Forewarned is fore-armed and perhaps that's the best way to view George Romero's latest zombie flick SURVIVAL OF THE DEAD. One always hopes for another classic of the same stature as NIGHT, DAWN, or even DAY OF THE LIVING DEAD but audiences should cut the guy a little slack and realize that no one can give them what they want every time out of the starting gate. I went into this flick expecting something that was absolutely unwatchable, and what I got was a film that (had it been from any other director) would have been regarded as an entertaining, effective horror flick. Romero however suffers from being judged by other standards. But what of the film? Just some random thoughts there.
In SURVIVAL Romero picks up temporally where DIARY OF THE DEAD left off since the story takes place approximately 6 days after the events depicted in that film. But thematically it harkens back to both NIGHT and LAND OF THE DEAD. At the finale of LAND OF THE DEAD his zombies pull a Garbo, stalking off into the darkness, wanting nothing more than to be left alone. Unfortunately this raises the question of how they can possibly separate themselves from human beings when they depend upon them for their food source. In SURVIVAL Romero seems to be laying a foundation that will deal with this troublesome matter. But I found the greatest references in this film to be to NOTLD because it was in that seminal film that Romero first presented his human beings as having the potential to be greater monsters than the zombies who were only fulfilling a new biological imperative to eat their own kind. The human beings on the other hand were engaged in meaningless struggles for equally meaningless power from the first moment that Ben and Harry faced off in that deserted farm house-- Power struggles that actually caused their deaths. SURVIVAL's entire plot is built around the struggle for power between the patriarchs of two Irish clans on isolated Plum Island, and, as in NOTLD, this struggle for power causes everything to end tragically--although in the case of SURVIVAL it also serves to set up another potential film.
Romero seems to be saying that while his zombies can evolve, we human beings are doomed to repeat our self-destructive behavior endlessly. If we aren't engaged in power struggles, doggedly determined to prove ourselves right no matter what the cost, then we're sadistic rednecks merrily engaged in torturing the undead just for fun--another recurring theme in his flix that has become magnified over the course of the series. It seems a very pessimistic view of America (if not the world) but a quick peek at American politics serves to re-enforce that view. Who can forget Rush Limbaugh's statement that he wanted President Obama to fail, especially when you combine that with the Republican party's determination to oppose everything the Democrats propose? It can't help but make me think of Ben and Harry in the farm house surrounded by ravenous zombies. And Harry just has to have it his way.
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