When George Romero walked on stage at the Paramount theatre for the introduction to his latest zombie film Survival of the Dead, over 1,000 Fantastic Festers gave the filmmaker not just one, but two standing ovations. If there is any crowd thankful of Romero’s contributions to cinema, it has to be the film fanatics at the Alamo Drafthouse-run genre festival.
And don’t get me wrong, I’m also very grateful of Romero’s body of work, and I’m not going to claim he doesn’t deserve a standing ovation for his past achievements. But I’m getting tired of celebrating Romero’s recent lackluster additions to the Zombie horror subgenre. Romero hasn’t made a good movie since 1985 when the original Day of the Dead was released.
After Zombie films began to resurface in Hollywood, Romero returned to the genre he helped popularize in 2005 with Land of the Dead. His more independent Blair Witch-style Diary of the Dead was one of the worst films I saw at the 2007 Toronto International Film Festival. And his latest film premiered in Toronto, and is being celebrated at Fantastic Fest, and I’m not sure why.
For me, Romero is slowly attempting to ruin the genre he helped to create. With Survival of the Dead, we were promised a Zombie movie on an island, with living dead who can walk under water. Yes, the movie has both an island and underwater zombies, but the story chooses to focus on a generational feud between two Irish families, one which believes we should keep the living dead alive until a cure is found or an alternative zombie food source is discovered, while the rival family believes that all zombies should be killed, including those pesky children zombies (another cool concept that is left unexplored).
Many horror fans were angered when Romero decided to give zombies sophisticated cognitive function in Land of the Dead. And with Survival, Romero continues to alter his original zombie rules further, in ways which will no doubt further anger horror fanatics and impact his other planned Diary of the Dead spin-off films. Which reminds me, who really wants to see more Diary of the Dead spin-offs? Did anyone even like Diary of the Dead?
The film features a couple cool zombie kills, but you have to wade through a lot of lackluster drama with uninteresting characters to find it. The truth of the matter is that not only would I not be writing about this movie if it wasn’t directed Romero, but you would probably never hear about it. Sure, Survival is better than Diary of the Dead, in the same way people left GI Joe saying “at least it was better than Transformers 2.” But at the end of the day, that doesn’t make the film any more worth watching.