George A. Romero gave us plenty of interesting zombie survival locations throughout his “…of the Dead” series. You had a farmhouse in Night of the Living Dead, a mall in Dawn of the Dead, an underground science-military bunker (Day of the Dead), and even an attempted city (called “Fiddler’s Green”) which had the affluent trying to return back to normal (Land of the Dead).Survival of the Dead offers us Plum Island and its feuding families, the O’Flynns and the Muldoons.
1428Romero had dealt with bigots, sexist and racist attitudes, and power struggles. However, when the two parties begin trading barbs and insults here, we’re reminded that sometimes the conflict can involve longstanding family hatred, in addition to specific differences that may transcend conventional identity politics.
On the Muldoon’s side, they are hellbent on following the old ways — in this case, meaning treating zombies as if they still have a chance at being “cured.” In contrast, Patrick O’Flynn (Kenneth Welsh) and his group believe in simply killing the undead, which results in Patrick’s being exiled from their island. This is how the other main characters, a group of National Guardsmen, end up meeting O’Flynn and his crew. Like O’Flynn himself, the Guardsmen, led by Sarge “Nicotine” Crockett (Alan van Sprang), engage in occasional acts of robbery. Upon learning of Plum Island from O’Flynn, the Guardsmen decide it might be a safe place to wait out the zombie apocalypse, but O’Flynn makes clear they could be set upon by the foolish Muldoons.
Survival of the Dead is better than the critics suggest
Obviously, George A. Romero is rightly considered a master of his craft, and not just because he was the first director to create flesh-eating zombies that you shoot in the head. His zombie movies are simply good overall, and Survival of the Dead is actually no exception, in my opinion. Even if I agree that, yes, it’s probably his worst zombie flick, it by no means renders it unwatchable. Probably the biggest, most common critique I’ve seen is that it brings little new to the table. However, take a step back from that critique and think of Westerns in general (and this is sort of a Western).
If you break a film down into nothing but a series of tropes, you probably won’t have as good of a time. In this case, one could just say “Yeah, yeah, a bunch of people and zombies are going to get shot and killed. Big deal!” However, all these years later, I think Survival of the Dead accomplishes a little bit more than that, and, even though it’s a bit goofy, it’s a little bit more insightful and less cornball-gimmicky than something like “Weekend at Bernie’s” (though, I must admit, seeing a zombified Bernie smoking a cigar on the beach could have been a nice twist to that franchise).
The finer points of “Survival of the Dead”
If it’s a man’s duty to remember where his home is, being exiled seems like a real b**ch. Though O’Flynn’s feelings aren’t fully explored in this film, there is a sense that his home is Plum Island, and he is not happy with his treatment. We also know that, in a way, Seamus Muldoon (Richard Fitzpatrick), represents the naïve traditionalist who, despite evidence to the contrary, wants to keep things the way they always were. To an extent, Survival of the Dead offers a unique take on scientific realism versus traditional romanticism.
The families’ festering feud inevitably leads to calls to avenge deaths, and one wonders if running away would be cowardice or simply common sense. It’s also a tragic story because, had they put differences aside, the residents of Plum Island might have been okay. Their living arrangement could have been like an isolated paradise, but instead, it ends up dangerous as a cliff, with tensions demanding someone get killed. Lastly, I want to mention Athena Karkanis as Tomboy, who gives the character a sense of being genuine and hard to define as a “type.”
What are your thoughts on Survival of the Dead? Let us know in the comments!