View Full Version : George A. Romero's SURVIVAL OF THE DEAD

07-21-2009, 10:49 PM
George A. Romero's ...OF THE DEAD now has an official title and will debut at the Toronto International Film Fest's Midnight Madness Screenings.


In a world where the dead rise to menace the living, rogue soldier Crocket (Alan Van Sprang) leads a band of military dropouts to refuge from the endless chaos. As they search for a place "where the shit won’t get you," they meet banished patriarch Patrick O’Flynn (played with zeal by Kenneth Welsh), who promises a new Eden on the fishing and ranching outpost Plum Island. The men arrive, only to find themselves caught in an age-old battle between O’Flynn’s family and rival clan the Muldoons. It turns out that Patrick was expelled from the isle for believing that the only good zombie is a dead zombie, while the Muldoons think it’s wrong to dispatch afflicted loved ones, attempting to look after their undead kinfolk until a cure is found. But their bid for stability on the homestead has turned perverse: the undead are chained inside their homes, pretending to live normal lives – and the consequences are bloody. A desperate struggle for survival will determine whether the living and the dead can coexist.

Such apocalyptic themes have long haunted George A. Romero, much to the delight of his legions of fans. He now follows Crocket, a minor character from his last film, Diary of the Dead, to present a new doomsday scenario. In that film, Crocket made a brief appearance with his militia to appropriate the heroes’ supplies at gunpoint. For Crocket’s subsequent journey, Romero does something that most horror directors have forgotten in recent years – he uses the genre to address societal issues. As a socially conscious filmmaker, Romero creates a world in which he can wrestle with the human condition while simultaneously finding new and creative ways to exterminate lurching flesh eaters.

George A. Romero’s Survival of the Dead is also a sharp subversion of the western. It can be seen as a reflection of William Wyler’s The Big Country, in which stubborn clans feuded as larger troubles raged. We needn’t look further than today’s news headlines to see examples of such fracture and to understand how it prevents more significant problems from being solved.

Fear not, Romero is still determined to give you gruesome and macabre thrills, but will also serve up a bloody little parable on the side. So who are you going to side with, the living or the dead?

07-22-2009, 03:17 AM
I'll start out by saying that I didn't really rate the entirety of Diary of the Dead upon first viewing. True, I only saw it the once and didn't hate it, but I was certainly indifferent, as I felt it perhaps tried to capitalise on the success of films such as The Blair Witch Project and 28 Days Later a little too much, resulting in characterisation I wasn't all that convinced by, and a slightly patchy storyline.

That said, I love Romero's work as a whole, we can't all get it absolutely right, and it wasn't the worst film I've ever seen, so I would like to see how this next installment works. What I'm perhaps most interested in is the fact that a character from the former film will appear in this next one. I believe that is a first for any of Romero's Zombie movies, excluding of course his sanctioned remake of Night of the Living Dead. No characters have been in any two films, which I always enjoyed, given that it helped to realise the feeling of isolation, and the notion that any one story of survival was perhaps just a drop in the ocean of many similar stories, where we never really discover if the fight was worth it, or if the protagonists ultimately survive outside the confines of the film.

So yes, a bold move perhaps, but I'll be intrigued to see how it transpires. I like the idea of the dead being forced to live out "normal" lives inside their homes also. Whether it has always been precise or not, Romero's social commentary has usually gone below the belt, deliberately, which I think is necessary in both the genre and entertainment as a whole.

07-22-2009, 03:45 AM
I have yet to see Diary, but I heard it wasn't that great. Looking forward to this nonetheless.

07-24-2009, 07:58 AM
I would really like to see George Romero step outside of his comfort zone and make a romantic comedy starring George Clooney and Katherine Heigl.

07-24-2009, 08:29 AM
I would really like to see George Romero step outside of his comfort zone and make a romantic comedy starring George Clooney and Katherine Heigl.

As long as one of them gets shot in the head like in his other films I wouldn't say no.

07-24-2009, 08:31 AM
The story certainly sounds promising, I wasn't impressed with Diary of The Dead either but it was definitely better than fucking Land of The Dead, I'd like to pretend that film doesn't exist.

Lord Hypnos
07-24-2009, 10:03 PM
While I couldn't finish Diary of The Dead, it was at least better than the Day Of The Dead remake, where vegetarians dont consume human flesh when they become zombies. I'd like to see Romero take a break from the zombie sub-genre. Go direct something else man, so long as its not a revamp of the Tales From The Darkside series.

Whoa seriously??

08-14-2009, 05:38 AM

Thank you to rararoxsox for this link.


