Title: Survival of the Dead (2009)
Director: George A. Romero
Runtime: 90 minutes

“In an us-versus-them world, someone puts up a flag, another person tears it down and puts up his own. Pretty soon no one remembers what started the war in the first place and the fighting becomes all about those stupid flags.”

Survival of the Dead feels like a cross between the independent filmmaking ideology of Diary of the Dead, and the military character focus and larger scope of Land of the Dead, and this combination works well to end Romero’s Dead series on relatively positive note. Interestingly, though, Survival is often lauded as the worst of the franchise, but I can’t agree with that. This time out we get more interesting characters, and a really neat setting for the majority of our film.

Unlike the rest of the films in this franchise, Survival is a very clear and distinct direct sequel to the film that came before it. This one picks up with a group of characters that we met in Diary. In fact, when this film started, as we met our main character, I knew I recognized him, but couldn’t place how. Then, they show the flashback to Diary of the Dead and I was immediately smiling because this group of people were only in one scene in Diary, but here we get to see where they went from there, which is just a really cool idea. Along with this group of four ex-soldiers, we also are introduced to a Hatfield and McCoy-like situation on the island of Plum. Here, the O’Flynn and the Muldoon families have a very opposite view of how they should handle the dead, and it results in what is essentially a hostile takeover of the island, and a banishment. Our group happens upon the banished O’Flynn, and they make their way to the island where they try to survive not only the zombies, but Muldoon’s clan of men.

We are now about three weeks in to the zombie apocalypse, and trying to find a safe place to hide out is more and more difficult. This is exactly why I love the idea of placing a zombie film on an island, and something I’ve been wanting to see the survivors try throughout this entire series. Instead of focusing in on how this group would survive against the zombies on this island, though, Romero focuses the majority of the action on Muldoon versus O’Flynn, and that does lessen the zombie impact overall. What works, though, are the characters. I enjoyed following along this group of survivors, unlike in Diary, and genuinely wanted them to make it through. The message is also a lot less blunt with every character showing shades of gray instead of being purely good or evil, and that always makes for a more interesting film.

Survival of the Dead is far from the best this franchise has to offer, but it feels more vintage Romero than Diary did, and I appreciated it for that reason. I didn’t like the comedy Romero tosses in because some of it just doesn’t work in this setting, and the CGI looks really bad; worse than Land, frankly, which came out four year prior. This marks the end of George A. Romero’s work on the Dead franchise, but there is another film in the works, written and directed by George’s son, G. Cameron Romero that is supposed to act as a prequel to this whole thing. Personally, I adore this world that Romero has created, so I am really excited to see how it all began, and will definitely check it out once it releases.

That said, it’s very obvious that Romero’s Dead series can be broken up in two sections. The first four films show a progression from one to the next, and create a rich, full universe to enjoy. The final two films are essentially reboots to Romero’s own world, and are much more shallow outings, but still provide some entertaining, if generic, zombie action that die-hards will find worthwhile. As for Survival of the Dead, it’s definitely not a “return to form”, so to speak, of Romero’s classics, but it’s definitely a better film than Diary, and, though flawed, is a fun way to spend ninety minutes.

Featured Image is a portion of the poster released by Mondotees.com.