Legendary horror director George A. Romero, who created the zombie horror genre with his groundbreaking 1968 NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, sets his sixth chapter off the Delaware coast on Plum Island, which is oddly populated only by members of warring Irish families.
In the new SURVIVAL OF THE DEAD, now playing in theaters, on DVD, and on assorted high-definition digital cable channels (I saw it on HDNet Movies), the O’Flynns, led by patriarch Patrick (Kenneth Welsh), roam the island killing all the zombies, whereas Seamus Muldoon (Richard Fitzpatrick) and his kin are dedicated to imprisoning the living dead until such time as they can be cured. Into their midst come National Guardsmen (Alan Van Sprang as the mercurial Sergeant Crockett appeared in Romero’s previous DIARY OF THE DEAD).
The zombies (called Deadheads here) are the least preposterous characters in the film, though the actors playing the living do a good job adding flavor to the familiar material. While SURVIVAL would have worked better with genre-friendly stars playing the leads (someone along the lines of Dennis Hopper in LAND OF THE DEAD), Canadian veterans Fitzpatrick and Welsh relish the chance to chew some scenery.
Romero directs with his trademark irony and wit (I like the Asian fisherman who fishes for zombie eyes), but it isn’t enough to defeat the fact that the zombie genre is played out. Romero shoots action well, and SURVIVAL may be the best looking of his DEAD films, but he brings nothing new to the table this time, and trading makeup mastery for cheap-looking CGI gore removes the fun of watching craftsmen at work from the equation. I haven’t seen DIARY OF THE DEAD, but SURVIVAL, slick as it is, is the weakest of the Romero DEADs.