Sneak peak here as well, with interviews.

09-15-2009, 07:56 PM


Monday, September 14, 2009 09:17 AM Chris Alexander Film

To call George A. Romero’s latest zombie thriller a horror movie is only half right. Certainly, this sixth entry in his 40-year-old series details what happens when the dead return, armed with a blind instinct to rip the soft parts of the living to shreds—but, as any serious scholar of these pictures knows, none of Romero’s DEAD films are alike.

The first was a gritty, black-and-white exercise in nihilistic nightmare logic; the second, a day-glo action/satire epic with a brash, bass-heavy prog-rock score courtesy of Italian supergroup Goblin. The third entry trapped its characters in a profane, sexist ticking-time-bomb tomb, mining claustrophobia to sweaty effect while the zombie dregs bit at their doors. The higher-budgeted fourth feature detailed the effects of capitalists foolishly trying to use commerce to control the corpse problem, and the fifth was a low-budget, experimental musing on media manipulation.

Which brings us to SURVIVAL OF THE DEAD (which just played the Toronto Film Festival and will be screened soon at Austin, TX’s Fantastic Fest), and yeah, as you might have heard through the gory grapevine, it’s a Western. Specifically, the film is a direct quote from William Wyler’s sprawling 1958 melodrama THE BIG COUNTRY, starring Burl Ives, Charlton Heston and Gregory Peck. And though SURVIVAL OF THE DEAD—for the first time in the series—carries over one character from the previous film, it’s as alien to DIARY OF THE DEAD as DIARY is to DAWN is to NIGHT is to DAY. It’s a stand-alone…and, really, it stands alone.

Off the coast of Pennsylvania lies Plum Island, a remote, widescreen-friendly Shangri-La that unfortunately has not escaped the grip of the undead virus. The two chief forces vying for supremacy on Plum are O’Flynn (brilliantly realized by TWIN PEAKS’ Kenneth Welsh) and Muldoon (a solid Richard Fitzpatrick), childhood rivals who now, as old men and patriarchs of their respective clans, find themselves at war with each other, the fates of the escalating zombie population hanging in the balance.

DIARY’s Alan Van Sprang returns as Crockett, the rogue National Guardsman who leads his motley gaggle of mercenaries to Plum in hopes of escaping the horror that has enveloped the land. Instead, they find themselves wedged in the middle of the O’Flynn/Muldoon battle, and many skulls get kissed by bullets, even more intestines are liberated from their tummies and none of it ends particularly well.

The fact that the two protagonists are named O’Flynn and Muldoon—with both Welsh and Fitzpatrick affecting heavy, cartoonish Irish brogues—should immediately tip you off that SURVIVAL is Romero in full-on DAWN OF THE DEAD playtime mode. This is pure, old-fashioned pulp, breezy and designed to entertain and filled to the bursting point with bizarre, outlandish plot twists and buckets of sloppy, gruesome splatter. Which is not to say it lacks for eerie, disturbing moments. An opening conflict over the fates of two zombie children is chilling, and scenes of a dead girl galloping on horseback are abstract enough to achieve a kind of dream-state lyricism. The film is as much RIO LOBO as it is Fiddler’s Green, and those who fail to grasp the comic-book cheekiness of it all simply aren’t getting the gag (witness the recent, post-Venice Film Fest review from Variety for a particularly obtuse analysis).

By now, loyal DEAD fans expect the world-collapsing-within-itself climaxes of these pictures, where the barely contained zombie menace explodes into a feeding frenzy and the last few remaining characters are culled and cannibalized. We want this, and Romero knows we want it. In the case of SURVIVAL, Canadian FX maestro Francois Dagenais really earns his keep, supplying scene after scene of wholesale flesh-ripping carnage that truly delivers the goods. If you’re familiar with Italian magic realist Federico Fellini’s landmark self-reflective masterpiece 8 1/2, these violent, latex-and-syrup-soaked finales always remind me of the climax of that picture, where Fellini literally lets his movie careen into carnival chaos and every major and minor character just explodes into frame, literally marching the picture into the fadeout.

