Tuesday, 3 August 2010

'Survival of the Dead'

As someone who has already seen ‘Hard Rock Zombies’ and ‘Zombie Strippers’, not only do I automatically win at ‘Worst Zombie Movie Ever’ conversations but I can also rest easy in the knowledge that any other zombie movies will be a step in the right direction (no matter how bad they are...) Despite this though, I was a little bit worried at the amount of criticism aimed at ‘Survival of the Dead’; especially when some of it came from the likes of top blogger Niall. I like George Romero zombie films dammit! ‘Diary of the Dead’ left me more bemused than anything else and ‘Land of the Dead’ was disappointing but they weren’t all that bad. ‘Survival of the Dead’....? Romero may have done his best work in the first three films but ‘Survival’ wasn’t bad at all.

If you’ve watched ‘Diary of the Dead’ you’ll remember that our gang of teenage documentary makers were held up at gunpoint by deserting National Guardsmen. Did you ever find yourself wondering what became of these soldiers? Nope, I didn’t either but ‘Survival of the Dead’ takes up the story of these soldiers and follows it to it’s conclusion.

That conclusion lies on a small island that looks to be a perfect hideaway from zombies but could well be anything but. Two feuding families have two very different ideas about what should be done with the remaining zombies on the island. And we all know who really wins in a zombie film when the survivors can’t work together...

It’s almost like Romero spoiled us all by doing his best work first. If you asked me to recommend one of his films it would still be ‘Dawn of the Dead’; memorable characters, a splash of social commentary and hundreds of zombies doing what zombies do best. Fast forward thirty two years and it still holds up. The only problem these days is that Romero’s run out of stuff to comment on and he doesn’t want to go back and revisit earlier work. What do you do then? What Romero has done is to just go with the zombie tale and forget the commentary entirely, a move that does leave the film lacking that extra depth but worked as far as I was concerned.

At the bottom of every zombie film is a group of people just trying to make out the best they can in a world that’s trying to eat them. The cast of ‘Survival’ may not be up to the task of getting this across (they’re really not) but the message is still there and it’s worth sticking with. People are inherently selfish and cannot work together to a common goal, even when that goal is avoiding getting eaten by the living dead. The end result is inevitable... It’s happened in Romero films before and that sense of helplessness is just as powerful this time round. People’s plans and schemes are just doomed to come to nothing as they can’t see beyond what’s in their own heads.

Add zombies to the mix and there’s enough gore to keep the likes of me happy! While the attempts at humour fall a little flat, you can’t complain about the relentless onslaught of zombies at all the right times. It’s at moments like these that Romero is back to doing what he does best.

‘Survival of the Dead’ does have it’s flaws but I think the greatest flaw is to watch it and expect another 'Dawn of the Dead'. Watch it for what it is and you’ll have a better time with it than you were expecting...


Niall Alexander said...

Come on, Graeme - "powerful"? ;)

It's true, I did not like Survival of the Dead. At a push, perhaps, it was a bit of fun. Even then, only at a push. And I won't be pushing George A. Romero again. That's quite enough dodgy films from him, thank you very much.

Whatever happened to his book, incidentally? Anyone have a clue?

Graeme Flory said...

Yeah, I'd still go for powerful ;o) The message may not have come across as clearly as it did in the original trilogy but it was still there. At least, I thought so :o)

No idea what's happening with the book though. Who's publishing it?