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That’s My Mother You’re Pissing On

By Brian Prisco | Film Reviews | June 8, 2010 | Comments ()


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Which is the greatest desecration of the dead? To piss all over the memory of their achievements by foisting forth a terribly crappy rehashing of their genius entries into the genre? Or to allow them to continue on, shambling forward, sloughing off shoddy shades of their former glory? George Romero has the distinct honor of having not just one of his movies remade but the entire trilogy. I feel like it's disrespectful to trash Romero since he's essentially the granddaddy of the zombie film, if not the founder, or at the very least the one who made them into what they are today. I will always prefer the shambler to the sprinting zombies. Romero was one of the first to recognize that you could slip subtle social commentary into a horror film. Legions of filmmakers followed in his wake, offering commentary on wars and religion and economy as a clever subtext to the splattersploitation. To neglect Romero's legacy is to be one of those punks who try to piss out the eternal flame. And yet, Romero's doing a pretty damn fine job of ruining all of his credibility with the sixth installment in his Dead series Survival of the Dead. What starts off as a seemingly intriguing social commentary and viable concept immediately decomposes into a humiliatingly out of date Hatfield-McCoy romp that not only involves beating a dead horse, but quite literally eating it.

I'm wasting my breath even trying to give a description of the plot or the characters. I'm not going to name any of the actors because you have no fucking idea who they are anyway, other than vaguely recognizing a few of them. Romero doesn't even bother, changing the rank of the one character that merits calling this a sequel to Diary of the Dead. Romero sets up ideas like tin-can targets, but sends them sprawling before we can even get back to the shooting line. Oh look, an interracial lesbian in the army (played by the agent from the Saw movies who got shot in the neck but didn't die but then she did) but I'm going to call her Tomboy and it's not going to matter anyway. Oh look! A rogue squadron of soldiers gone AWOL. Maybe there will be....nope, they're basically a badguy version of the A-Team. Sentient zombies? Could it...sorry, it's going to be about how many different ways Romero can film a zombie death. Which he still does well.

Essentially, we've got an island off the coast of Delaware where two inexplicably Irish-accented families have been warring with each other for years and have managed to scare everyone else away. Team Deadward wants to go around delivering Steven Seagal's Street Justice to the zombies that are springing up, blasting them and any family members that might get in the way with rifles while wearing long-coats like lost extras from "Deadwood." Team Jerkcob wants to save the zombies with the hopes they can be rehabilitated into eating something other than delicious, delicious thoughtmeats. So the leader of Team Jerkcob, who bares a striking resemblance to De Nomolos (the bad guy from Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey and who I shall henceforth dub Diplomatic Immunity (Dip for brevity)) corners the leader of Team Deadward, who resembles a dirty Irishman and who shall henceforth be referred to as Irish Spring (Spring for brevity), in the first of a thousand fucking standoffs where Team Deadward drops their guns and goes away in a boat. Dip banishes Spring forever, so Spring does what comes naturally to old, island-bound revolutionaries: He creates a tourism video on YouTube to rob travelers.

This is where our hero Sergeant Corporal Major General and his band of army misfits: The Lesbian, The Bald One, El Jesus, and some kid also from Saw VI they rescue from the rednecks also at the end of Diary of the Dead -- come into play. Using the magic powers of iPhone, they travel in a Brinks armored truck to the ferry where Spring and his merry bunch of Irish dockworkers break into a gunfight. Oh, and then zombies show up. Oh, "And Then Zombies Show Up" seems to be the "That's What She Said" of this film. Yadda yadda overly formal stilted conversation about honor and doing what's right, someone has a gun, and oh, and Then Zombies Show Up. It's almost like Romero set out to right a weird pseudo allegorical Red Dawn and remembered halfway through the scene he was writing a zombie movie. Wolverines! RUN AWAY!

Confused? So was Romero. I can't even begin to remember or care about what happens after people get on the island. I guess Dip decided his noble efforts to claim heritage to their ancestral Delaware were going awry, and so Team Jerkcob has been killing the people coming over on the ferry. But not the zombies, who they tethered to chains and left to perform repetitive actions of their former selves only on constant six-second loop. Like a zombie mailman who stuffs mail in a mailbox, wanders six steps away and continues the process. (In an already bursting at the seams mailbox. WHERE'S THE MAIL COMING FROM? Z-OMG-BIES!) Or the daughter of Spring who has gone the way of the greenskinned and is now riding around the island on her horse, auditioning for a summer stock version of My Friend Flicka.

I swear to all that is unholy the rest of the film gets somehow worse. And actually involves secret twins and three-way standoffs and that famous trilogy ending torn apart from the middle zombie gorging ol' Romero loves so good. None of the highbrow concepts that are seemingly developed ever come to fruition. The industrial military complex Romero was raging against in Day of the Dead? No, they're the closest we get to good guys. The concept of a sentient zombie? Never bothered with other than a weird kind of parrot sketch winking nod towards the end. It's not as if the patrons of scenic Delaware were doing anything productive or helpful. Science seemed to scare them like Mormons looking at a Girls of Starbucks pin-up calendar.

Romero has lost the ability to make concise social commentary. As flawed and shameful as Diary of the Dead was, at least he was making a valiant effort with the shitty documentary style in commenting on our self-promoting culture. Survival of the Dead promised to be his Dead Reckoning -- where society has become so apathetic it's learned to live with the zombies rather than do anything about it. Instead, it's about nothing, a Seinfeldian response to people who have defended his civil rights photo ending to Night of the Living Dead. If you want to parse Romero's films for meaning, all you're doing is beating a dead horse. And then feeding it to a bunch of zombies. In Delaware.

As a staunch supporter of Romero's genius, it's with sad aplomb I request we saddle up the shotguns and give ol' George the doubletap. It's unnatural is what it is -- watching this loved one shambling around, doddering and lucid, craving what he himself lacks. If he makes another film, I will squee, not with Pajiba-verboten teenage girl delight, but as Jhonen Vasquez intended. I will become a terrified child in footy pajamas waiting for the nightmare to end. The time has come to pass the torch, George Romero. No more rocking for you. We're taking you to a home. In Delaware.







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