Survival of the Dead Review

The Film

As the horror genre's allegory of choice, the rather slow moving vehicle of the zombie has been flogged to death in recent years. Some of the plethora of gutmunching comment has booked this trend; the Iraq analogies in a film like 28 Weeks Later, for instance, and the work of the daddy of this trend in both Land of the Dead and, most recently, Diary of the Dead. George A Romero's recent films have considered the modern trends of gated communities for the rich and the nature of the new media of virals and information control whilst offering plenty of horror and action.
If you come to Romero's films interested in what else he has to say using the medium of the living dead then he has offered a lot in his career that would keep you occupied. For a viewer like myself, this has been the primary value of his work, and I have enjoyed his pinko politics all the more because they are rarely expressed in modern American cinema.

The best of Romero's work has also included a sense of reflectiveness on the medium of film itself. The digital filming of Diary of the Dead, the use of montage in Dawn of the Dead, and the constant thematic references to news media - all of these elements have enriched what Romero first achieves as simple entertainment. In his latest film, he takes the route of using the tale of zombie apocalypse to fashion a western, and he follows incidental characters from Diary of the Dead in possibly his first direct sequel.

The free camera-work of Diary of the Dead is replaced by a less modern and more static cinematography and mode of editing in Survival of the Dead. Similarly traditional is the narrative that considers a classically western territorial dispute between Irish American clans, and which really serves as an excuse to follow the paths of directors like Ford and Hawks in their classic explorations of the formation of modern America. Romero may use zombies but he is still interested in the landscapes, the sectarianism and the lawlessness of the wild west.
So Survival of the Dead is thematically and technically a quite conservative film, and watching it I was surprised at how the traditional mode of film-making subsumed Romero's normal liberal intelligence. In fact, Survival of the Dead felt very much like an unsuccessful splicing of playing to the fan-base whilst attempting to amuse the director himself in his genre adventure.

There are new novel zombie deaths, there is the kind of black humour that gore fans love and there is mild attempts at a humanist message. There are scenes of horse-riding across lush backgrounds, there are gunfights and lots of good old boys and some spunky women. Yet, Survival of the Dead fails to achieve much with either track of this two pronged attack on the audience, it feels too small in scale to represent the sheer size of a western, and not intriguing or political enough as a zombie film.
I am very indulgent of Romero, but Survival of the Dead felt under-resourced, under-written and simply underwhelming.

Technical Specs

Digitally shot, Survival of the Dead is given a barebones region B locked BD25 to fill. The transfer's filesize is 22.5GB and is presented at the OAR of 2.35:1 with a AVC/MPEG 4 encode, a framerate of 23.98 per second, and two lossless audio options. The disc itself has a spartan menu and this is indeed a no-frills release.

The transfer yields an image which carries a bluish hue throughout and has far from inky blacks and a generally weak treatment of dark colours with much speckling and dancing pixels in brighter scenes. Contours are natural though and I think that the hot skin-tones are deliberate, and I must say that not every sequence suffers from the issues I mention. From my perspective, I am unsure how much of the quality of the image is down to problems with the source or compression, so I have marked it as average.
The choice of two lossless options is very welcome. I listened to the film mainly using the DTS track, occasionally switching to the LPCM track, and I would say I preferred having the surround mix more. Coverage around the speakers is good and pretty unfussy with effects mixed where they should be and music created from all of the channels. This isn't a particularly elaborate sound mix and there is simple use of the LFE track for rumble and blasts, but given the intention to make a horror western in a classic mode this seems very appropriate.

As I said before, no extras, nada, zilch...


It's a Romero film but not an impressive one. This blu-ray has mixed image quality but two lossless audio mixes.

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