2009, US/Canada, Directed by George A Romero
Colour, Running Time: 90 minutes
Review Source: Blu-ray, RB, Optimum; Video: 2.39:1 1080p 24fps, Audio: DTS HD MA
Several days after the dead begin to walk a long running feud on a secluded island results in stubborn rogue Seamus being banished because of his relentless, apathetic drive to despatch all of the island’s wandering corpses, despite objections from family members who refuse to accept that their loved ones are ‘gone’. A few weeks later, back on the mainland, a military man (Alan Van Sprang, playing the same character as that in Diary of the Dead) and his small team of devotees go AWOL and decide the only way to escape the ensuing mayhem is to find an island which they can claim for themselves. Heading out to the harbour after seeing an internet broadcast by Seamus they run into a virtual ambush that sees them the victors. Somehow Seamus survives the body count and manages to beguile and tag along with the team of soldiers as they head out to Seamus’ home island by ferry. There they run head-on back into the same feud that Seamus is still effectively integral to, now somewhat mutated by the fact that half of the populace are currently dead and walking around in a threatening manner…
For those not in the know, this is Romero’s sixth official zombie movie, following fairly hot on the heals of Diary of the Dead (and paying cool homage to that movie at one point), which itself trailed the fairly popular Land of the Dead. Despite this being a Romero production, written and directed by the man who gave us several genuine classics decades ago, I find this very difficult to consider as part of the official ‘Dead’ series, and the same goes for its aforementioned predecessors too. Almost in similar fashion to how Star Wars fans think of George Lucas’s prequels, these last three films of Romero’s are just not in the same class as the originals (which I only watched about a week ago, for approximately the eleventh time over the years). Land of the Dead I really wanted to like at the time, and gave it the benefit of the doubt by watching it several times over the coming years thinking that perhaps mine was a premature reaction akin to that which Day of the Dead received from a large portion of the fan base twenty years before. I finally gave up trying to like it, and I’m sorry to say I’m not even going to give Survival… the same opportunity. The script is of comparable quality as Land of the Dead (i.e. functional but out of touch and displaying the need to point everything out to a patronised audience) and Romero has clearly lost his feel for extracting superb performances from relatively unknown actors. This new film is mundane in almost every way - it doesn’t look better than much else at the moment, there are very few original ideas in here, and the gore is nice but we saw all this before (and whilst I’m not a ‘CG-knocker’ like many film lovers out there, the man does appear to be utilising computer graphics for the bloody bits a bit too often - is Tom Savini not available anymore?). I came away from the film thinking, what was the point? It’s all just okay: if Romero’s series were being made for TV I could understand - Survival… gives the impression of having a storyline that’s written for such a series rather than having what should be a monumental impact. Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t consider this to be a bad film in any sense, but it has no right to be filed alongside Dawn of the Dead (I’m even loathe to mention the first three films in the same review) and could have been shot by any number of very average directors. Some of the poster art and Blu-ray/DVD covers for this film have been pretty cool, but really that’s the only cool thing about it. Taking the lead from earlier films, there is further indication of an evolutionary aspect whereby some of the islanders have the idea that they can retrain the corpses to eat animals rather than humans - possibly suggesting that ultimately they will turn into us in some form or another, and also resulting in the film’s goriest sequence. Other than that, this seed of an idea doesn’t really go anywhere useful. Romero tries to suggest he’s in touch with the times by, for example, having the youth who tags along claiming that PCs are out of date as he produces an iPod (or something of the kind) but it just doesn’t wash. Perhaps the storyline suggests that people aren’t willing to get along with their neighbours and that less than amicable situations can lead to ongoing disagreements that can eventually result in death (and beyond in this case); perhaps also Romero relies too much on his now infamous ‘social commentaries’ these days rather than simply trying to make a great film.
This very ordinary movie is matched by an even more ordinary disc from Optimum - whilst the audio and visual reproduction of this digitally shot movie is very nice in HD, there is absolutely zilch in way of extras. A highly unusual move nowadays and the sceptic may have suspected a better release at some point down the road, a notion confirmed by the recent news that there is going to be an ‘Ultimate Undead Edition’ released by Magnolia in the US by the end of August - this will feature a commentary, documentary, intro by Romero, and a short spin-off film. Despite that, the fairly priced Optimum disc will have to suffice until something better is announced for the UK, though I’m more disappointed by the fact that, in an age of chilling movies like Triangle, the downright disturbing Martyrs, or even the rocking remake of Dawn of the Dead, Romero’s sluggish dead-fest just doesn’t cut it.