Survival of the Dead – DVD Review

Survival of the Dead is a much more tongue-in-cheek outing from the master of the zombie movie, focusing more on silly killings than outright scares. Unfortunately, the watered-down frights and the Tom and Jerry-esque murders are generally pretty lame and have done much better in other films, many of which were made by Romero.

It’s the end of the world as we know it, and all that Sarge “Nicotine” Crocket wants to do is take what’s left of his squadron and find a nice, quiet place away from humanity. His troops think they may have found just the place in Plum Island, a small settlement just off the coast of Delaware. Safe haven quickly turns into a nightmare, though, when the AWOL soldiers find themselves embroiled in a clan war between the island’s two great families: the O’Flynn’s and the Muldoons.

Most of the plot centers on Seamus O’Flynn trying to get back to Plum Island. O’Flynn was exiled by the Muldoons after an argument over what to do with the newly-animated dead. Seamus believes that the only way to handle the zombies is by killing them, whereas Muldoon hopes to rehabilitate the ghouls by teaching them to eat something other than people. The hatred between the two goes beyond the zombie question, and near the end it becomes very apparent that this is Romero’s criticism of what happens to leaders that become too obsessed with being right and the damage that obsession causes to everyone around them. This social critique is about as subtle as a hammer to the face and it grows old quickly.

Romero’s trying to do something different with this movie, but it just didn’t work for me. It wasn’t frightening and the jokes weren’t funny. The movie might have fared better if the characters had been stronger, but they were barely above the level of caricatures. You had the tough-guy sergeant with a soft-spot for his men, the obnoxious teenager that’s supposed to be likable for no real reason, the gratuitous lesbian, the gratuitous comic relief, and the latin lover thrown in for good measure. The only likable character is O’Flynn, and he’s so obsessed with getting even with Muldoon that he’ll lie, steal, and kill to get what he wants.

I’m sure hardcore Romero fans will enjoy this movie, but honestly, Shawn of the Dead and Zombieland were funnier, and 28 Days Later and Romero’s original Dawn of the Dead were scarier. As much as I love Romero, this one just doesn’t cut it for me.

The movie is presented in Widescreen 2.35:1 aspect ratio with the audio in 5.1 Dolby Digital Stereo. The only language track is in English, but Spanish subtitles are provided for non-English speakers. In terms of quality, the movie looks and sounds well with no problems.

Survival of the Dead is chock full of extras including the ubiquitous audio commentary and behind-the-scenes features. This two-disc release include featurettes about George Romero, an HDNet making-of, a storyboard comparison, and a very valuable Halloween how-to: How to Create Your Own Zombie Bite. But the best extras are the “Walking After Midnight” documentary and the “Sarge” short film. Those that like DVD extras will not be disappointed.

Unless you’re a real Romero fan, I’d recommend skipping this one.

Magnolia Films presents Survival of the Dead. Directed by: George A. Romero. Starring: Alan Van Sprang, Kenneth Welsh, Kathleen Munroe, Devon Bostick, Richard Fitzpatrick, Athena Karkanis, Stefano DiMatteo, Joris Jarksy, Eric Woolfe, Julian Richings, and Wayne Robson. Written by: George A. Romero. Running time: 90 Minutes. Rating: R. Released on DVD: August 24, 2010.

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