Plot: On an island off the coast of North America, local residents simultaneously fight a zombie epidemic while hoping for a cure to return their un-dead relatives back to their human state.
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George A. Romero, who revolutionized zombie films with his original Night of the Living Dead (1968), has now been milking the zombie concept for 40+ years. By this point, it’s gotten to where he can barely find a distributor for his latest incarnation, but he nevertheless continues to plug away, most recently releasing Survival of the Dead. Despite the waning popularity of his sequels, does George still have something new to say, or is it finally time for him to call it quits?
Like the cast with his other zombie flicks, George almost never goes for star power to tell his story, preferring the cheaper bit players to bring his vision to life. This cast is more of the same, with the only slightly recognizable face being that of Kenneth Welsh, who plays Patrick O’Flynn. Despite their mostly unrecognizable faces, the actors react well to their surroundings, creating, if not memorable characters, than nothing bad enough for viewers to scoff at too much.
Unfortunately, George has started getting a bit lax on the names of his characters, most notably in the chain-smoking Sgt. Nicotine Crockett (!), who once again appears in this film (he also popped up in Land of the Dead (2005)). Thankfully, his latest storyline hasn’t suffered the same fate.
As with the previous zombie flicks, director George A. Romero has a fresh take on zombies to explore. With Night of the Living Dead (1968), he introduced us to flesh-eating zombies; in Land of the Dead (2005), it was zombies attack in the future. In Survival of the Dead, he presents us with the odd idea of a secluded island population that decides to keep the zombies alive and chained up while they hope for a cure to arrive. It’s an interesting concept, and while it borrows a lot from Shaun of the Dead (2004), it’s expansion on the concept is an entertaining idea for a new zombie flick.
Mixed in with this, however, is a rather dull take on the ol’ Hatfield vs. McCoy clan feud, which gives the film a rather comic-y feel to it. The audience goes in and sees these country bumpkins feuding over this island, and will expect generous doses of humor – which never actually materializes. This is probably the reason for most of the negativity surrounding this film, and would have been better left out.
The special effects are still gruesome in their intensity, although it seems there’s less flesh-eating zombies throughout the entire film this time around. Aside from a sequence or two, most of the zombies seem rather harmless, either as yammering heads on sticks or as stuck-in-a-rut public servants. Of course, the finale helps make up for a lot of that, but it still seems like Romero should have showcased more on the zombies than the people, as that’s why people watch his movies these days.
While the basic premises of George’s continuing zombie flicks remains the same (a few people in a confined space vs. zombies), Survival of the Dead explores another aspect of human reaction to the appearance of the living dead, and, aside from the unintentionally cheesy humor derived by the inclusion of two warring sets of country bumpkins, gives another okay showing, even if it does turn out to be as easily forgettable as it’s predecessor, Land of the Dead (2005).