Register  |   Log In  |  
Sign up to our weekly newsletter    
Search   
Empire Magazine and iPad
Follow Me on Pinterest YouTube Tumblr
Empire
Trending On Empire
Star Wars: The Force Awakens Teaser Trailer
The Farewell To Middle-earth Issue
Review Of The Year 2014
Subscribe: Get 12 Issues For £25
Buy the perfect Christmas present this year
Farewell To Middle-earth
Full details of our Peter Jackson-edited issue
Empire Blogs
Cannes Film Festival

Back to all blogs Comment Now

Venice 09: Survival Of The Dead

Posted on Wednesday September 9, 2009, 14:15 by Damon Wise in Cannes Film Festival
Venice 09: Survival Of The Dead

George A Romero's new film Survival Of The Dead crept up on me so fast, I didn't even know it was being made, let alone ready to be shown. In retrospect, that was probably a good thing, as it didn't give me much time to get too excited. To put things into perspective, I love Romero's first three Dead movies and I like Martin an awful lot. His studio work has been a bit hit and miss, and I really wasn't at all gone on Land Of The Dead, simply because it looked too slick and didn't have much to say (ultimately, it was just a gory satire on gated communities). There was also the fact that it had Dennis Hopper and Asia Argento in it; Romero's films have never needed stars, much less those of the knowing, genre kind. Diary Of the Dead, while not exactly a return to form, I enjoyed very much, partly because the killings were far out and effective but mostly because it seemed to be about the modern need to document everything; by setting his story in an age of rolling news, mobile-phone cameras and YouTube, Romero brought something genuinely new to the franchise, and the single-camera, mock-doc conceit was atmospheric and interesting.

There's a nod to Diary in the opening scenes of Survival, which takes place less than a week after the start of the zombie outbreak, when we meet rogue guardsman Sarge (Alan Van Sprang) and his band of deserters. If you saw Diary, you may remember a scene when the filmmakers stop at a roadblock and are robbed at gunpoint by soldiers. Well, here we see that scene from Sarge's point of view, and then off we go with him and his crew as they continue their crimewave. The beginning sets up an interesting point about the zombie attack: it's all very well to shoot them in the brain, but what happens when that zombie used to be a friend? This is a dilemma being faced on the island of Plum, off the coast of Delaware, where two Irish families – the O'Flynns and the Muldoons – have been at war for as long as they can remember. The decades-long feud is made worse by the zombie situation: Patrick O'Flynn (Kenneth Welsh) believes the undead should be eradicated, but Shamus Muldoon (Richard Fitzpatrick) argues that family should be spared, in the hope of finding a cure.

It sounds intriguing, but... read that last part again. Finding a cure? For death? Some of these people are in an advanced state of necrosis, and one small boy is missing half a skull – will there be a cure for that too? It's sad to report that Survival – in which Sarge joins forces with the exiled O'Flynn to take back the island of Plum – is by far the weakest of all six Dead films. Usually, there's some wry social comment lurking beneath the surface of Romero's zombie films, but here it's there all on the surface and it's the zombies themselves that are kept bubbling under (it's often quite easy to forget they're even there). It's ironic that all the other American films here in Venice – The Road, Life After Wartime, The Informant!, even Bad Lieutenant – deal in various ways with the fallout from 9/11 and the recent financial crisis – but Romero's offering is the least provocative of the lot. As an allegory, it's fairly mild, and as a bit of pulp, B-movie schlock, it only just passes muster: the effects are weak and have the CG whiff you once would never get from a Romero movie.

Most damaging of all, the cast really struggle. Now, no Romero star has ever crossed the Academy's radar, but the cast here are very miscast in sketchily written roles. As Sarge, Sprang is two-dimensional, like a sub-prime Wolverine minus Hugh Jackman's glint and charisma. As the love interest (and the woman who reveals the film's woeful twist), Kathleen Monroe is just perfunctory, while Devon Bostick as The Boy (a kid they informally adopt along the way) gives what must be the worst performance in any Romero movie ever – can you even begin to imagine what that's like? Only Kenneth Welsh delivers any kind of nuance of the abrasive O'Flynn.

It's hard to imagine Romero's hardcore fans really embracing this film, because it doesn't even really work as a meta-western, which is what I thought he was setting out to make. Indeed, I get the impression that Romero's heart is more in the western than the horror, and I wish he'd been allowed to explore it with a bit more more money and give that a Romero twist. As it is, it feels rushed and thin, and it's not even as funny in the deadpan way that even Romero's non-zombie movies usually are. To be honest, I think he needs to find a way to recharge his batteries before entering the world of the dead again, which may be sooner than you think, and...

Hmm, wait a minute! World of the dead? George, I've got an idea for you...

Login or register to comment.

Comments

1 Acho
Posted on Wednesday September 9, 2009, 15:10
Is the picture from the film, or journalists struggling to get the right festival pass in the building site Lido?

