Survival of the Dead (Magnet Releasing, R)

Even unnecessary zombie kills are better than no zombie kills at all, and only really Romero seems to know how to do them right.

The third in a recent return to zombie movies from George A. Romero (after 2005’s Land of the Dead and 2007’s Diary of the Dead), his new Survival of the Dead is about what your average zombie movie fan has come to expect of this late-period Romero; it’s good, but it isn’t great. The social satire/commentary that made his 1968 Night of the Living Dead and 1978 Dawn of the Dead masterpieces of the genre is still present but not nearly as effective, and the plots are more slender than what we came to expect of him when he was a young director. That said, no one can top Romero in terms of gruesome ways to kill zombies, and Survival’s not short of those.

The premise here is that zombies are perhaps not quite the problem that they have been in previous films; they’re more accepted as a fact of life at this point, and now the remaining members of the living need to decide just what to do with them. Two camps living on a small island are battling for the answer to this question: one led by Patrick O’Flynn (Kenneth Welsh), who believes that all zombies should be shot in the head as soon as possible to re-kill them, regardless of the emotional connection to the person the zombie used to be; the other led by Seamus Muldoon (Richard Fitzpatrick), who thinks that if we can only train the zombies to eat something other than humans, we can reintegrate them into our lives, so that the deceased that they represent don’t have to be removed from our lives forever.

This being a Romero movie, American military youth turn up and arrogantly act like they know what’s best, and integrate themselves with O’Flynn’s camp. The film takes O’Flynn’s side for the most part, too; where Muldoon’s stance seems logical, Muldoon himself is far too quick to kill the living who are against his cause (don’t let it slip past you that this was also a major plot point in Night of the Living Dead), which wins him few friends either in the film or among the members of the audience.

While I didn’t much care for Diary, Survival is roughly on par with Land, in that it is perfectly entertaining and goes down easy, but it is perhaps not the genre classic that you want it to be. There’s a sadly empty feeling that comes along with some of those zombie kills this time, and not only because if you take Muldoon’s side you think they can be retrained; instead, after you see a particularly awesome zombie kill (perhaps involving a fire extinguisher… ), you realize that cool though it may have been, it would have been hard to have been more unnecessary from a narrative standpoint. Even so, unnecessary zombie kills are better than no zombie kills at all, and only really Romero seems to know how to do them right. | Pete Timmermann

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