George A. Romero is and will always be the Godfather of the Dead. He basically single handedly invented and popularized the modern zombie through films like Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead, and Day of the Dead, and while there have been countless takes on the zombie genre ever since Romero found massive success, no one has even come close to creating a film as entertaining or memorable as Romero’s earlier works.
Time and time again Romero has proven himself the king of the zombie film, constantly providing undead lovers like myself with the most entertaining, gory and thought-provoking zombie movies there are. In 2009, he released Diary of the Dead, a film that was definitely my least favorite of Romero’s works. It was a good film, but sadly it strayed too far from what made his earlier works, including 2005’s Land of the Dead, so fantastic. It was like when a band comes out with an “experimental” album. So when I saw early trailers for Survival, boasting a glorious return to form for the visionary director, I got very excited.
Survival takes place in the same universe as Diary, a truth that is made extremely obvious from the get go. You see, the film opens by introducing us to a small group of soldiers led by Sargent Crocket (Alan Van Sprang), a chain smoking military man who made an appearance in Diary of the Dead as the leader of an outfit of soldiers that raided the protagonists R.V. of all of its valuable supplies, earning him the title of World’s Biggest Dickhead. Here, however, Crocket makes it apparent through the opening monologue that he regrets his actions and did what he did because of pressure from the looming zombie apocalypse. He and his rag tag group of militants are obviously the good guys.
Shortly after, we are taken to a completely different setting to meet two opposing Irish families in the middle of a feud. One side, led by Patrick O’Flynn (Kenneth Welsh), is setting out to put the dead back to sleep and maintain the peace on their island, keeping it a safe place to live. The other side, led by Sheamus Muldoon (Richard Fitzpatrick), is seeking to teach the dead how to reside amongst the living by trying to tame them and teach them to eat something other than humans.
Sargent Crocket and his men find their way right into the middle of this mess, thanks to a YouTube video shown to them by a young man they meet in the woods, and our story begins. Right from the get-go I’ve already got a huge complaint. What in God’s name is wrong with this kid they pick up? He’s supposed to be a technologically savvy youth, but instead he’s just a complete hipster douchebag, dissing anything that isn’t his precious iPhone. At one point he even bags on vinyl records. Douche. Bag.
Other than that, everything goes pretty smoothly throughout the duration of the film. None of the actors are truly spectacular, and none of them are very bad. It’s just all kind of average. Same goes with the plot and execution of the script. Romero is most highly acclaimed for using the undead as a canvas on which to satire very pressing world issues. In Night of the Living Dead it was the Vietnam Conflict. In Dawn of the Dead he brilliantly called out American consumerism, while covering multiple other topics at the same time. Here it’s just a movie that doesn’t touch on anything truly meaningful, nor does it address anything important. It just kind of exists.
George Romero’s newest zombie movie is my second least-favorite of his Dead series of films, sitting right above Diary of the Dead. This is the second film in the past few years the Don of the Dead has released, and it’s far from his best work. 2005’s Land of the Dead was the legendary director’s last great film, and if he keeps this up it is likely to stay that way.
Of course, that’s not to say Survival is a bad movie. It is entertaining, gory, suspenseful, and occasionally funny. It’s just not as good as what he is capable of. If you’re a fan of Romero’s, watch this movie. If you’re a fan of zombies, watch this movie. If you are a fan of oldschool horror flicks, watch this movie. If you are anyone else, you’re probably not going to find much to love.
Score: 7.5/10 (Good)