Sunday, August 29, 2010
Survival of the Dead
George A. Romero shouldn't worry about his legacy as a filmmaker. The original Night of the Dead trilogy guaranties that he will go down in history as an icon of the horror genre, and as one of the most beloved and influential filmmakers of all time. Those three films -- Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead, and Day of the Dead -- are absolutely brilliant, enthralling, and as relevant today as they were produced. Along with his zombie films, he made a small handful of other minor masterpieces such as The Crazies, Creepshow, and Martin that would've made him famous even had he never made a single zombie film at all.
Now, I told you all that so I could tell you this: Survival of the Dead sucked.
Day of the Dead, the last film in Romero's original Dead trilogy, came out in 1985. He finally released another sequel ten years later. Land of the Dead was nowhere near as brilliant as the first three films, but it was a worthy successor and well worth watching. It was amazing to finally have another Romero zombie film, and even though it wasn't that great, I still hoped he'd keep making more. But then Diary of the Dead came out two years after that, and it was officially the first bad zombie movie Romero had ever made. It had some neat ideas and some good scares, but it was a huge step back from Land of the Dead in terms of scope and budget, and it just didn't really work on any level. And Survival of the Dead -- which just came out on DVD this week, if it ever even came out in the theater at all -- was even worse. Like I said, this movie sucked.
To begin with, it just wasn't scary. Romero has always been a master of suspense, so it was a real shame to see him put out a film with zero edge, tension, or scares. As bad as Diary was, at least it had some good set pieces and some genuine thrills. This movie just has people talking, then a zombie shows up and somebody shoots it. What's worse is that almost none of the effects are practical effects that look cool. It's all CG that looks bad. When that zombie got its head blown off in Dawn of the Dead, it looked awesome because you knew something actually got blown up. When a zombie's head gets blown up in this movie (in the first ten minutes), it was all bad CG that that just looked pathetic. And the effects from there just got worse and worse. I don't even think they used squibs for most of the bullet wounds. Almost every shot looked like bad CG blood splatter. Sad, considering how important real, practical special effects were to the success of the original trilogy. Get special effects master Tom Savini out of retirement already and make a real zombie movie!
And then we have the story, which was boring, engaging, and went nowhere. It was ostensibly about a Hatfield and McCoy type situation where one family wanted to kill all the zombies on their island while the other family wanted to keep them alive in hopes that a cure might come. Not a terrible plot, and certainly one that coul've been worth exploring, but none of these characters were the least bit likable nor the least bit believable. How could I possibly care about this dilemma, considering how the best thrill from seeing a zombie film is in watching zombies get killed. The film was told from the point of view of a rag tag band of survivors who wandered in to this situation, but they were all unlikable and annoying too. I didn't care about one character in this film nor enjoy anything about it at all.
The best compliment I can pay to this movie was that it wasn't so bad I didn't finish it. But, then again, I'm a George A. Romero fan so I felt a need to stick it through, even though I knew it was a far cry from his best work. Skip it. It sucked.