For more than four decades, Romero has used the tropes of the zombie movie to reflect on American society: As many have noted, Night of the Living Dead allegorized the social tensions of the ’60s, Dawn of the Dead embodied Me Decade consumerism, Day of the Dead found its horrors in a hyper-Reaganite world without government, and Land of the Dead and Diary of the Dead, in their own ways, reflected on the Iraq War. But Survival of the Dead is the first living-dead installment that feels as if it was made on-demand, without a compelling target. Romero seems invested in finding new weapons for zombie kills—flare gun, barbecue fork—but although he takes on the (for him) marginal challenge of making a zombie Western, he seems uninterested in the actors, the hideous digital videography or the story.
Survival mostly takes place on an island off the coast of Delaware where for some reason everyone speaks with an overwrought Irish brogue. There’s a feud between the O’Flynns and the Muldoons, y’see, who argue over whether to kill their zombie friends or keep them alive in chains as reminders of the past. Our stake in this debate is minimal, which may be the point. At the movie’s Toronto premiere last year, a programmer suggested that the two clans were meant to represent Republicans and Democrats. Romero felt his message was broader, and that it was basically a movie about war. What zombie picture isn’t? This series shouldn’t end with such a putrefying corpse.