Wednesday, March 24, 2010

island life.

We've waited and waited for Sir George of Romero's latest undead opus to hit our screens (almost as long as we waited for a proper title) and when it finally arrives the thing is shoddily shat out by Optimum Home Entertainment with absolutely no special features (I'm surprised they even bothered putting a menu on it) and a cover illustration draw by a blind, wooden handed boy in crayon.

A cover so shockingly bad even Arrow turned it down.

Bodes well for their 'special edition' of A Lizard In A Woman's Skin.

And here was me joking that they were going to steal one of my limited edition Giallo postcards for the cover.

Of which there are a few sets still available at a mere £5, Paypal accepted.

Anyway, back to the matter at hand.

Survival Of The Dead (2010).
Dir: George A. Romero.
Cast: Alan van Sprang, Kenneth Welsh, Devon Bostick, Kathleen Munroe and Athena Karkanis.

And neither is the art of cover
design by the look of this

It's six days since the undead mysteriously (if you don't count that pesky Venus probe) began to rise from their graves and the survivors are struggling not only to keep the ever growing zombie hordes at bay but to come to terms with what the situation actually means to humanity as a whole.

Off the coast of Delaware is the island of Plum, home to a couple of annoyingly accented, scab hatted Oirish clans with a history of drink fuelled feuding named (quite originally) the O'Flynns and the Muldoon's.

Their latest disagreement revolves around the fact that the Santa-bearded terrible tinker Patrick O'Flynn (Twin Peaks' very own Windom Earle, Welsh) wants to shoot all zombies on sight whilst pie loving, pig carrying Shamus Muldoon (RoboCop: Prime Directives Fitzpatrick) reckons that domesticating them is for the best.

And meanwhile, in an underground bunker just outside Pittsburgh, Richard Liberty's body begins to spin.

"Hoo-de-hoo! you'll never get yer
hands on mah lucky charms!"

Into the middle of all this shooting, fecking and potato guzzling comes the flame haired, boss eyed Jane (teevee stalwart Monroe), Patrick's non silly accented daughter and local voice of reason who, within the space of a few minutes manages to stop her dad being shot (persuading the manbreasted Muldoon to exile him instead) and look good in knitwear.

Which as fans of George will know is important as far as female characters go.

Back on the mainland, chain smoking tough guy (and part-time dirty looting bastard) Sergeant Crockett (Tom Arnold alike Van Sprang, reprising his role from Diary of The Dead) and his merry band of AWOL National Guardsmen are busying themselves shooting zombies, masturbating (a fantastically realistic performance from Karkanis), watching teevee and stealing armoured cars from red necks as they attempt to head north (to Canada?) and carve out a new life for themselves as a kinda travelling Hogan's Heroes comedy troupe.


Deleted scenes from the new John Leslie sex tape.

All this changes tho' when upon finding a wee emo boy (Degrassi: The Next Generation's Bostick) held captive by bad men, they discover an Internet site, run by our old pal O'Flynn, offering the chance of a new life on the fine isle of Plum.

Arriving at the docks to get the ferry to freedom, Sarge is surprised to find that Patrick has his own reasons for inviting everyone to join the island community.

Not us tho' I mean he's Irish and therefore cannot be trusted.

Yup, he's been fleecing all the would be travellers of their valuables, false teeth, lunch money and even in some cases their shoes.

As he sees it, there may be a global catastrophe happening all around him but why shouldn't he make some cash on the side?

Sarge, finally happy to meet a three dimensional (if fairly clichéd) character, immediately bonds with twinkly eyed old Patrick and head off to the island determined to kick Muldoon's ample arse.

Sarge farted and it was an eggy one.

Chugging along to the island our merry band make a horrifying discovery, it seems that Muldoon has been good to his word and rounded up all the dead folk in order to train them to do menial tasks.

And if all goes to plan maybe, just maybe get them to eat something other than humans.

Back in deepest, darkest Pittsburgh, Richard Liberty's body is spinning fast enough to create it's own gravity field.

"Tramp in mah mooth!"

Survival of The Dead, Big George's sixth Zombie movie (yet first direct sequel-to 2008's Diary of The Dead) finds the director appearing to embrace 'reboot' mode, almost as if the original 'Dead saga' which began in that gloomy graveyard way back in 1968 ends with the hope of some sort of peaceful co-existence at the climax of Land of The Dead.

But Survival, when watched back to back with Diary (yes, some of us are that sad) feels as unrelated to the original four as they do a part of a bigger story.

A new, lo-fi Dead saga for a more cynical age?

The island setting, the community at odds at to what to do with the undead and the water based zombie shenanigans make it seem that Big George still hasn't gotten his original, unmade script for Day of The Dead from way back in the early 80's out of his system, with ideas and characters featured in it surfacing in Land of The Dead and with the same applying here making the movie appear more of a prelude than an actual story in itself.

It's almost as if George is getting cold feet about finally finishing the story, retreading ideas regarding the feeding and domestication of the undead and concentrating more and more on the philosophical debates the litter the quieter moments of his original vision.

The problem this time is that although the original Day of The Dead is basically chat and debate culminating in mass bloodshed you never forget that the zombie hordes are there, shuffling and waiting, their moans filling the caverns, echoing thru' the underground bunker and chilling the viewer to the bone.

With Survival, there are times when you almost forget that you're watching a Romero zombie movie, with genuinely chilling ideas such as the undead postman moaning loudly as he posts and reposts his letters and the horrifying sight of Muldoon's undead wife, literally chained to the kitchen sink as she attempts to cook dinner quickly glossed over in favour of more chat and
Sarge's wise-cracking one liners.

Revenge of the disco dads.

And the movie's shock revelation as regards to what the undead will eat, which in any other Romero movie would have you gasping with surprise, passes you by with a 'hmmm', so engrossed you are with spotting the similarities to Day and humming the John Harrison score to the very same movie as the zombie's break out of Muldoon's shed.

Survival is one of those rare films that although enjoyable on some levels is really difficult to like.

Which is a genuine shame.

Criticising Romero feels a wee bit like criticising your kids school report when you know they've lazed their way thru' a term, you know what they're capable of and feel crushingly disappointed when they fail to deliver, we all know that there's at least one final great dead movie in George.

By the looks of it tho' it's the one that never got made.

1 comment:

The Vicar of VHS said...

I'm not a Romero purist by any means, but I count NotLD and Day of the Dead among my favorite horror films (yes, I like Day better than Dawn, probably due to sheer pig-headed contrariness). But Land left me cold, and after the credits rolled on DIARY I sat in the theater shaking my head, wondering how, how in God's name, Romero could have made a zombie movie that sucked WORSE than the Day of the Dead remake. (Okay, maybe not worse, but just as bad.) Between that and his late non-zombie efforts (BRUISER, anyone? If you haven't seen it, don't), I've sort of given up on the old man, much as I admire what he did in the past.