Friday, May 27, 2011

REVIEW: Survival of the Dead (2009)

You know…I am very rarely surprised. Few things manage to truly shock me. But this film…oh, this film has managed such a feat. People paid money for this? People actually sat through this movie in the theater without foaming with rage? The producers actually put their names on it? George Romero…oh, God, man; what happened? I…I just can’t…

Alright, I’ve got to collect myself. It is my duty as a film reviewer to, well, review the movie I just sat through. Even though the film in question made me physically sick, turned my bowels to ash and probably scarred my psyche for life…I must persevere. This is Survival of the Dead.

Director: George Romero
Starring: Alan Van Sprang, Kenneth Welsh

"There's nothing wrong with my children."
-The hopeless pursuit of delusions

Last year I reviewed another George Romero gemstone titled Land of the Dead. It was a terribly incompetent, stumbling, pretentious mess of a movie that pretty much made me want to throw it into the incinerator. But I guess I decided I hadn’t punished myself enough yet, because here I am reviewing another one. Hey, kids; who wants to see a great horror director from the old days putting out embarrassing and senile junk that will only serve to completely destroy his entire legacy once time only remembers these films?

Well, too bad.

The movie begins like all great zombie films do, with pretentious narration, by a guy who is clearly delusional enough to think that we want to hear what he has to say. He gives a bunch of statistics about how many people die every year - yeah, good job, you can use Wikipedia. Do you want a medal? We then cut to an island about a week after the zombie plague first started – oh, good; I was waiting for a generic flashback sequence cut-and-pasted into the movie’s pacing like every other film ever made these days. I’m glad this movie has my back.

So, yeah, apparently there’s a bunch of idiots who go around like they’re hunting witches in Salem, trying to kill off zombies. They are lead by an insane old man named Patrick O’Flynn, who keeps arguing with his daughter about the danger of what they’re doing. They approach a woman and her husband, whose kids have been zombified, but the parents don’t want to give them up. The woman says that her kids are completely normal.

Someone call child support!

Uh…no, lady. No, they’re not. If you have to keep your kids handcuffed to their beds…they’re not normal. I don’t know how I can say this any plainer.

So there’s this whole thing with this other group of gun-toting rebels, this time fighting to save the zombies. There WAS a zombie rights activist group; I was right in the Land of the Dead review after all! But seriously, this is stupid and I already went over the reasons why in the first review, so let’s just move on. There are MUCH worse things to talk about in this review! Basically what happens is that the leader of the other group makes O’Flynn leave the island for his crimes, although his daughter and most of his followers stay behind.

Then we see the narrator and his army-camoflage-suit-wearing buddies, and we can tell they’re badasses because they’re wearing those clothes. Great characterization there, movie. One of them is watching this TV show where a guy says the following joke: “Why are zombies good at giving head? BECAUSE THEY EAT ANYTHING IN FRONT OF THEM!”

Sad as it is, this show is probably more entertaining than the movie we're watching.

…this joke might seem relatively harmless at first, but just remember that it was given the thumbs-up by the same man who once delivered such witty, cutting-edge social commentary as Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead. Now he’s making jokes about zombies giving head. I think this is the point where you’ll all agree with me that the film takes a plunge off a cliff. I’ll give you a moment to weep.

Done? OK. So they all come across this other group of mercenaries, and our leading John Leguizamo stand-in finds that they’ve stuck a bunch of zombie’s heads on pikes. After killing them mercifully, because he is a pious soul, the Leguizamo stand-in and his buddies all slaughter the other mercenaries…why? Well, clearly it’s because…no, wait. I got nothing. There is no reason they should have killed these guys. They do pick up an annoying kid with slicker hair than many 90s emo kids, though. I guess that’s payment, especially because all he ever does is say witty and hilarious things to lighten the mood. Which is tantamount to having a clown walking around at a concentration camp. An unfunny one, at that!

Tonight, the All-Head Choir, everybody! I think they're gonna perform "Don't Stop Believin'" next.

Oh, wait, did I mention that they’re not even called zombies in this movie? They’re called deadheads. Because apparently Romero got so drunk that he couldn’t even remember the name of the horror movie monster he himself popularized so long ago. That’s the level of incompetence we’re working with here. It’s so bad that it’s like if you had a vampire movie where they were called ‘bloodheads’ or something, or a werewolf one where you called them ‘fangheads.’ How is ‘zombie’ not a perfectly OK term?

Sigh. Then we see a fisherman saying he’s got a big one, only to pull up a zombie from the water. He shoots and kills it, pulling back his fishing rod only to catch another zombie from the completely opposite direction. This isn’t like one of those crane games, you know. The main characters eventually arrive only to find that they’ve been set up for a trap by that old guy from the witchhunting zombie-assault squad at the beginning, who has lined the road with dynamite. How did they drive up intact in the first place and not blow up? I don’t know, and neither does the movie.

"He doesn't have gills, but I'm Asian. I can eat him anyway and my digestive system still won't be any worse for it!"

What follows is pretty much a Looney Tunes cartoon. I’m not even exaggerating; it’s like a really bad Looney Tunes cartoon. Don’t you just love how they can throw a bomb at a building and have it only blow off the front of the building and lightly singe the people inside? Or how about when one character lights a stick of dynamite and hands it to a zombie’s arm through a crack in the door, then slams the door shut? You know what, forget this; I’m just going to show you Looney Tunes videos. It will be much more productive and interesting than this fifth generation decadent ripoff.

