The Zombie Rights Campaign Blog

The ZRC Reviews Survival of the Dead

The full review below the cut. Warning: Disturbing images accompany this post

(First, I apologize for the lower quality of these screenshots – I had to resort to slightly Rube Goldbergian methods to get them)

Survival of the Dead marks the 6th film in the Romero Zombie Universe, though chronologically speaking, it probably takes place between Diary of the Dead and Land of the Dead. In Land of the Dead, Romero seemed to be grudgingly holding out the potential for his movie zombies to form their own societies and civilization, one hard-fought victory at a time, in a world full of people who’d rather shoot at them then even consider sharing the planet with their Undead brethren. Diary of the Dead saw a more typical return to form as innocent living people dodge both other ‘survivors’ and the ravenous zombie hordes.

So where does Survival of the Dead fall, in modern Romero terms? Well, it’s hard to say. While it shares some cast members and settings with Diary, Survival of the Dead seems to be less about the desperate quest of fearful humans to avoid the eeeeeeevil zombies, and more a return to the Romero themes of group conflict and infighting, which inevitably lead to doom. In this case, the rise of the zombie population merely serves to bring to a head longstanding conflict amongst two feuding rural families. Instead of being able to come together in common defense (like Zombies always do), these living people quickly lash out at one another over survival strategies. Which, if you think about it, is almost hilariously counterproductive.

The disagreement that sparks their conflict is over what to do with the zombies in their community. You see, these two extended families share a small island off the coast of Delaware. Since it was unconnected with the outside world in the best of times, their isolation buys them respite from the patented Romero zombie mob, whose attention is no doubt fixated elsewhere, on suburban malls and so forth. That only left the ‘problem’ of what to do with their own dearly departed, who had come back from beyond the grave.

Naturally, being a Romero zombie movie, neither option proposed was terribly ZC (Zombie Correct). One clan of rural Irish-Americans (who could only get more Irish if they had green beer and leprechauns) proposes killing all the zombies, aka genocide. The other wants to keep them in chains until they can be ‘trained’ in some manner, and tries various experimental regimens to turn their zombie citizens into manual laborers or disturbing lawn ornaments, depending on your perspective.

Nobody ever stops to think about what the ZOMBIES want. No sir. You crawl back out of the grave and you’re slightly the worse for wear, perhaps a bit peckish, and what do you get? Hostility. Hostility and, depending on whose clutches you fall into, summary execution or confinement as livestock. And yes, they get a bit of mileage out of calling Undead individuals ‘livestock’ in the movie. Har har, Mr. Romero. Har-de-har-har.

Into these rival camps is introduced an agitating element in the form of an AWOL National Guard unit, or what’s left of one, who are fleeing the supposedly zombie-ravaged United States mainland in search of something better. I say ‘supposedly’ because we never see evidence that, in fact, zombies have caused the collapse of Western Civilization, as the living characters seem to assume. As the Guard unit travels down empty highways still brightly lit with streetlamps and clear of traffic, or wanders through parks devoid of the supposedly omnipresent zombies, I have to ask: where is all the destruction? If there has in fact been some sort of civilization destroying war between living and dead, who’s keeping the tv broadcasts on the air, the electricity going, the streetlight bulbs replaced? Who hauled all the cars off the interstate? Even today it takes a while to get broken-down vehicles removed from the shoulder, but post-zombocalypse, it seems nobody has anywhere to go in a hurry. More on that in a moment.

So, the Guardsmen (and woman) arrive on scenic Plum Island and get caught in a civil war amongst the local yokels. The Guard unit fall largely on the ‘kill em all’ side of the Zombie Question, and find allies readily enough amongst their counterparts from Plum Island. Eventually the fighting comes to a head with a gruesome experiment where the marginally less Anti-Zombie faction captures the Rabidly Anti-Zombie people and stakes their freedom on an ‘experiment’: coercing a hungry zombie into eating a horse.

Seriously. That’s how you can tell if the zombies will cooperate with your new world order, seeing if they’ll eat horse. Not just horse, but living, breathing, err, raw horse.

Did anyone ever stop to think that *living* Americans rarely eat horse? Why would Zombie-Americans suddenly chow down on equine entrees? Oh, I get it; Zombies have no standards. They’d already tried raw pig and that didn’t work, so now it’s on to raw horse. Perhaps the zombies would be more cooperative if you offered to COOK their food? At least to a nice medium-rare. And what’s with the lack of condiments? Would it kill you to prepare an appetizer? Hmm?

