Thursday, October 14, 2010

Ryan Watches A Motion Picture #64: Survival of the Dead (2009)

Oh! Who put this neck here?

The original Dawn of the Dead is one of my favourite films of all time. I've got a lot of respect for Romero as a filmmaker. But I can't follow him into his newer works.

The problem with Romero films (and they get progressively worse for this as he gets older) is that they don't seem to be terribly well-reasoned. As time as peeled away, he seems less and less interested in making sense and more and more interested in being unfunny. He likes to throw things away so he can have a silly scene now and again, things like logic, physics, reasonable human behaviour, consistent character. You kind of need these for movies to be somewhat believable and worth investing in. Not always, but usually. Normally this tendency is forgivable in a comedy, but that is dependent on your comedy not SUCKING. Unfortunately, as GenXMike pointed out to me, Romero has the sense of humour of a 70 year old man. Probably because he's 70. Somehow, this works to give him the comedic sensibility of a 10 year old boy.

I can never quite accept just how often people refuse to shoot someone they know, either friend or family, that is clearly a zombie. Now, I know that I can't quite say just how a person would react in a horrific and zombie related crisis, but to my mind, if people were faced with a 100 percent lethal and highly contagious plague that caused the infected to attack and kill the uninfected with abandon, they would have little trouble pulling a trigger. Society has collapsed. You can't let an infected person to touch you or your loved ones. You also don't want one of your loved ones to devour another one of your loved ones. Everyone in this film has seen what a zombie will do. You'll pull the trigger.

But we get an island community that's torn down the middle and fighting amongst themselves as to whether or it's kosher to put down the zombies that are clearly trying to eat them. It's the reasonable "We should make sure they don't kill us." people vs. the crazy "They're human beings even if they're dead!" people. The big ethical question is whether or not we should kill all the zombies or teach them to eat something that isn't us. Again, it's a no-brainer. Put down dangerous infected corpses or spend all of our time keeping them penned up and fed with fresh animals. Sarcasm will here be shown in bold. Gee! We best do the latter! I just can't bear to see these lovable shambling horrors killed!

Oi. Onto the characters. They're pretty annoying. Particularly the tech-obsessed emo teenager wearing his headphones around his neck (in a zombie apocalypse) and surfing the web on his iPhone. I guess society hasn't entirely collapsed. The kid seems to be a crack shot with a pistol for some reason. Then there's the embarrassingly horny lesbian soldier that can't keep her hand out of her pants.

The film wastes most of its time on a ridiculous feud between two Irish families, and all drama is weightless and forced. There is also, sadly, a serious lack of zombie action. When the zombies are there, they're actually pretty non-threatening. Now, I tend to prefer slow moving zombies to the modern fast type, so it's not that. It's the fact that you can apparently just push a zombie around and kill them gingerly. When a zombie does get someone, it's played up for its comedy so lamely that Romero is effectively de-horrorising his own genre. He's making zombies a joke, and I can only assume it's out of some kind of spite. Spite not for fans, but for something I can't quite place. Spite for the film industry? I have the sneaking suspicion that he has spite for filmmaking in general. That he hates the money and the teeth-pulling, so he goofs around on screen. Or madness over the fact that there are a great many 'of the dead' films and he owns very few of them. In the special features he seems absolutely exasperated about filmmaking, and laments about what a slog through horrible conditions his film productions tend to be.

So: Poorly reasoned. Not funny. Excruciatingly boring. Reeks of Canadian mediocrity.

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