Survival of the Dead

Survival of the Dead

Following the crushing disappointment of 'Land of the Dead' (an embarrassing hodge podge of various post-Apocalyptic movies - a deranged Conquest of the Planet of the Mad Max Zombies) then the cash strapped toe curlingly cringe 'let's get with the current media reality TV vogue' 'Diary of the Dead' most long standing loyal fans of the legendary George A Romero were starting to get restless at having their loyalties challenged from his rightful god like status from seminal genre treats such as Night/Dawn/Day of the Dead, Martin, The Crazies et al. So perhaps inevitably with the announcement of yet another new Romero zombie movie even the die hard faithful would have been sighing in daunted intrepidation - a feeling worryingly not deterred by the fact that the film would be going direct to home video with nary a glance under any theatrical projector bulb.

During production of 'Survival of the Dead' word was filtering out that Romero had moved his shuffling corpses into the cowboy genre and to a very thinly related point that terrifying thought is indeed true but not in the way that many would wrongly perceive. 'Survival of the Dead' in fact moves the focus on the zombie apocalypse onto the insular island environment that has in the past been alluringly hinted at in his earlier seminal movies (early in Dawn of the Dead some awol cops are seen boarding a boat in search of an island refuge whilst in Day of the Dead the leads aspire throughout to one day escaping to a similar utopia). With 'Survival' though Romero gets to indulge our longstanding curiosity of the island refuge scenario and here welcomingly what he delivers doesn't disappoint.

On the remote Plum Island two large farming families, the O'Flynns and the Muldoons, have for generations maintained majority dominance of the island population - both as main employers and inevitably oft-feuding families. So it's no surprise that when the zombie apocalypse arrives the two warring families develop very differing opinions on how to handle the undead scenario; whilst the O'Flynns (quite rightly) feel that a zero tolerance approach needs to be taken with the destruction of any of the living dead the Muldoons are more god fearing wanting to try hold onto the shambling corpses in the vain hope that they might lose their urge to eat human flesh and return some form of minimal social sensibility. Family patriarch Partick O'Flynn's gun toting brain blasting antics are very much frowned upon by many of the islanders so he's soon banished to the mainland so the Muldoons can lead the way with their philosophy in managing the dead scenario.

Back over on the mainland we meet a small band of rogue runaway soldiers led by devilish tough guy Sarge who along with his hard fighting band of rejects are blasting their way across the land with little to no sense of direction until, following yet another particularly bloody undead incident, they meet up with a young loner survivor who informs them of an island where they would be able to find some rest from the continual chaos of their current scenario�that island being Plum Island where the previously warring families reside. Will our rag tag bunch of military renegades make it to Plum Island and even if they do what sort of welcome will they receive on arrival?

I'm very happy to acknowledge that 'Survival of the Dead' is a very welcome return to form for George Romero after the bumpy and ultimately disappointing ride fans had with both Land and Diary of the Dead; with 'Survival' Romero forgoes the previously apparent need to pander to demographics of what producers feel the audience need (with the aforementioned Post Apocalyptic and Reality Media trends) and with 'Survival' looks to be indulging in what his loyal fans actually want, pure Romero entertainment. Romero's script, in the main, is exemplary with time and depth clearly spent in character and plot development with each character uniquely scripted (which would have made the portrayal by the cast so much easier and pleasurable) whilst many of the set pieces and plot twists are very much in the vein of Romero's earlier classic undead movies making 'Survival' feel more suited alongside films like 'Dawn' and 'Day' than their later ill fated counterparts (with one of the minimal failings of 'Survival' being the ill fitting early scenes specific referencing of the previous later movies), so much so that I dearly wish that the film had been specifically tweaked to fit more integrally into the Dawn/Day scenario as this, whilst not a classic in the league of those seminal movies, could have been a very bloody and entertaining side order.

The cast throughout deliver solid performances with Kenneth Welsh stealing the show from the rest of the cast as devious rogue lead Patrick O'Flynn but its Romero's script and direction which are the stars here with all else simply acting as jigsaw pieces in Romero's vision (and it's this fact that no doubt makes this the movie that Land and Diary couldn't succeed in being as Romero's style wasn't given the chance to breath in those previous cluttered movies). As ever, with any Romero living dead movie there's gore and brains aplenty to keep fans of the zombie genre sated though admittedly at times this is one of 'Survival's weaker points with an unwelcome overuse of computer generated effects though we are treated to some lovely set piece splatter in the films final reel that should appease all.

The DVD and Blu-ray presentation from the fine folk at Optimum Home Entertainment is solid though sadly lacking as a whole. The image is pristine throughout showcasing Romero's layered imagery beautifully and the 5.1 audio mix is faultless offering a very vibrant meaty soundscape whilst not being intrusive or glaring. Sadly though, neither the DVD or Blu-ray disc offers any extra features whatsoever, nary a trailer or anything - not that I personally feel the need for every DVD to have extras included but do feel that some movies, such as the latest George Romero zombie opus, should merit even the inclusion of at least a trailer or a DV shot behind the scenes segment (neither of which would bust the bank in production costs I'm sure). That said, ultimately it's just good to have the latest Romero zombie flick out there with an all round solid presentation and even better that Romero fans can rejoice that it's also a very welcome return to form'. 'Survival of the Dead' rips the flesh from Land and Diary of the Dead in every way and whilst not as seminal as Romero's original undead trilogy it's definitely the most fun I've had with Romero since the Dawn turned into Day. Welcome back George - zombie fans rejoice!

Review by Alan Simpson

Released by Optimum Home Entertainment
Region 2 - PAL
Rated 18
Extras :
see main review