The characters all end up traveling to the island from the beginning of the movie, which is now ruled by the other guy from before, who is called Muldoon. Muldoon apparently likes killing the living and trying to preserve the zombies in case there’s ever a cure. O’Flynn expresses great anger over this, and vows revenge. Then they all sort of split up, where the lead tough chick is kidnapped quite easily, even though she should, by all accounts, be able to fight back, given that she’s part of a special squadron intended to fight off zombies. But nope; once some guy grabs her from behind, all her strength magically disappears.

Meanwhile, there’s another plot going on with O’Flynn’s daughter, who apparently is now a zombie, as they see her riding a horse around like she’s still a human. But it’s OK, because she comes and saves the Leguizamo stand-in after he faints due to being shot, or something. And it’s revealed that the zombie they saw on the horse was actually HER TWIN SISTER. OH MY GOD. CALL M. NIGHT SHYAMALAN, WE HAVE PLOT TWIST OF THE YEAR.

Yeah, I bet Preakness is just pining to get this chick on their roster.

But seriously, her twin sister? You create all that drama and almost have something interesting going by having the daughter be a zombie, and then you just ruin it by saying it was her twin sister the whole time and she’s actually OK? What kind of cheap cop-out is that? Imagine if the Coen Brothers did that in No Country for Old Men. Llewellyn supposedly gets it in the hotel room, but then it turns out it was just his twin brother the whole time, and the real Llewellyn comes out and kills Chigurh and saves the day, and it all ends up happily. Wouldn’t that just be SO MUCH BETTER than having all that pointless drama and interesting plot in the mix?

I’m sorry, this just really bugs me. When was a twin sister mentioned? There was nothing in the opening scenes about her. It just seemed like it was O’Flynn and his one daughter; no other family. So why the stupid plot twist? What purpose does it serve? I’ll tell you – none at all.

So meanwhile, in a contest for stupidest plot ever written in a horror movie, we see the kidnapped chick listening to Muldoon talk. He says that he’s just doing the Lord’s work as he tries to keep the zombies alive, but then, we saw him earlier walking around like a common dictator and calling the zombies retarded, so…I guess this is Romero’s flimsy attempt in this film to try and introduce more social commentary about such RIVETING and EXCITING topics like the hypocrisy of the Church. But it doesn’t work, because I doubt more than 3 minutes of thought between the daily paint thinner-inhaling sessions was really given to any of this.

They kidnap the entire rest of the group by holding the kidnapped chick up in chains as a bunch of zombies swarm around her, and I have to say I don’t get this plan at all. Their plan was to hold her hostage and then threaten her team with the prospect of her being eaten by zombies? Even though the good guys could easily just come in, kill the zombies, save her and then kill Muldoon and all of his followers? Yeah, not exactly very logical, movie.

Oh no! It's not like our heroes have WEAPONS or anything they could be using to save her!

So Muldoon has O’Flynn’s other daughter, the zombified one, locked in a pen, and says that if she eats something non human, she will possibly turn back into a human…? Oh yeah, if zombies eat healthy, I guess, then they’ll be cured! Why didn’t I think of that? It’s like the undead equivalent of a vegetarian bar at a buffet.   

Then one of Muldoon’s guys tries to leave him and join the other side, to which Muldoon takes it very well by SHOOTING HIM IN THE LEG. Nice going. Real devotion to the True Word of God there, you hypocrite. You know; I finally figured out why this doesn’t work as social satire. It’s because for it to be social satire, it would have had to be actually witty and actually try to establish some sort of continuity and structure to it, some sort of underlying message to the joke. This is just poorly written, amateurish slop. It’s the equivalent of having a guy stand outside wearing a sign that says I HATE THE CHURCH, and calling that highbrow satire. Heinous.

So some guy who probably should have been beaten up more as a kid lets out the zombies from their cage, apparently thinking it will help solve the problems going on and, uh, NOT get everyone killed indiscriminately. Fortunately this guy is not in charge of anything. Muldoon and O’Flynn have their final showdown where Muldoon says that all he ever wanted was to hear O’Flynn say that he was wrong about everything and that Muldoon was right. What, is this a second-grade playground?

What this movie basically amounts to in the end.

I mean Jesus, this was Muldoon’s real plan all along? He really talked about all that God crap just as a front to get back at his old enemy in an immature personal quibble? What sense does that make? How did anyone go along with this plan for a second? Were they all brainwashed or something?

People…I am tired of this review. I am SO tired of even thinking about this movie, even acknowledging that it exists. So, not to spoil anything, but about half the cast dies, including the only living daughter, Muldoon, O’Flynn and lots of others who wouldn’t be any good to the human gene pool anyway. The movie pretty much ends with a shot of the zombies eating a horse with one of the other losers voicing over it and saying that maybe Muldoon was right all along, and maybe eating something non-human WILL turn them back into humans.

Oh yeah! Let’s listen to the insane nutjob who brainwashed a whole island of people into believing that it was God’s will to keep the zombies alive just so he could settle a score with his old enemy! Truly HE knows what he’s talking about! I don’t think the zombies are the brain dead ones in this movie, people.

Really, I’m at a loss for words – I just don’t get this movie. What audience were they appealing to? It’s not funny, it’s not scary, the characters are half-formed lumps, the story is confusing…what were they trying to do with this? It doesn’t really accomplish ANYTHING except confusion and disgust, and those two things together are NOT what you want your viewers to feel after watching your movie. Unless it’s a Lars von Trier film. But I digress – this is a bad movie, people; plain and simple. There’s simply nothing about it that makes it worth watching. Not even one scene. But hey, at least…well…nope, actually I can’t think of a ‘but;’ this movie is awful crap made for gibbering retards with no taste, and that’s that.

You should be ashamed of yourself, George Romero. ASHAMED! I’m going to come and give you a piece of my mind…right after I’m done showering to wash off the uncleanness from this movie. Yergh.