Thursday 2 September 2010

Review: Survival of the Dead

Year: 2010
Director: George A Romero
Screenplay: George A Romero
Starring: Alan Van Sprang, Kenneth Welsh, Kathleen Munroe, Devon Bostick

Synopsis is here

His "modern" trio of movies are difficult to place not just in continuity (Land feels like a true continuation, Diary a modern day offshoot, Survival even more removed) but also in tone and feel. Romero seems like he still has an axe to grind socially, but the world has changed, and with the almost constant slew of zombie movies being churned out, many share similar or even more interesting commentary on the world since. Nowadays Romero can construct a dead head explosion (despite using more CGI) but when many entries like Pontypool*, 28 Days later*, Rec and others have entered the genre pool and played in the waters in recent time (with extremely interesting results, there's a feeling that the master of them all should hang up his boomsticks and look at pastures new.

It's hard for many to see their idols fall, which is why when I heard some of the terrible reviews placed on George A Romero and his latest feature, Survival of the Dead I feared the worst. Many hating it's amateur feel, lack of atmosphere and general not-being-as-good-as-his-first-three-ness. Unfortunately I too, feel the same about the film. It is nowhere close to replicating the same amount of tension and fear set the original trilogy. Most of this stems from the fact that Romero doesn't feel the need to give us interesting people to follow anymore. Many lamented the drab teens of Diary but compared to the bland army men and farm folk of this entry, it makes the Diary guys look more animated than Woody and Buzz. Romero's idea of characterization for a lesbian army soldier is merely to have a shot of her touching herself and pepper her dialogue with "tough-speak". This is the most effort placed on any of the characters, and if you found those traits a little tired, you may not stand for some of the other "personalities" on display.

What's more disturbing is the complete lack of a meaty social commentary to get to grips with. So while Rec blended faux-documentary (a very go to thing these days) with hints of religion and science, and Pontypool utilize the very use of language against us (with a nice amount of skill) Survival goes over the well trodden theme of zombies gaining memory back, and a poorly executed idea of two bickering families with differing zombie ideologies. In all honest it was done so much better in 78 when Romero hint at these aspects before in Dawn.

Instead of working on making these ideas appealing, we are given very board humor (with none of the satirical edge seen in past films, a distinct lack of conflict (these warring families spend much of the movie apart.) and oddball dialogue. All this with a nagging feeling throughout that Romero probably wants to do something else with his filmmaking.

Romero gets it's hard because of his standing in horror. he pretty much laid the grounding. so now with this his sixth dead it's frustrating to see a talent bring up something so plain. There's not much to say about this sixth offering, other than there's a lot of headshots and this is the weakest of the dead films. I remember listening to the creative screenwriting podcast and listening to Romero talk about an horror idea involving lucid dreaming. It featured no zombies and the idea sounded great. Let's hope it comes to fruition.