Another year, another George Romero Dead film. But wait, there’s plenty to delight in his sixth zombie eat-’em-up, which follows a rogue group of soldiers who come between warring clans on an isolated island. The tone this time out is primarily comic: The patriarchs of the feuding families, Patrick O’Flynn (Welsh) and Seamus Muldoon (Richard Fitzpatrick), wield dynamite and blow buckshot like Looney Tunes adversaries, and they’ll be damned if some pesky staggering corpses are gonna stop them. Caught in the middle are Sarge “Nicotine” Crocket (Van Sprang) and his devoted F Troop, who just want a cadaverless place to kick back and wait out the plague.
Romero’s more recent Dead (Land of..., Diary of...) have tended to spell out their subtext, not always detrimentally. The surprising thing here is that he focuses on story first, and allows the themes to remain tantalizingly cloaked underneath the cartoon surface—the film doesn’t die if you see only Tom and Jerry instead of Israel and Palestine. Survival of the Dead’s formal qualities are beautifully B-movie: Two lateral tracks through an autumnal forest recall several of the lyrical compositions in Romero’s underrated The Crazies, and the film’s final image is a mythopoetic doozy, hilarious and humbling all at once.—Keith Uhlich
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