For a long, long time director George Romero had the market cornered on zombie films. He was your one stop shop when it came to the living dead. That strangle hold seemed to weaken the years between Day of the Dead and Land of the Dead as other filmmakers, writers, and video game designers began to tap into the world of the dead. I remember waiting a long, long time for what we fans thought would be Twilight of the Dead, a last hurrah for Romero and his zombies. That day and that film never came and instead we got Land, which was decent, but didn’t have the impact the first three did. Then came Diary of the Dead, and while it was good to have the master back at work, and working with the dead, well, that was yet another step back. With Survival of the Dead it feels like he is finally getting back into the swing of things. Though, my hope, my desperate hope is that this is his last zombie film for a while.
Beginning with very minor characters from Diary, Survival is the story of an island where two families have been feuding for decades, their disdain for one another bordering on the Shakespearian. When the dead begin to rise the divide deepens as one patriarch insists that they must hunt down the living dead on the island and destroy them while his counterpart insists that they preserve the status quo and simply teach the dead to feed on something other than human meat. Entering into this chaos are some military defectors looking for refuge only to become players in a war on this rural island.
This is the first of Romero’s Dead films where I can actually saw there was an intentional humor, and it works. Not all the time, but overall it works. It is a change from the dour, dark films that these had become. The CG is still pretty awful in spots, and this is certainly less gory than we are used to but this is an interesting story, it advances two ideas he has hinted on earlier as far as zombie evolution, and it gets back to characters more than the last entry did. That is not to say this is great, at all. Sadly, his hey-day is still a long time ago and that’s why I really think he needs to take a break. He has righted the ship, and now he needs to go do some other films, get some distance between he and the dead, and then come back in a few years and finally do his Twilight and end the series. I think if he really worked on the concept, and announced it was the last one then he could get some decent funding, good actors, and really just blow it out. This series deserves and ending and it deserves one last big, hurrah.
Is this worth seeing? For sure. It isn’t as good as the original trilogy, but it is good. It’s fun, it’s gory, it gives us a new twist on the dead, and the characters are pretty fun (if stereotypical). There are not amazing actors here. No standout horror moments (these have not been scary for a while now), and no major gore scenes, but it’s a solid, entertaining film. I know a lot of people are not loving this film, and I can see that, but as I have said in the past, judged against most of the stuff that comes out concerning the undead, this stuff is still head and shoulder above a lot of that work. This is definitely one I look forward to getting on Blu.
7 out of 10