Sunday, March 20, 2011

Survival of the Dead

It being on Netflix (which I finally broke down and bought two weeks ago), I finally saw it.

I guess I should lead with the good news: not as bad as many reviews indicated. Doesn't make your eyes bleed or cause cancer.

On the plus side: gorgeous filming and composition of shots. The fall colors, the ocean, the horse - all were breathtaking. Decent acting by horror movie standards. The mercy-killing scenes were really quite emotional.

On the big side of minuses: the foregrounding of family dysfunction while zombies mill around outside has been part of Romero's work since NIGHT. But this seemed to take it to a ridiculous extreme. (And with no real justification for it - we're totally left to imagine what set this off.) The action sequences were way too slapstick: comedy wasn't sprinkled in to make the gore more shocking - every kill had to be the most ridiculous, Road Runner type absurdity that could be imagined. And each fight scene follows on a scene of emotional suspense, so the tone is wildly uneven and frutstrating. And tactical things just didn't make sense (even by horror movie standards). In the space of a couple minutes, a group of five armed people in a zombie infested world splits into five individuals in a way that leaves you yelling at the TV. And perhaps most frustrating to me, Romero takes something that he nods to several times in other films (DAWN and LAND for certain) - the valuelessness of paper money in this scenario - and makes it a central plot device. Why in the world would the protagonists be so obsessed with it at the end of the film, having undergone everything they have, and even highlight it in the final voiceover? If the point is that they are so shallow and stupid as to still value paper money, then it just contributes to another deep problem Romero has (esp in DIARY) - unlikeable protagonists. But by the end I'd started to think maybe the survivors were better, and then I get hit with that.

So I have to say, in conclusion: if family dysfunction in front of a zombie apocalypse backdrop is what you're looking for (and I think it's a fine, interesting, engaging scenario), THE WALKING DEAD is just doing it so much better than this. If it's undead comedy, SHAUN OF THE DEAD or ZOMBIELAND does it much better. If it's social criticism, then DAWN is the best, but others have followed suit. This is just a weird confusion of all those, and it leaves you frustrated and shaking your head.


Blogger Virtual Stranger said...

As far as the money goes, I think that's supposed to be indicating the "when all this is over we'll be rich" mentality.

Diary and Survival are a reboot of Romero's zombie universe, not a continuation. Timeline-wise, it's only been a month or two since the dead started to rise. Heck, there's still internet service and talk shows. It's not surprising some people would still be conviced someday soon money will be worth something again.

1:37 AM  
Blogger KPaffenroth said...

if it were a villain, like Kaufman in LAND, or even if it were just a throwaway line like in DAWN, or symbolic as in DAY (where money's just briefly seen blowing around) then I could accept it.

10:57 AM  

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