Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Horror Thoughts ‘12—Survival of the Dead (2009) **

R, 90 min.
Director/Writer: George A. Romero
Starring: Alan Van Sprang, Kenneth Welsh, Kathleen Munroe, Devon Bostick, Richard Fitzpatrick, Athena Karkanis, Stefano Di Matteo, Joris Jarsky, Eric Woolfe, Julian Richings

George A. Romero’s “Survival of the Dead” is a continuation of the ideas and themes he created in the zombie subgenre of horror films with his seminal “Night of the Living Dead”. While the themes he creates for the series are still sound, his delivery has gotten too cute and too clever by half.

This time around he looks at his zombie outbreak from the point of view of a very isolated community located on an island off the coast of Delaware. It’s a little Hatfields and McCoys with its feuding families clashing on the best way to deal with the zombie outbreak. Patrick Flynn thinks all of the zombies should be eliminated immediately. Seamus Muldoon believes the infected can be “cured” by teaching them to feed off of flesh other than human, the benefit being that it wouldn’t then be necessary to say goodbye to loved ones. Seamus has more guns so Patrick is exiled to the mainland.

Patrick finds a way back on the island when a crew of mercenaries, first seen in Romero’s previous movie “Diary of the Dead”, decides to sail to the island to find a place easier to defend against the zombies. Once there, it appears as if Seamus’ plan has backfired, as much of the island’s inhabitants are now infected, including Patrick’s daughter, Janet.

The concept of people learning to live with each other is what drives almost every zombie story and this plot emphasizes the difficulties people have living with each other in a well defined way. The current presidential election comes to mind as an example of how people attach themselves to the people shouting the loudest despite their message. Even more relevantly is the way people choose sides without fully understanding what they’re fighting about. It strikes me, however, that the wrong leader gets exiled for his beliefs. It seems the one who wants to kill the zombies is the one with the less radical and more popular ideals, whereas the one trying to cure the zombies would be seen as more extreme. People tend toward the moderate middle. Although killing is extreme, it just makes sense in a zombie outbreak.

That aside, the real problem with this movie is its cutesie take on its subject. Romero prides himself on his ability to see humor in his zombie storylines, but the jokes here are more silly than—shall we say—biting. The whole movie is just a little too lighthearted. There’s no sense that anyone is really taking this zombie outbreak seriously. More importantly, it isn’t scary. It seems Romero has forgotten that fear is a great tool for getting a point across. In the context of a horror film, it is much more effective than comedy.

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