McClatchy Newspapers

Forty years after George A. Romero cornered the market on the “Living Dead” (aka “zombies”), horror’s greatest one-trick pony flails, impotently, at the trap his career has been.

“Survival of the Dead” lacks the wit of “Zombieland,” the polish and punch of last winter’s “The Crazies,” a remake of a Romero zombie picture from the ’70s. But it is a fitting companion piece to “Diary of the Dead,” Romero’s own half-hearted, half-based “Blair Witch” riff on his “Living Dead” legacy.

The hurtful truth is that others — many others — have co-opted Romero’s whole living-dead thing and have been doing it with more style than the Pittsburgh zombie auteur is capable of these days.

We pick up the story where “Diary” left off — National Guardsmen, gone rogue after the zombie takeover, are on the road and on the run. Sarge (Alan Van Sprang) leads a cross-section of American fighting folk — Tomboy (Athena Karkanis), Cisco (Stefano DiMatteo), a couple of others — in search of sanctuary from the virus that brings the dead back to life.

A remote island offers that. The first problem with that? Getting there. Then there’s the age-old blood feud between the O’Flynns and the Muldoons, colorful folk who, faith and Obegorrah, never lost their Old Country accents. And then there’s the fact that the virus has shown up on Plum Island as well and that’s part of the feud.

“We’re pootin the dead t’sleep before they poot us to sleep,” one Irishman leprechauns to the soldiers.

The Guardsmen mix it up with the locals, some of whom figure on either “curing” or retaining the living dead in their prior useful lives — farm workers, a postman. That’s what passes for Romero’s social commentary in this film — man’s inhumanity to … zombie.

“Lousy times make lousy people,” one character opines.

And lousy, exhausted subjects make for lousy movies. Romero has flat-out run out of ways to kill the lurching, lumbering zombies — a head shot here, a fire extinguisher blast there. If you’ve seen “28 Days Later” or “Shaun of the Dead” or any Romero film, you’ve seen it. It’s more sexually graphic, more ineptly plotted and staged, more boring than any “Living Dead” film in living memory.

“A man dies,” Sarge says after dispatching one clumsy zombie, “he gets stupid.” And a filmmaker with one movie that he’s allowed to make gets bored — or got bored a long time ago, from the looks of “Survival of the Dead.”


“SURVIVAL OF THE DEAD,” starring Alan Van Sprang, Kathleen Munroe, Devon Bostick and Athena Karkanis. Directed by George A. Romero. Rated R for strong zombie violence/ gore, language and brief sexuality. Running time: 1:30

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