Am I being too “film school” by saying that? Perhaps. But really, at this point in his career, Romero can be seen as a sort of riff on Marcello Mastroianni in 8 1/2: He’s a similarly beloved director who keeps trying to make these personal pictures while his backers demand populist product—but in this case, he has to deal with those pesky walking corpses that follow him around the world, infiltrating his sets and taking over. I get the feeling Romero is often trying to outrun the dead. He resists their influence and—in SURVIVAL especially—you feel that pull somewhat, as Romero tries to set up a faithful throwback to the brawny adventures he loved as a youth, and those damned ghouls just keep clawing their way in. Eventually, he simply accepts them, throws up his hands and literally allows them to chew up the scenery. It’s glorious and rewarding to see him surrender…

That’s why, no matter what picture he’s crafting, no matter how hard mainstream critics and tunnel-visioned fanboys try to jam him into the knothole of “master of horror,” Romero refuses to be pigeonholed. At the ripe old age of 69, he’s still impossible to properly contextualize and refuses to behave or bow down entirely to what is expected of him. Sure, this almost punk-rock chip of defiance pisses of journalists who seek to put an easily identifiable box around his efforts. No easy task, that.

If SURVIVAL OF THE DEAD has a flaw, it’s the same one that has marked all three of his “Toronto” zombie films in that the score is invisible, forgettable. In NIGHT we got those terrifying needle-drop cues; DAWN showcased the more humorous library tracks plus that great Goblin rock; and in DAY we had John Harrison’s eerie, sad calypso synth stuff. SURVIVAL’s score is a mash of ominous doom and screeching string gooses that do the austere imagery (Arv Greywal’s budget-cheating production design is impressive, as are Alex Kavanagh’s effectively redneck zombie getups) little emotional service. Bring back “The Gonk,” George, and all will be forgiven.

Ultimately, this is a rollicking, rambunctious, often hilarious, frequently revolting inversion of genres that could only come from Romero. Is it scary? Well, that’s subjective. Is it the work of a filmmaker who successfully manages to have it all ways, to make the movies he wants to make, to tell the tales he wants to tell and still remain the king of his own orbit? Absolutely. Seen as a stand-alone movie, SURVIVAL OF THE DEAD is a great, eccentric, tightly paced and unconventional film. Viewed as a piece of Romero’s ongoing cinematic puzzle, it’s essential.

05-24-2010, 06:08 PM
Overdue it may be, but I finally got round to watching Survival Of The Dead tonight, and my honest response...?
Poor, essentially.

I am of the opinion that it's difficult at best to make a "bad" zombie film, on the basis that whilst heads are rolling and white walls get splattered, you're at least going to be entertained by the most outlandish and ludicrous of storylines, but in the case of Survival... not so much.
I think Romero, at least since Diary Of The Dead, has required a script editor to step in and assess whether or not something he writes is a wise idea, and whether or not ham-fisted, clunky dialogue has any place in the modern zombie film, especially one helmed by the Grandaddy of the genre.
Survival was inundated with cliche, unconvincing performances, a plot that meandered predictably, and characters who even at their most dislikable weren't interesting or engaging. The isolation of earlier installments forced you to warm to at least one person in the space of 70 minutes, in much the same immediate fashion as you would if suddenly faced with the prospect of befriending strangers in an apocalyptic aftermath. As well as lacking that quality, this film didn't even have the benefit of mystique, formerly located in characters like Ben, Peter, or Sarah (she's typical to a degree, but not slutty, and her dream sequence I find interesting).

Sadly - and it's not a discredit to his vision, I commend anyone still making films into their seventies - I think that Romero has lost the ability to confidently press buttons and create original films within the concept he revolutionised. Other vehicles have arisen since, and given succinct, commentary-driven glimpses into zombie post-apocalypse that Night Of The Living Dead and Dawn Of The Dead were both famous for originally. Even though it was minimalist, Day Of The Dead managed to achieve something similar, from a paranoiac, Reagan-era perspective, bristling with military rape and pillage, capitalist blundering in the form of science, and undercurrents of resigned racial and social inequalities manifesting in despair. In a modern world where those issues are arguably magnified ten-fold, Survival does little to comment or reflect on them. Perhaps that's not what Romero was even trying to do, I don't think he has to make any significant commentary, maybe this was simply supposed to be a Western-esque power-struggle film, but even so, if that's the case the end result was still too reliant on "catchphrase" dialogue and over-familiar tropes, ending up as a zombie movie that somehow manages to shift the attention onto anything but the human reaction to zombies.

There were a few brief scenes I enjoyed, but the attempt to pose questions about zombie eating habits read like a wasted afterthought, and none of the film's events seemed to be more than a succession of really obvious A-Z occurrences...
I'm not sure if Romero has plans for more Dead installments, but I'd tentatively say that the sizeable spaces between Night, Dawn, Day, and the severely underrated "re-imagining" of Night in 1990 might have been beneficial. A "back to the drawing board" approach would serve the series the best I feel.