Apparently a civil dinner party is too much to ask, and so the zombies in the movie naturally rebel against their grotesquely unfair treatment, which leads to the climactic zombie fight that the majority of Romero’s audience has probably been waiting for since the opening credits. Eventually a small group of the survivors makes their way off the island, setting up what imdb claims will be a final film in the Romero zombie genre. Roll end credits.

George Romero has regrettably taken us down another feature-length excusion into the worst of Anti-Zombie prejudice while teaching a variant on the same lesson he’s been trying to beat into the public consciousness since the mid-twentieth century: people have to work together for survival.

Unfortunately, the stick he employs to scare people into doing so is the fear of being devoured alive by other people. People who, through no fault of their own, happen to have a body temperature identical to the local ambient one. People who might be a little too pale for Romero’s taste, or have suffered injuries before their untimely deaths, or otherwise look too ‘Undead’ to be allowed in polite society.

What have these Zombies done to deserve such ill-treatment, such scorn? I would put it to you that they have done nothing, and that Mr. Romero knows it. Why else do we only see the aftermath of the so-called Zombie-apocalypse? If zombies rule the earth now, as Romero claims, and are also vicious and mindless drones, as he further claims, who is keeping the world so neat and clean? Who keeps the lights on, the entertainment products on the air, even as they bash the Differently Animated? Who’s supplying gasoline to the stations that fuel the vehicles that carry this flight from the ‘ruins’?

It must be the Zombies. Doesn’t that put things in a different light? It seems that, rather than being brave and noble survivors fleeing the Fall of Man, these are recalcitrant individuals who can’t stand being an ethnic, or perhaps endothermic, minority. You may have heard of the phenomenon of ‘White Flight’; this is ‘Live Flight’. Living people too consumed with their Anti-Zombie prejudice to even try to coexist with their Differently Animated neighors.

Which is just fine with George Romero, who indulges them, and their ideological cohorts in the audience, with his Lifest, Escapist fantasy of gore and violence.

George Romero lacks a heart for anyone who lacks a heartbeat.

The exploitation of the Differently Animated reaches new lows in this movie, as Romero even stoops to using Zombie Child Slavery to entertain the Zombie-hating public. Produced below are some shocking images from the film. We at the ZRC would warn our more sensitive audience members that these images are not for the faint of heart; viewer discretion is advised.


Here we see the ‘best’ fate a Zombie can hope for in Survival of the Dead: incarceration, forever held in chains, without access to adequate food and water, let alone proper toilet facilities. Shocking.


In this photo you can see a poor, abused Zombie Girl who has been chained to her bed. I ask you, ZRC readers, what could any child do to deserve such ill-treatment?


Finally, here you can see that this poor Zombie Boy has been left not only shackled but with unattended wounds. In fairness it must be noted that many Zombies have to deal with wounds; our own Tim’s headwound leaks from time to time, as can be seen on our ZRC t-shirt. These wounds are often a sore subject with Zombies, being used as an excuse for denying them civil rights. Here, however, we know that this Zombie is not receiving proper medical attention, or even a regular change of garments or dressings for his injury. Instead he sits lashed to a bed while his Zombie sister looks on in horror.

For shame, Romero. Abusing Zombie children for a bigger box-office take? For shame. Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?

And what about the audience? The ZRC reviewed this movie because it’s our job to do so, no matter how distasteful. But why is it even acceptable to market such a thing? Not even in some seedy video store or black market, but directly into American homes, in this case via a gaming console? What does it say about our society that such material is so readily accessible, so acceptable to the mainstream? What about the Zombie children playing their Xboxes? Who’s going to protect them?

Won’t somebody please think of the Zombie Children?

The Zombie Rights Campaign will. We hope you’ll join us in the ongoing struggle to reject these hateful stereotypes and movies like Survival of the Dead that peddle them, as well as the self-perpetuating prophecy that the only way to survive Zombies is by conquering them with violence.

Until next time, I say again: for shame, George Romero. For shame.

About The Author

The role of 'Administrator' will be played tonight by John Sears, currently serving as President of The Zombie Rights Campaign.


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