Thursday, October 21, 2010

Searing Intestinal Cramps of the Dead

So the other night Gabriel and I watched the new Romero zombie flick, Survival of the Dead. What's my reaction? Well, I've rarely envied the decaying creatures in the film when their heads explode from a shotgun blast, but this outing just may have done it. I wasn't a particular fan of Land of the Dead, though it had a moment or two, and Diary of the Dead was no opus, though it added a new element or two to the tried and true formula. But either of those films were Night of the Magnificently Dead Ambersons compared to this. The DVD starts with George Romero telling us that this particular bit of dead cinema is going to have elements of comedy as well as horror. Speaking as someone who writes stuff for a living, I can vouch for the fact that this usually means "hey, some of this is intentionally funny, so feel free to laugh when you get to those obvious spots." Right there I assumed there might be trouble, as such things should come out of the material naturally, not as a caveat from the director before the festivities.

The plot revolves around a place called Plum Island, Delaware, where two feuding families, the O'Flynns and the Muldoons, are having a disagreement over whether the dead should be shot through the head and dispatched, or kept around like family heirlooms. No, I'm not kidding. Just imagine the guys on American Pickers saying "Hey, how much for Grampa's animated corpse?" As if the premise weren't enough, these two clans are not just Irish; they're Irishy-Irish, with Irish trimming. When they're not hunting zombies (or making up a place for them at the dinner table), they've GOT to be out keeping kids from their Lucky Charms. The accents flow thicker than Brock Lesnar's neck. No, I'm not sure why this island in Delaware is some sort of Land that Time Forgot for the fighting Irish, any more that I'm sure George Romero has ever even been to Delaware. But that's what we're given, so go with it.

And there's gore, of course, as that's what we're expecting, but it's a fairly goofy grade of gore for a Romero flick (at one point a head gets blown off, and the hat comes back down and lands on the bloody stump of the neck). But what it DOESN'T have is much of a plot, beyond the fact that one of the feuding families wants to try to teach the undead to eat non-human meat (in this case a horse).

And therein lies part of the problem. Generally speaking, zombie movies have a tradition of the zombie menace/virus/curse/whatever spreading through humans. And there's a good reason for that. Think about it; if it could be spread by other animals, mosquitoes and other insects would convert everyone on earth in a matter of days. Or, even if it were confined to mammals, think about all the mice, rats, etc. out there. There's NOWHERE you could be safe for any length of time. No, it's been restricted to homo sapiens for a pretty darn good reason, plot-wise.

But if zombies are suddenly willing to treat my friend Flicka as their next Happy Meal, there's a pretty good chance that animals could carry the dead-factor, too. And even if they couldn't, the logic of it makes no real sense. Why would they have to TEACH a zombie to eat a horse rather than a human? The hunger is either there or its not.

While I'm at it, by the way, if zombies are NOT interested in eating animals, why aren't the streets overrun with our furry friends? In Indiana, for example, we have to have an active hunting season to keep the deer population manageable, and even then we're constantly hitting the overflow with our cars. So if suddenly most of the population are zombies and no longer interested in Bambi, why aren't there deer hopping around in the background of every scene?

And criminy, George, I know directors have themes that are central to their work, but you've beaten the soldier and Cletus horse until even your zombies can't resurrect him. We get it: you don't like rednecks or the military. We've heard it in every undead flick you've ever made. By your reckoning, the earth's only salvation is going to be college professors living on the coasts. Oh, wait, they won't have the prerequisite guns; I hope they know how to take out a zombie with a Meerschaum pipe and a copy of the New Republic.

Anyway, if you're looking for a top-notch zombie epic, you'll probably be better off waiting for AMC's adaptation of The Walking Dead, starting on Halloween. I'm pretty sure it won't have dialog like Sarge "Nicotine" Crockett saying "In an us versus them world, pretty soon no one remembers who started the war in the first place, and the fighting becomes all about these stupid flags." Tune in for the next installment, "Moral Equivalency of the Dead!"