Fantastic Fest 2009: George Romero's Survival of the Dead
by Alex Billington
September 27, 2009
I'm not the biggest George Romero fan, but I do know that no one can make zombie movies like he does. Unfortunately in the last few years he's been making some pretty awful zombie movies, including Diary of the Dead which I saw at the Toronto Film Festival a few years ago and really hated. But he's back at the top of his game again with Survival of the Dead. It's not a return to form, but he is back. Somewhat like Steven Soderbergh, Romero has reached a point where he just likes to experiment and do whatever the hell he wants, which includes making a zombie movie that feels more like a western than a post-apocalyptic epic.
Survival of the Dead spins off of a character that first appeared very briefly in Diary of the Dead who is part of a small four-man group of soldiers that are just roaming around trying to survive in a world overrun by zombies. Over on an island off the coast of Deleware, however, things are a bit different. The local town on the island is run by two Irish families - the O'Flynns and the Muldoons. One of the families wants to kill of all the zombies that pop up, the other wants to keep them alive in hopes of finding a cure or discovering that they can survive on something other than human flesh. The head of the O'Flynn family gets kicked off. The soldiers meet up with him and make their way to the island and fight themselves caught in the crossfire.
The plot is a bit hard to describe and that's because it's not the greatest. The two families on the island seemed odd and out-of-place, especially with their thick Irish accents. I got that Romero just wanted an eventual western stand-off between all the men on each side (or kind of like The Godfather, either way), but I couldn't get completely into it. The group of soldiers was, at first, the group I enjoyed seeing the most, but when they get onto the island, the great dynamic they originally had starts to fall apart as it gets mixed in with the two families. It's a bit rough in spots, but of course we're watching this for the zombies, right?
Despite all of those rough edges, I'll admit that I had a good time watching this, it was fun and it's a huge improvement over Diary of the Dead. Romero doesn't stuff it with political messages, instead he just lets the story play out and includes a small amount of voiceover to get his message across. I don't mind that Romero continues to experiment and do whatever he wants, especially if the result is an entertaining bit of zombie cinema, which this is. Survival of the Dead has some great zombie kills and some great comedy. It's Romero just doing what he does best. Worth seeing if you love zombies and it's way better than his last two films.
Fantastic Fest Rating: 7 out of 10
Reader Feedback - 24 Comments
I'm done with zombies.
Alex T. on Sep 27, 2009
Can't wait to see it. I have high hopes for it.
Samantha on Sep 27, 2009
i think zombies have hit there peak unless we get a direct adaptation of some Resident Evil games which wont happen
nelson on Sep 27, 2009
I love zombie flicks. But why does it seem like all that's left is "experimenting"? Personally, 28 Weeks Later seeled the deal. Everything else will just be comedy-horror genre-blending (Zombieland, Shaun, ect.) Unless Raimi/Campbell start up the Ash Mayhem again (please?).
Jon E. on Sep 27, 2009
Guess I'm just a bit worried about the future of zombie films... Still love of em though.
Jon E. on Sep 27, 2009
What about a Pandorum review Mr. Billington? Or are you also part of this weird Internet boycott?
pipo on Sep 27, 2009
So when is it supposed to be out? I can't get that info anywhere. Some of this movie was shot in Port Dover, Ontario, Canada, where I live, which is right on Lake Erie (thusly the sailor plot) so I'm interested to see it. I love zombie movies as well. There is supposed to be a scene shot at the mosselium (spelling?) which is no longer used here. So keep your eyes out for it when it comes out!
Eva T. on Sep 27, 2009
Weird. I just finished watching Dawn of the Dead like an hour ago and now I find this.
Luke on Sep 27, 2009
The best zombie movie would be without a plot and just a squad of guys going around killing zombies. No BS guy trying to control the world or trying to get to a safe haven....just a squad of badasses killing as many zombies as possible, I would pay double to see that. The only story element would just be exploring each individuals special way of slaughtering zombies. Honestly why hasnt this been done yet?...done well at least.
Cody on Sep 27, 2009
I've had enough of all his 'Dead' movies. When's gonna realized his ideas are DEAD.
dexter on Sep 27, 2009
Since I like everything Romero does, I think I'll like this one. I have to admit that his last few films haven't been up to par with the original Dead Trilogy but they are fun to watch. Glad to hear this is an improvement.