Log in below, or register to post comments
Username:
Password:
Remember Me:

CATEGORIES

Empire States (440)

Under The Radar (333)

Infinite Lives (92)

Small Screen (57)

Words From The Wise (36)

Cannes 2011 (28)

Off The Wire (24)

Comic-Con 2010 (21)

Casting Couch (2)

Oscars 2011 (1)


RECENT POSTS

Cannes 2011: The Line-Up
By Damon Wise

Venice 09: Mr Nobody
By Damon Wise

Venice 09: A Single Man
By Damon Wise

Venice 09: Survival Of The Dead
By Damon Wise

Venice 09: The Men Who Stare At Goats
By Damon Wise

Venice 09: The Informant!
By Damon Wise

Venice 09: The Horde
By Damon Wise

Venice 09: Oliver Stone's South Of The Border
By Damon Wise

Venice 09: Capitalism, A Love Story
By Damon Wise

Venice 09: My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done?
By Damon Wise


RECENT COMMENTS

Cannes 2011: The Line-Up
"I advise everyone with dress problems to look (Www Voguebuybuy Com) It has the lat"  voguebuybuy
Read comment

Cannes 2011: The line-up
"Didn't even know Drive had been adapted. Been meaning to read it for ages. Yay"  jamesjewell1983
Read comment

Cannes 2011: The line-up
"Is there a reason why these articles cannot be shared on Facebook? Is it "  rgod
Read comment

Clint Eastwood's Changeling Is The Best Of The Festival So Far
"Test on IE"  DJH17
Read comment

Clint Eastwood's Changeling Is The Best Of The Festival So Far
"Test..."  DJH17
Read comment

Venice 09: The Bad Lieutenant!
"Just watched the film and thought it was great. Did not expect that ending that made the film so muc"  Zimbo
Read comment

Venice 09: The Bad Lieutenant!
"ian happy to read that nicholas cage is back on track. he has always been one of my favourite actors"  bellaphoenix
Read comment

Venice 09: My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done?
"sounds like david lynch has directed most of the film.......in which case it should be AMAZING....ho"  FincherFan27
Read comment

Venice 09: A Single Man
"A Single Man sounds great! Knew nothing of it until now really, aside from Tom Ford being director, "  Acho
Read comment

Venice 09: Survival Of The Dead
"Is the picture from the film, or journalists struggling to get the right festival pass in the buildi"  Acho
Read comment


POPULAR POSTS

Picture Of The Day
12 comments

Picture Of The Day
11 comments

Cannes Day Eight: Basterds!
9 comments

Clint Eastwood's Changeling Is The Best Of The Festival So Far
7 comments

Picture Of The Day
6 comments

Cannes 2008: Epilogue
5 comments

Cannes Day Five: Antichrist!
5 comments

Venice 09: The Road
5 comments

Cannes Day Two: Tetro
4 comments

Picture Of The Day
4 comments


BLOGGERS
Damon Wise (298)
Helen O'Hara (181)
James Dyer (86)
Amar Vijay (71)
Ali Plumb (56)
James White (29)
Phil de Semlyen (21)
Owen Williams (21)
Simon Braund (6)
Nev Pierce (3)
Ally Wybrew (2)
Ben Kirby (1)
David Parkinson (1)
Dan Jolin (1)
Ian Nathan (1)

SUBSCRIPTION OFFERS

SAVE UP TO 69% GET 12 ISSUES FOR ONLY £25
Get the best seat in the house by subscribing to the world's biggest movie magazine today. Save up to 69% and every month you'll get exclusive subscriber-only covers, access to the biggest stars and the best news, reviews and behind-the-scenes reports straight from the set. Click here to find the perfect offer for you


CURRENT HIGHLIGHTS
Review Of The Year: 40 Worst Posters Of 2014
One-sheets that you'd rather not have on your wall

Hobbit Q&As: Ian McKellen On Finally Saying Goodbye And Farewell To Gandalf The Grey
Read our exclusive Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies interviews

Review Of 2014: Empire's Interviews Of The Year
Crews! Chan! Chickens?! The chats we loved in 2014...

Gallery: Peter Jackson Prop Art: The Bigiatures
An exclusive look inside the director's secret warehouse

Review Of 2014: The Best TV Moments Of The Year
We celebrate the small screen's biggest scenes

A Day In The Life Of An Orc
Three of Mordor's finest describe life in the Dark Lord’s employ

20 Great Films You (Probably) Didn't See In 2014
The underseen joys and unreleased gems of the last 12 months

Subscribe to Empire magazine
Get 12 Issues Of Empire For Only £25!

Get exclusive subscriber-only covers each month!

Subscribe today

Subscribe to Empire iPad edition
Get The Empire iPad Edition Today

Subscribe and save maney on annual digital subscription

Subscribe today
Buy single issues

Get 12 issues of Empire for just £25!
Get exclusive subscriber-only covers each month Subscribe today!
Empire's Film Studies 101 Series
Everything you ever wanted to know about filmmaking but were afraid to ask...
The Empire iPad Edition
With exclusive extras, interactive features, trailers and much more! Download now
Home  |  News  |  Blogs  |  Reviews  |  Future Films  |  Features  |  Interviews  |  Images  |  Competitions  |  Forum  |  iPad  |  Podcast  |  Magazine Contact Us  |  Empire FAQ  |  Subscribe To Empire  |  Register
© Bauer Consumer Media Ltd  |  Legal Info  |  Editorial Complaints  |  Privacy Policy  |  Bauer Entertainment Network
Bauer Consumer Media Ltd (company number 01176085 and registered address 1 Lincoln Court, Lincoln Road, Peterborough, England PE1 2RF)