Thursday, June 3, 2010
GEORGE A. ROMERO'S SURVIVAL OF THE DEAD
The man's name seems to be in the title for this, and why not? As director of the films that defined the modern zombie as a shambling, flesh-eating reflection of our ongoing societal anxieties, he's certainly earned the right to have his work trademarked to differentiate it from his legions of followers and imitators. Indeed, since his more recent work in the zombie subgenre is quite minor in comparison to his first two masterworks, perhaps such branding will help set his current, lo-fi and low-budget fare apart from the similarly low-budget zombie films that litter the modern horror landscape.
There's no question that SURVIVAL OF THE DEAD lacks the scope and impact of NIGHT or DAWN, but your proprietor is hard pressed to see why that matters much. If SURVIVAL has the impact of a sketch in comparison to the wider canvases of the earlier films, there's enough variation on the formula (and some intriguing callbacks to previous work) to make it engaging. A small contingent of rogue military, led by the gore weary Sarge Crockett (Alan van Sprang, reprising a short role from Romero's previous), find themselves caught up in a feud between two Irish American clans on an island off the coast of Delaware. Romero offers an intriguing (if diffuse) parable for the mindless violence we perpetuate, and deploys the undead in more subtle ways to put his points across. The zombies occasionally even seem beside the point, until a lovely final image (a nice visual rhyme to the bald zombie that served as DAWN's main icon) ties it all together. A fairly large cast of unknowns do justice to the weird little human moments that Romero's peppered his script with. And of course there's a solid helping of good ol' zombie gore.
Some guys reach retirement age and turn to painting. Romero sticks to zombie films, crafting modest little works that still reveal a working and engaged aesthetic. I'll see the next one, too.