I love George A Romero- I love Night and Dawn and Day and even Land. Diary had it's moments as well. His latest, Survival of the Dead is the first of his Zombie opus that left me cold. Gone are the scares, the feeling, the social commentary. What we are left with is a poorly paced, kind of confusing film that adds almost nothing to the genre.
I say almost nothing because Romero does pay homage to the Westerns he loves and, oddly, the Hatfields and McCoys. Somewhere in all this are Zombies, who are treated as nothing more than annoying distractions.
The rogue National Guardsman (seen briefly in Diary of the Dead) are looking for somewhere isolated to sit out the apocalypse. They see a You-Tube type video posted by some old Irishman inviting them to come to "Plum Island" off the coast of Delaware. Little do they know that the Irishman, O'Flynn, is a castoff from the island and is only inviting strangers there to piss off his arch rival, Muldoon. See, the O'Flynns and Muldoons have been the only two families to inhabit Plum Island for, well, ever as far as I can tell. They are also bitter rivals. They all also speak with Irish accents which is strange because they have lived here for so long. And who do they mate with? Each other? These are the kind of questions that distracted me from the zombie action.
The Guardsman, accompanied by O'Flynn, arrive on the island to find Zombies chained to post, brainlessly going through the motions of what they used to do in their "living" life (a concept introduced in Land of the Dead.) Muldoon, who now runs the island, is against killing the zombies. He wants to "rehabilitate" them, to teach them to eat something other than human flesh. O'Flynn just wants to kill them, even kinfolk, and make the island a haven for the living. I am with O'Flynn, as are the Guardsman. Muldoon will have none of it, and we are treated to a good old fashioned Western shoot-out with the added bonus of slow-moving zombies.
Problems are numerous. We really don't get to know any of the characters that well to care about them. Even the Guardsman, who we know from the previous film, seem like nothing more than zombie fodder. The pacing is terrible. The great shoot-out at the end goes on and on. It's a relief when the zombies finally start eating people, but even that sequence goes on too long. Romero also relies heavily on CGI, which is understandable given the budget and time constraints. The only problem is that it is bad CGI: totally unbelievable. Good things about the flick: the Cinematography is amazing: Plum Island is beautiful: I would go there for the zombie apocalypse. There are a few interesting set pieces, such as the zombies in the cars, but even that seems ripped off from Max Brook's "World War Z."
The biggest problem: the film is not scary. I had nary a zombie nightmare last night. Even Diary gave me a nightmare. I still love Romero however, and I will keep seeing whatever he throws our way.