Movies From the Black Lagoon: Survival of the Dead

Movies From the Black Lagoon
Survival of the Dead - 2010, Rated R
By Tom Doty

You know it's time to check out the latest zombie flick when a Zombie Television show (The Walking Dead) makes the cover of "Entertainment Weekly" and becomes the latest notch in the programming belt for AMC Channel. I am more surprised at the success of AMC as they earned my short-lived ire for putting commercials back on their network (which used to rival TCM for the best place to catch classic cinema).
There were a ton of direct to DVD zombie films to choose from but I decided to go with the Godfather of the genre, George A. Romero. This time out he sets his undead opus on Plum Island, off the coast of Delaware, where a family feud is running so hot that the zombie plague is just background material.
The story begins with the island where we see two families clashing over the best way to cope with the undead dilemma. The O' Flynn's believe that the only good ghoul is a dead one. They realize that their deceased loved ones only see them as lunch choices now and must be put to rest. The Muldoons feel that the dead can be kept (like pets or domestic servants) as long as an alternate food source can be found. Unfortunately they don't wish to debate their issues and instead shoot at each other until Papa O'Flynn is forced to leave the island at gunpoint.
Back on the main land we meet a quintet of National Guardsmen who have opted out of service in order to find a safe place to live out the plague. They have a brief encounter with some college kids who are making a video record of the event (actually the characters are from the previous film 'Diary of the Dead"). The guards are soon scammed into a proposal they hear about on the Internet. Turns out that residents of Plum Island are willing to take survivors to their island paradise from a dock on the mainland.
Turns out that it was a phishing scam, of sorts, cooked up by O'Flynn to bombard Muldoon with survivors. The unhappy guardsmen (and one guardswoman) decide to open fire on O'Flynn and his men when they realize that O'Flynn wants all of their (currently useless) money, which they in turn stole form a bank. This makes for a great action sequence but defending money that is now useless doesn't make for great motivation.
Eventually they all wind up on Plum Island for a showdown with the Muldoons. The resulting firefight is awkwardly staged and leads to several characters (that we have no vested interest in) running away to be killed by the undead. The final shot is reminiscent of Dr Seuss' famous story about the stubborn "Zax." Turns out that a benefit of being undead is that you can take a grudge to the grave and back again.
Despite some good fight sequences this is not a strong entry on Romero's zombie chronicles. The characters come off more as symbols and it robs the story of any impact. That said the special effects are pretty good though a few obvious CGI sequences made me long for the blood and guts approach by the great Tom Savini (who nailed it with 'Dawn of the Dead' and hit even new heights in 'Day of the Dead'). Okay but it appears to be time for Romero to tackle something else.
Best Lines: "You can't save a person who's already dead."
"A man dies, he gets stupid."
"I don't like shooting people I don't know."

Tom Doty occasionally emerges from the Lagoon to check his e-mail and to read to children every Wednesday at 10:30am at Borders in Hagerstown. If you'd like to get a message to him, write to: dotyfox@myactv.net.