I was lucky enough to get a sneak peek at George A. Romero's Survival of the Dead today, and I am happy to report that I loved it - of course, that does not mean you will.
Romero, with tongue planted firmly in cheek, has opted to mash-up a few different genres this go - around, and concocted a movie that's tough to pin down. Oh sure, the zombies are here, humanity is falling apart, that's a given - but as usual, Uncle Georgie is much more concerned with the human condition than the walking dead's condition (well other than the fact that they are walking dead).
Borrowing largely from the Western, The Big Country, the film's plot concerns itself with two warring family patriarchs who live on a small island off the coast of Delaware. Said father figures are at odds over what to do with the zombies; keep them around until they see the error of their ways, or just shoot 'em in the head. Into this uneasy situation comes a small group of soldiers (as well as a young man tagging along), and before too long, sides are chosen and the fun begins.
I must confess my first question was: Why are people who live off the coast of Delaware all speaking in thick Irish brogues? And furthermore, what's up with all of the horses and the somewhat archaic atmosphere of this place? But it does not take long to realize that Romero wanted to fuck with the viewers sense of time and place. . . to sort of shake the audience out of what he or she might expect and introduce them to a world where Irish immigrants never loose their accents, where a bucolic settlement can thrive in the 21st century, where many of the people dress like they just wandered out of a staging of High Noon, and where people (and one zombie) use horses as the primary means of transportation - it's called "suspension of disbelief"...I mean if you can buy flesh eating zombies, why can't you buy into this skewered environment?
But fear not, Survival of the Dead is not all Sweet Rosie O' Grady and spurs that jingle jangle. Early on, we get the social commentary that we've come to expect from Romero. In one of the film's eeriest scenes, someone comes across the work of a group of red-neck survivalists who claim they were being chased by a group of zombies. The hillbilly's beheaded all of the ghouls and spike their noggins on poles in the woods. At first this scene might seem creepy, but upon further inspection, when you notice that all of the heads are African American, it's disturbing on a whole other level.
There is also some humor in this one. From the zombie done in by the fire extinguisher, to the teen male bemoaning the fact that his mp3 player no longer works and he is forced to find music on vinyl (gasp!) to the flaming head of a ghoul used to light a cigarette.
I also could not help but notice that midway through the film, when the soldiers hole up at town hall, it's clear that place was set up for a wedding complete with tacky decorations and a rotted wedding cake - the only thing missing was a zombiefied Miss Havisham. Maybe I was reading too much into things here, but that whole bit seemed Dickensian in nature.
For the gore-hounds out there (and you know who you are), Survival of the Dead does not disappoint. You'll find plenty of disembowelment's, splattered guts and gaping wounds. And as for the zombies; well they are everywhere. I was especially creeped-out by the underwater ghouls ( a nod to Shock Waves?).