Diary Of The Dead hurt me in a way that very few movies ever had. It broke my heart, by punching it through my testicles. Diary was a film that truly made me hate a George Romero film, which up until that point was something I was blissfully unaware I could do.
Based on the reviews I’d read, including those from critics who’d given Diary a pass, I figured Survival would be even worse. Reviews were ranging from deeply disappointing all the way to apoplectic.
Well, call it low expectations, call it lowered standards, I actually kind of enjoyed Survival Of The Dead. It’s not great, and it may be the first Romero Zombie movie to be “just” a zombie movie and it’s way smaller in ambition and scale then any of the preceding zombie movies.. But it manages not to be the affront to all that is good and holy that Diary was.
The horror of Survival is Nicotine, National Guard captain last scene marauding the documentary crew of the loathsome Diary. Hearing rumor of a safe haven of an island through the intertubes. Nicotine and his two dimensional crew make their way to a land where for reasons that perhaps should stay locked in the depths of Romero’s imagination, everyone is reenacting Darby O’ Gill And The Little People. Seriously, It feels at any given time these folks might burst out with a round of “My Dear And Darling One”.
Nicotine and his crew have been unwittingly dragged into an improtu revolution, stemming from a battle between two rival families. One who wants to keep the zombies “alive” until a cure can be found, and the other who wants to “execute every last one of the fuckers.” Among the movies good qualities is that it takes its dear sweet time in telling us which one is supposed to be the bastard.
Nicotine is, well how should I put this... Not the most fascinating protagonist Romero has ever had. He's not bad. And Romero and the actor kind of do what they can with him, but the movie loses focus.
Along with the ambiguity, there are a few good beats, some striking imagry and tense scenes. Including a surprisingly expensive looking showdown on a dock, that has to be one of the best set pieces that Romero has ever filmed (“The road is mined!”)
And though less personal, Survival still includes plenty of Romero touches, including a sequence where Nicotine and his crew come across a posse of rednecks who torture zombies in a manner that Romero has wanted to try since his original draft of Day Of The Dead.
Aside from the incredibly incongruous Irish men inhabiting the island, one must also deal with the CGI gore and community theater level acting.
But the real problem is that while Night, Dawn, Day, Land, and yes even Diary, felt like big slabs of societal deconstruction that Romero simply had to make, Survival just feels like a cool idea he wanted to try out. And the lack of intensity shows. The other Dead films are novels burning with things to prove, this is a novella done for the hell of it.
It’s the textbook example of a B- film. It does just enough, and nothing more