Despite the joys of Martin and Monkey Shines, George Romero’s fans shouldn’t be disappointed that the 70-year-old director doesn’t seem to make non-zombie movies anymore. Where each entry in his initial trilogy (Night Of The Living Dead, Dawn Of The Dead, and Day Of The Dead) came out in a different decade, he’s already knocked out two more since his return to the genre, 2005’s Land Of The Dead. While this is possibly due to the relative ease of finding backers for any script with “of the Dead” in the title, 2008’s Diary Of The Dead and his latest, Survival Of The Dead, have been small, independent films with little hope of making a killing: rather than seeking a payday, Romero may have realized there’s little he has to tell us that can’t be said with walking corpses.
Where Diary was another POV horror about young America’s alleged need to document our destruction (personally, I’m not sure anyone running for their life couldn’t be convinced to put the camera down), Survival Of The Dead tackles the relatively under-investigated world of blood feuds between Irish families on remote islands off the coast of Delaware. Seeking sanctuary, a rogue group of US soldiers (briefly seen in Diary) meet up with Patrick O’Flynn, an aging badass of the Boondock Saints variety who invites them back to his home on Plum Island, where rival Seamus Muldoon has been attempting to domesticate the area’s zombie populace, hoping they can be taught to eat horse instead of human. Now the soldiers must dodge gunfire from questionably bred locals as well as the hungry monsters.
If the Boondocks reference got you gagging, you probably shouldn’t bother with this batch of brogues and bullets either (though Romero makes sure to also give us a peace-seeking lass who rides her steed on the green even after death, and as always he makes a distinction between real men and the merely macho). But enthusiasts who can stomach the corny context (inspired by the 1958 western The Big Country) should still enjoy the zombie carnage, with CGI only occasionally replacing the usual gore and goo. Alan Van Sprang isn’t transcendent as team leader Sarge “Nicotine” Crocket (for real), but handles the role well enough that he should be able to leave Canadian TV for Syfy before long. Although far too hackneyed to suggest Romero’s the master of anything (clinging to ancient grievances help no one — pass it on), Survival reaffirms he’s as reliable a proponent as the genre’s got.