Landfill on Sep 27, 2009
Dear Dexter, Your grammar is DEAD.
rj on Sep 27, 2009
I thought this was just titled '... of the dead.' I'm glad he changed that. And, fuck! I love Romero and everything he has done. Some has been hit, some has been miss, but he did revolutionize it all and you can't argue with that. It's like, would you make fun of Beethoven for making that piece of shit sixth symphony? No, you'll just ignore it! Because it doesn't it make his ninth any less brilliant, so the same thing goes with day/night/diary/land/etc.....
crumb on Sep 27, 2009
@Alex Billington: I noticed you mentioned 'Shaun of the Dead'. Now, I loved that movie, but let's be honest..it's not revolutionary. It's well written and clever, but take away the comedic aspects and what you have is an almost exact replica of a Romero zombie film, which is what the filmmakers were paying homage to in the first place. the '28...later' films are decent enough, but hardly reinvented the wheel. In fact, Boyle's original reminded in many sequences of Richard Matheson's 'I Am Legend', particularly the early scenes in the evacuated city. "Zombieland"..I dunno. Have to see on that one. So far it really hasn't compelled me..but that may have more to do with the fact that I'm not a fan of Woody Harrelson. It just comes across as if they're trying too hard with the film. The humor in the trailer feels forced, whereas with the aforementioned "Shaun" it came naturally.
D.S. on Sep 28, 2009
"I'm not the biggest George Romero fan, but I do know that no one can make zombie movies like he does. Unfortunately in the last few years he's been making some pretty awful zombie movies" I notice a plural there. Land of the Dead was fucking fantastic.
Dr. Gonzo on Sep 28, 2009
Oh I totally disagree #16, Land of the Dead was bad. And Diary of the Dead was a pile of fucking shit. GAR hasn't done anything good since Day of the Dead. That said, I have high hopes this next movie will be good. Seeing an "OK" review does not help though. Makes me worried.
Syphous on Sep 28, 2009
I have to agree Land of the Dead was pretty stinking. Especially that the zombies got smarter towards the end and even had a Zombie Leader. Diary of the Dead scared the poo out of me though. I still will see any zombie movie Romero makes so that I may learn to protect myself when the dead ones come for us. @ Cody - That sounds a lot like Inglorious Basterds if the Nazi's had been zombies. You may be onto something there. Someone get Tarantino on the phone.
Megan on Sep 28, 2009
Megan, just read "the zombie survivl handguide" by max brooks. You'll be much better off. Speaking of which, find some World War Z movie news, alex.
Crumb on Sep 28, 2009
Tarantino sucks. His first couple of movies were great but his last few are fucking garbage. He's horrible and his movies are boring as hell. Kill Bill and the others were lame. Lame as hell. He gets too much credit, way too much.
wow on Sep 28, 2009
I kind of agree with you #20 but that has absolutely nothing to do with this.
Cody on Sep 28, 2009
More zombie propaganda from the liberal media. Big surprise. What upsets me most, however, is that all of the movies and stories about zombies are always referencing the zombie apocalypse as a day of evil. Fear mongering is all these movies are creating. There has never been a single case of a zombie attacking a human. So, why the fear? Why play into the zombie pornography of violence that Hollywood perpetuates? My partner and I have realized a lot of exciting possibilities surrounding the z-apocalypse and are much happier to look forward to it than fear it. If any of you have felt this way but have been afraid to speak up, please speak out now. You are not alone. Morty Co-founder, survivalist zilfage.com
Morty on Sep 28, 2009
I have to say... that Iam amused when I watch any zombie movie, I love the zombie movie genre they necessarily don't have to have a good plot or story Thats what zombie movies should be..... just going on a killing spree slaughtering as many zombies as possible Now thats entertainment!!! Zombieland is the effing BOMB!! lol
titulitus on Sep 29, 2009
I liked "Zombieland" (despite its running zombies and the fact that it may have been too cutesy-poo for its own good). I've seen many zombie flicks, and I'd say "Zombieland" would be in the top 10% (top 25% w/o B--- M-----'s cameo), but what I'm waiting for is George's new film. "Diary" wasn't great, but I though "Land" was pretty good. I still have hope.
Zach Rocker on Oct 13, 2009
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