Movie Review: SURVIVAL OF THE DEADMagnolia Pictures
2009
R

“In an us-versus-them world, someone puts up a flag, another person tears it down and puts up his own. Pretty soon no one remembers what started the war in the first place and the fighting becomes all about those stupid flags.”

There’s just something about the prospect of another George Romero “Dead” flick that makes me warm and fuzzy. Leading up to watching the release, I was anxiously awaiting Survival Of The Dead to finally arrive at my local video rental shop. I didn’t pay much mind to the online reviews and message boards that denounced this latest entry in Romero’s …Of The Dead series as really weak at best. My philosophy’s always been, “It’s a new Romero zombie flick, be happy.”

So now, Survival Of The Dead has arrived on DVD at long last, and I actually paid the full new rental price, I was that anxious to see this. Yeah, my budget demands that I rent rather than buy. In any case, after watching Survival Of The Dead, I can report now that the wait was…kinda sort of worth it.

I’d be remiss to not admit that Survival Of The Dead isn’t without its flaws. The story itself spins off from the previous Diary Of The Dead, involving soldiers that were briefly shown in Diary. Here in Survival, we follow them to an island that’s inhabited by two rival family clans, one that advocates the extermination of the undead, and the other one believing that there can be a cure found. You can probably guess as to what the implied social commentary in this particular zombie flick is.

For those of us who don’t go into a zombie movie with the express purpose of picking apart the “deeper meanings”, as a straight up zombie flick Survival Of The Dead succeeds. You’ve got the classic shambling, moaning and rotting living impared with a hankering for human flesh, some good practical makeup effects (on the other hand, I don’t know if it’s because of the independent nature of the film and budgetary constraints, but the CGI that was used was a bit hokey), and some good suspenseful scares and splatter.

And what would any zombie flick be without the conflict of the fleshbags that are stuck in this undead apocalypse? Romero practically invented that particular trope, and here it’s no different. Problem is, the story seems to suffer from the same subtle-as-a-baseball bat-to-the-cranium “message” that bogged down Land Of The Dead. Couple that with acting that’s sadly mediocre at best, and some flat and cliche’ characterization (really, do all horror movie soldiers have to act like oversexed adolescent jocks?), you don’t really get invested as much as needed to make the climax have as much of an impact as it could have.

While I’ve seemed to enjoy Romero’s later post-Day Of The Dead zombie flicks, I have to agree that Survival Of The Dead is perhaps the weakest entry. But at the same time, I don’t think it’s as unwatchable as many others have said. Trust me, you can do way worse.

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