the Zombies?
Starring: Alex van Sprang, Kenneth Welsh
By Robert Patrick
George Romero is sort of like a student, enrolled in a nondescript college, who keeps writing the same thesis paper over and over again. Or worse yet, the guy who shows up at a costume party ever year, wearing the same thing, since he received his initial praise for having the most original outfit. Do you ever feel like Romero phones in his films? After six movies in the “Dead” franchise, the horror mogul seems to be popping out carbon copies of his films with the enthusiasm of a sleeping bulldog. The social commentaries, no matter how inane they are at this point, seem to be a ruse to get fanboys into theaters and critics at bay. Romero’s newest installment in the zombie series, “Survival of the Dead”, is a glib mockery of his prior works that feels like it should’ve been left on the coat rack.
The story focuses on a world filled with sleepy-eyed zombies, who, because of their sheer quantity, inundate the earth. The world is a fiery ball of post-apocalyptic wreckage, as one would have it, and a small island off the coast of Delaware, named Plum, claims to be free of such malaise and defeat. A band of National Guardsman hear about the island and plan to spearhead an invasion to the alleged utopia. Subsequently, the location isn’t free of zombies, and the soldiers end up creatively killing their undead counterparts by using everything from flare-guns to traditional head-shots. Even worse, the island is inhabited by two feuding families, who speak in syrupy Irish accents, as they march around wagging fingers at each other. One family believes that the dead can be “cured” of their disease, while the other family wants to extinguish all infected parties before they gnash their teeth on the living.
The National Guardsman, by the conspicuously inept ways they carry themselves, look like they have less self-preservation skills than the shuffling undead that stalk them. Though the members of the group, at various times in the movie, claim that they need to stay alert and perpetually on-guard for lunging zombies, they partake in bizarrely hypocritical activities, such as browsing the internet or pleasuring themselves in poorly lit wooded areas.
The troupe of soldiers meet the obligatory criteria for military characters. You have your iron-jawed woman in the group, whose primary goal is to quip about the inadequacies of the men in her outfit, all while keeping a devil-may-care attitude that Michelle Rodriguez would be proud of. Then there’s your tough-as-nails Sergeant, who cares more about keeping a Punisher five o’clock shadow than a logical outlook on dangerous situations. And then you need the daffy, wise-cracking sidekick who has less sense than Alfred E. Neuman. None of these characters are likable or remotely interesting. But then, in a movie that concentrates on innovative zombie deaths, character depth isn’t really the focal point.
My main complaint, above all else, is the horrendous computer animation. Romero’s 1968 classic had better effects than the pixelized drivel that “Survival of the Dead” so openly boasts. The only way to fix the poor CGI would be to re-edit the film, make it black and white, then cut out half of the movie and replace the sequences with “scene missing” placards. I’m pretty sure Tom Savini could’ve done better with a six-pack of Play-doh and a broken Lite-Brite.
I also want to address that the acting is even worse than the CGI. It sounds like HAL, from 2001: A Space Odyssey, is reading the lines for half of the characters. And the Irish accents, culled from the lips of the residents from Plum Island, sound overly ridiculous. The quota for zombie films will never be met – but can’t Romero try just a little bit?
Now playing at Landmark’s Ken Cinema.