There is no denying the fact that George Romero is a master of horror. The man is responsible for two of the most revered zombie films in the history of the medium, Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead, and he is sited by many of today’s up and coming horror makers as inspiration. Despite being a huge horror fan, I was late to the Romero and zombie bandwagon, but I have now caught up and I personally see why so many hold those films in such high regard.
Five years ago, after 20 year layoff, Romero returned to his dead series with Land of the Dead and since then has released two additional Dead films, including his latest creation, Survival of the Dead. Survival of the Dead forgoes the hand-held, YouTube inspired film-making of Diary of the Dead and returns to the more narrative structure found in Land of the Dead. Unfortunately the narrative put forth by the film is a tragic mess that is at its best boring.
The film follows the AWOL National Guard patrol that is briefly featured in Diary of the Dead. The main idea is that there is an island off the coast of Delaware that the soldiers have been led to believe is safe. However when they arrive on the island they are thrust into the middle of a war taking place between the two big families on the island. The two families have differing philosophies on how to take care of the zombie plague and the patrol must do all they can to survive both the zombies and the warring factions.
Coming as no surprise for Dead fans, the acting in Survival of the Dead is fairly awful with the exception of Alan van Sprang as Sarge and Kathleen Munroe as the O’Flynn twins, who both give believable performances. Also coming as no surprise is that Romero once again pulls out all the stops in regards to the gore. However unlike his best films, Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead, Survival struggles to build any tension and this really works against the film.
Instead of working to build tension by attempting to make the viewer relate with the characters, Romero takes a humorous approach and for me it just does not work. The laughs are cheap, slapstick and worst of all unfunny. After watching Survival of the Dead I am left wondering if Romero’s message in this film was that at this point in time the Dead series is a joke and an unfunny one at that. If that is what Romero was striving for then he is truly a film making genius but I do not feel that that was the angle he was going for.
In an industry where the common consensus is, “What have you done for me lately”, George Romero’s free pass based on his past works should be revoked. Romero at this point seems to be a film maker who is not sure where his place is in this industry anymore. While his contributions to film and the horror genre in particular will never be forgotten maybe, just maybe he doesn’t have a place anymore.
1 out of 5