Survival of the Dead

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?).  
In the end, Survival of the Dead is more a tale of the weakness of humans, as opposed to the durability of mankind. Like always, we are our own worst enemy (see the Tea Party movement for proof) ; we are more interested in proving who is right instead of what is right.  We will kill each other rather than compromise, or see a different point of view, and that, my friend, is why we loose, and why, in this film's universe the only survival can be that of the dead.


Anonymous said...

Great review Pax, I can't wait to see this.

Pax Romano said...

POT, thank you sir. I think this film is going to slowly grow on people - the initial reviews will probably be less than favorable, but over time - we shall see.

Ninja Dixon said...

Remember how people HATED Day of the dead... and now the same people hail it as a masterpiece!

I loved Survival of the dead, it's classic Romero!

kindertrauma said...

Did you say horse riding zombie? Sold.-Unk

Pax Romano said...

Ninja, Exactly!

Unk, yes, I did...giddyaup!

Te* (Slasher Film Sanctuary) said...

Great review Paxie Pax. Glad to hear you also enjoyed the film. ;P

Matt-suzaka said...

Well, I wasn't too hot for Diary, but it is what it is and I wouldn't completely count Romero out just yet. Your review gives me some hope for this one and it's a good buffer to put me in the right state of mind when I do see it. Great review, Pax!

Pax Romano said...

Te* - loved it, I am so lucky I got that sneak peek ;)

Matt, I give Uncle Georgie a lot of credit, he's never sold out, and has always stayed true to his vision - his worst work is better than anything Michael Bay might serve up.

R.D. Penning said...

I didn't care for it that much, but it was better than Diary.

deadlydolls said...

Your review helped stabilize my blood pressure a little. I haven't seen the film yet, but I've yet to hear a single good thing about it. What's great about this post is it reminds me that Romero has never been a clean filmmaker, and moreover, all of his films tend to get better with repeat viewings. I've watched Day since the '80s, and only now can I honestly say I enjoy it (10+ viewings later). Land has already grown on me following my initial disappointment.

I vow then to see this knowing there will be problems, but to just focus on the good. And perhaps dress like a cheerleader while doing so.

Pax Romano said...


I hope you enjoy it - if not now, then in ten years! ;)

Alana Noel Voth said...

Awesome, thank you, Pax-y.

Chris H said...

FANTASTIC review, man.

It is indeed disturbing to see the row of African American zombie heads on display and it makes you think ever further: What if the racist rednecks had come across live people, shot and killed them and used "oh, they were zombies" as an excuse? A whole new can of moral worms there.

I also enjoyed this for the many reasons you pointed out and was glad Romero left the origins of the island's inhabitants a little open-ended. You make a very good point about that in your review.