Toronto Mini: 'Survival Of The Dead' returns some glory to Romero's zombie saga
I've had a great experience with the Midnight Madness programming at this year's Toronto International Film Festival, and I feel lucky that I finally got a chance to see what it's all about. Colin Geddes has proven to be a wonderful MC for a week's worth of genre gems. I'm praying I make it to [REC] 2 review at midnight tonight, my last night in town. Even if I don't, though, I got three midnight movies in a row, with the final one being Saturday's screening of "George A. Romero's Survival Of The Dead," which is not related to his early films, but which is a direct sequel to the last one he made, "Diary Of The Dead.'
I didn't like that film much. I thought the "shooting a documentary" framework was miserable, and the movie kept driving by other better films. The Amish dude with the dynamite, the warehouse full of people... those were great little sequences. There was also that great roadside stop by the military dudes who just took what they wanted and split. Well, this time, Romero made the story of what happened to those military guys. Both before and after that moment in the RV with the "Diary" kids. So part of me is delighted that those other better movies I complained we drove by in the first film might actually end up as individual movies, starting with this one. Great idea, and if that is the case, "Diary Of The Dead" gets a little better in my book for sheer chutzpah at setting up a series.
This one's a little bit wacko, but that's what I like about it. Set on Plum Island, off the New England coast, this is the story of a pair of families, locked in eternal feud, who finally destroy each other by fighting over stupid shit. In this case, zombies.
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The film's not particularly scary, and the gore alternates between some bad CGI gore and some really good on-set red meat. Just depends on the moment. What I liked about it is how 2/3 of the film is character drama, and the zombies are punctuation marks, not the entire purpose of the film. Romero just keeps finding new ways to bend the metaphor, and you can take this as a bit of a comment on battles like The Irish Troubles, ongoing arguments that eventually just become about the battle itself.
There are plenty of clever set pieces and some nice performances in the film, and although hardcore horror freaks might be a little put off by the pace or the humor, it's a very solid, entertaining Romero film overall, and well worth one more trip to Zombietown.