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October 2010

Survival Of The Dead

cast: Alan Van Sprang, Kenneth Welsh, Kathleen Munroe, Devon Bostick, and Richard Kitzpatrick

director: George A. Romero

86 minutes (18) 2009
widescreen ratio 16:9
Optimum DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 5/10
review by Ian Hunter

Survival Of The Dead

There is life after zombie films after all, or life in another one as actor Alan Van Sprang who played Sarge 'Nicotine' Crockett in Diary Of The Dead (appearing briefly with his national guard comrades to rob the main characters of their food), is the lead character in this, George A. Romero's sixth zombie movie. Having been demoted early on due to his role in a disastrous mission from colonel to sergeant, he and three fellow soldiers decide to go AWOL because it's every man or woman for themselves in this brave new world where the dead rise to feed on the living.

They have to get out of this place or it really will be the last thing they ever do, and one place worth heading too is Plum Island off the coast of Delaware. Getting to an island sounds like a good idea. Cleanse the place of the zombies and it could be a fresh start, but on the island two ruling families are at a war. The Muldoons want to keep the zombies alive, and chained up until a cure is found, while the O'Flynns want to kill them, all of them, even if they are children. After a brief power-struggle, patriarch Patrick O'Flynn (Kenneth Welsh) and some followers are expelled from the island.

Needless to say, he encounters the former soldiers, who have been joined by a teenage boy who has the key to a safe containing a million dollars. Soon, O'Flynn and the others are heading back to his home to try and take control of the island where they learn that Muldoon has tried to normalise the zombies, by chaining the postman next to a post-box. Even one of O'Flynn's twin daughters has become a zombie and is tied to her terrified horse who runs on and on across the island.

This is probably the least of Romero's zombie movies; a rushed, undeveloped affair. It's watchable, yes, but very low-budget and low-key. He flirts with suspense with creepy night scenes and bodies flashing past between the trees, but almost in a bored manner. Even the inevitable zombie onslaught, at the end, lacks tension, but there is a nice, almost insect-like relentless quality to the zombie's attack, aided by their jerky movements, and lack of noise, but, boy, are those uninfected guys dumb.

Let's hide inside a barn, or farm buildings with tight spaces and dead ends. If you know your zombie literature you'll know that horror writers John Skipp and Craig Spector edited a couple of zombie anthologies inspired by Romero's apocalyptic worldview, and the plot of Survival Of The Dead has hints of the short story Home Delivery by Stephen King - from the first volume, and Dan Simmons' This Year's Class Picture - from the second one.

Ultimately, the film plays like a western, battling over zombies rather than land or water or cattle, with Muldoon and O'Flynn coming across like the two patriarchs played by Charles Bickford and Burl Ives in the classic western The Big Country, even taking their hatred for each other beyond the grave in a classic gunfighter pose of the two of them against an enormous full moon. Romero wrings one more twist out of his zombie mythology - no spoilers here - and if he makes a sequel he'll surely develop it further as I suspect we haven't seen the last of Crockett and his merry band, and their safe full of loot, but I'll leave it to someone else to let you know how they get on.



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