Something has caused the dead to rise again and walk the Earth in search of human flesh to feed their insatiable hunger, and with more people dying by the hour, the numbers of the walking dead are increasing with alarming rapidity. What makes things worse is that when the living are bitten, they catch the zombies' disease which only makes it certain that sooner or later the whole of the human race are going to end up shambling and bloodthirsty monsters. But maybe not all: there may not be a cure for whatever is afflicting the planet, but for Sergeant "Nicotine" Crocket (Alan Van Sprang) he is not going to give in without a fight.
This was the sixth zombie movie to be made by cult director George A. Romero, and the second after his attempt to give it a Blair Witch Project-style reboot with Diary of the Dead, a film that was not well received even by many of his diehard fans. The good news was that Survival of the Dead was not as disappointing as Diary, but the bad news was that it was by no means a complete return to form either. Thankfully, the first person, handheld camera method was given up in favour of more conventional storytelling, but the plot was apparent proof that perhaps Romero had said all he had to say with the zombie genre.
He kept battling away at them like a trouper, but aside from one tweak in the usual clichés, this was strictly business as usual, and with every low budget filmmaker wishing to make a splash in the horror field adopting the undead as their ticket to success, it was hard to separate Survival from its contemporaries. There was still that integrity, that bleak examination of humanity through the lens of a cannibal apocalypse, but as the characters were reduced to fighting amongst themselves rather than working out the best way to beat the menace threatening their lives, it was difficult to feel close to any of them. It was solely the heroics the chosen few got up to that distinguished them from those boosting the numbers of the dead.
And the undead, of course. Nicotine has his own band of breakway renegades from the army - they all left when their commanding officer made one too many mistakes that killed off their fellow soldiers - and they start out for some place of safety in an armoured truck. Along the way they pick up a kid (Devon Bostick), whose name we never learn, but puts the idea in their minds that an island could be the ideal location for their refuge, and thanks to the still-working internet they see an ad from Patrick O'Flynn (Kenneth Welsh), who we have already been introduced to in earlier scenes when we saw him banished from his island home over a dispute about how to deal with the flesh-eaters.
So our plucky band head off for that destination, and when they get there they find O'Flynn holding the docks and fending off any would-be intruders, which mainly means shooting the zombies in the head (where do they get all the ammo from by this stage?). After an altercation, O'Flynn joins Nicotine and they sail over on the ferry, pausing briefly to note that although you shouldn't allow zombies to bite you, you shouldn't bite zombies either, and the film turns into a kind of Western, one of those warring clans affairs which brings out the theme of needless division being the main cause for mankind's impending extinction. All this "put aside your differences and it will be so much better for humanity" moralising is all very well, but when the basis for this relies upon anyone realising that zombies can diversify their diets it does have you pondering how that might help, after all, they'd still want human flesh, right? Music by Robert Carli.
American writer/director and one of the most influential figures in modern horror cinema, whose ability to write strong scripts and characters match his penchant for gory chills. The Pittsburgh native began his career directing adverts before making Night of the Living Dead in 1968. This bleak, scary classic ushered in a new era of horror film-making, but Romero struggled initially to follow it up - There's Always Vanilla is a little-seen romantic drama, and Jack's Wife was butchered by its distributor. The Crazies was a flop but still an exciting slice of sci-fi horror, and while the dark vampire drama Martin again made little money but got Romero some of the best reviews of his career and remains the director's personal favourite.