Home > Horror, Sci Fi, Thriller > Survival of the Dead (2009)

Survival of the Dead (2009)

How far would you go to keep some semblance of civilization in a world of the walking dead? How far would you go to save those who have become shambling, flesh-eating ghouls? How far would you go to prove to that other stubborn old bastard that your plan is right?

Survival of the Dead (full title: George Romero’s Survival of the Dead) is the sixth entry in George “God of the Zombies” Romero’s Dead series of zombie movies, following a group of American soldiers turned mercenaries briefly encountered by the heroes of Diary of the Dead and therefore considered a gaiden story to the latter. It stars Alan “Land of the Dead” van Sprang, Kenneth “Timecop” Walsh, Kathleen “CSI: NY” Munroe, Devon “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” Bostick, and Athena “Saw IV” Karkanis.

The movie starts by setting up the circumstances that led to Sergeant Crockett (van Sprang) and his squad robbing the heroes of Diary of the Dead, namely a failed raid and the reanimation of several members of the National Guard, which led to Our Intrepid Antiheroes going AWOL. Meanwhile, off the coast of Delaware, two Irish families residing on Plum Island are feuding over what is to be done with the shambling undead that roam the island. The O’Flynns, led by their patriarch Patrick (Kenneth Walsh), have gathered a posse to round up and destroy the zombies after learning that Muldoons, led by their patriarch Seamus (Richard Fitzpatrick), have been keeping their undead relatives “alive” and in some semblance of normality until a cure is found. A brief standoff ensues, ending only when Patrick agrees, on the urging of his daughter Janet, to be exiled from the island.

Three weeks later, the National Guard deserters are joined by a teen identified only as Boy (Bostick), who informs them of a video recorded by Patrick O’Flynn telling survivors of Plum Island, offering it up as a safe haven from the zombie menace. They soon learn that Patrick wants all their supplies as payment, and a shootout ensues between the soldiers and the O’Flynns. In the confusion, Crockett has one of his men commandeer a ferry to get them to Plum Island. The barge secured, Crockett’s men board, and Patrick, the last surviving O’Flynn, jumps aboard as well, remaining only by virtue of a shaky truce as the remaining zombies aboard are dispatched. Patrick tells them that he sent hopeful refugees over to Plum Island mainly to piss off Muldoon and to trigger his distrust of strangers, but upon reaching the island in a small dinghy, the soldiers learn that Muldoon has been putting them to a more grotesque use. Believing that the zombies can be taught to accept a nonhuman food source, Muldoon shot any living refugees and kept the ones who arrived as zombies, chaining them up in a dark parody of normal life. O’Flynn is disgusted by this, and determined to prove that the zombies cannot be redeemed. In the end, the military refugees find themselves caught between the two sides of an Irish feud that threatens all their lives.

Okay, first off, let’s get one thing out of the way: This is a zombie movie. As such, a few things are to be expected: dead dudes shambling around trying to eat the living, infighting between factions, infighting within factions, and lots of blood and gore in at least the last third. If none of these appeal to you, just walk away. Another strike against this movie is the fact that it is the sixth in the Dead series. It’s really hard to keep a franchise fresh this far in, especially one that started in 1967. It tries to be a meaningful commentary about letting go of one’s loved ones or setting aside petty feuds in the face of mor important problems like an outbreak of flesh-eating undead, and in this it mostly fails. I’m sorry, but DEAD DUDES EATING THE LIVING ARE VERY HARD TO MAKE SOCIALLY RELEVANT THESE DAYS. HOWEVER, dead dudes are still dead dudes, and dead dudes that eat the living are still a very patient menace. It can wait all day. It can wait all week. It can wait until you run out of supplies and have to go out and get more. It can wait until you kill each other out of frustration.

The zombie makeup was decently well-done (and really, it’s hard as hell to mess up zombie makeup anymore), but the conspicuous CGI on some of the zombie kills turned gore into laughably bad video game graphics. The money shot* during the climax was nice and gory, with seven zombies dogpiling on a single victim and turning him into dogfood. However, the acting talents of the human leads seemed phoned in at times, with only the final shot giving the audience any real sense of bleakness after the denouement.

In conclusion, if you like zombie movies, see this one only for the sake of completeness, but I would not consider it anything like a must-see. Rent it if your usual zombie fare isn’t available, or see it if it happens to be on cable, but don’t make any special effort to find it.

*money shot: in the context of zombie movies, the scene where a victim is graphically torn apart and devoured by a mob of zombies onscreen. Usually saved for the climactic battle of living vs. dead.

  1. 02/17/2011 at 2:35 pm

    A great comprehensive review. I’ve seen all of Romero’s ‘Dead’ series and this is by far the weakest. It really feels like it is lacking in purpose, unlike say ‘Dawn of the Dead’ which maintains a social critique, horror and grotesque humour throughout. The central plot of this film, of taming zombies and manipulating their behaviour, was explored better in ‘Day of the Dead’ too. Plus, the zombies were better back then 🙂

    • 02/17/2011 at 3:46 pm

      I agree. Whereas in the other Romero zombie movies the living dead symbolized some underlying social flaw, here, they were… just dead dudes. If you tilt your head and squint they might symbolize the banality of feuding because you’ve always been feuding, but this is hardly explored at all. Thanks for your reply!

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