The most recent installment in George A. Romero’s Living Dead series is Survival of the Dead. It was released in both theaters and pay-per-view on the same day, which seems to be a new trend for small films with limited theatrical distribution. Survival of the Dead follows a few characters that were featured briefly in Diary of the Dead: Sgt. Crockett (Alan Van Sprang) and the small, rogue military outfit in his command. After the dead return, Crockett and a few other soldiers take off into the unknown, fending for themselves. After meeting up with an attitude riddled teenage boy (Devon Bostick), the outfit learns about an island sanctuary off the cost of Maryland. It turns out the island is inhabited by two families engaged in a long standing feud and after the exile of one of the family’s leaders (Kenneth Welsh), the other family is keeping the zombies captive in the hopes they can be returned to their former selves.
The film, just like Romero’s other Living Dead films, contains a good deal of social critique, revolving around issues such as the Other, tribal feudalism, science versus religion, and more. One interesting issue raised by Romero is the sharp divide between groups adhering to a particular set of beliefs, which mirrors the current political situation in America. In Romero’s film, the two sides engaged in an ideological dispute end up solving nothing, which might be the culmination of our current political quarrels.
The budget for the film according to Box Office Mojo is $4 million and so far the film has grossed only $126,000 at the box office. However, the film is still being distributed and hasn’t made it overseas yet. The new distribution techniques, involving pay-per-view in conjunction with a theatrical release, might explain the lack of box office receipts and the traditional means of judging a film’s success don’t apply to a film circulated in this fashion. The film is filled with gore just like the preceding films in Romero’s resume, but the effects are computer generated instead of traditionally, which is a hallmark of films like Dawn and Day of the Dead. The acting is decent and Van Sprang does an excellent job carrying the film. Crockett is a likeable character, somewhat roguish, and contains many of the traits that made Romero’s previous lead characters so good. Unlike the rest of Romero’s zombie films, I have only seen Survival of the Dead once and would like to view it again to see if I missed anything. However, I believe that Romero is still a decent director and even though Survival of the Dead didn’t have the impact that his previous films had might say something about me and where I am in my life instead of his ability to create a poignant film.
Here is the trailer for the film.
Here is the review I wrote for Netflix. One out of two people found it helpful.
Survival of the Dead (2010)
Romero’s sixth installment in his Living Dead saga is the weakest of the bunch, yet is still an enjoyable zombie film containing subtle social commentary like his earlier works. Like all Romero’s films, they require repeated viewings (usually because they are so entertaining and worth revisiting) so I cannot completely discuss all the film’s subtext. Yet it seems this time Romero is discussing tribalism and divisions within a society and exploring the science versus religion debate in our nation. The story follows the rogue soldiers featured briefly in Diary of the Dead. They find out about an island oasis that is safe from the living dead and find themselves in the middle of a family rivalry reminiscent of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. The main character Crocket (Van Sprang) is a decent protagonist and is another in a long line of Romero’s strong, brooding leads but some of the other characters are not as strong, including some of the island’s inhabitants and the soldiers under Crocket’s lead. The film was made in Canada and was funded by Canadian Film Board, which is something I have not seen Romero do before and indicates that American bigwigs might have passed on Romero’s latest Dead film. That aside, it is a decent zombie film and far above many of the lesser zombie fare that makes its way into the zeitgeist and worth watching for any fan of Romero’s work and the subtext that it always contains. My final complaint is the special effects. While Romero has used CGI for his last few films and I understand this is necessary to make budget in the 21st century, in comparison to Savini’s effects in Day of the Dead, there are times that things look too digital and this can distract from the realism of the film. I doubt I will cozy up to this since I grew up in the pre-digital era and watched traditional effect films in my formative years. For those that have no problems with this, it will not distract.