PITTSBURGH MADE: Survival of the Dead (2009)

The last film in the Living Dead series and the final film George Romero would make before he died in 2017, Survival of the Dead is a movie I’ve avoided for some time. He told Bloody Disgusting, “…the idea was to make a film about war or entities that don’t die, conflicts, disagreements that people can’t resolve, whether it’s Ireland or the Middle East or the Senate…that was the idea. And then I decided that was the best way to depict it. And then I had this other idea about an island would be a logical place for people to go, an idea I sort of played with in some of the other films. So I said OK, the best way to tell this story I think is to have a protagonist go to the island only to find out that it’s in the middle of basically a war that won’t die, between these two old guys. And the moment that came together I remembered The Big Country. And I’m always looking for something different sort of stylistically with these films so that they’re not the same which makes it more interesting for us as filmmakers. All the people on the set, production design, DP, good friends of mine, we sort of work as a big family. So we all sat down and I made everyone watch the big country. And then my thought was “Hey why don’t we go full on with this, go widescreen, not mute the colors, really try to make it look like William Wyler”. So that was something we did as a fun exercise to give it a different taste.”

Filmed in Canada instead of Pittsburgh — yes, this is something that I will always call out — this is the story of Plum Island, Delaware, a place that has always been home to the feud between the O’Flynns and the Muldoons. The rise of zombies has added something new to their war: the O’Flynns are trying to wipe out the living dead while the Muldoons leave their loved ones chained up and waiting for a cure that they believe will soon be invented. It also has the Nation Guard Soldiers from Diary of the Dead getting involved and, as always, an ending that takes out most of the cast.

Alan Van Sprang’s Sargeant “Nicotine” Crockett character is the first Romero character to make two movies, unless you count Tom Savini’s Blades showing up as a human in Dawn and a zombie in Land. You may also connect the unnamed cop Joe Pilato plays in Dawn with Captain Rhodes in Day.

Before he died, Romero was working on Twilight of the Dead, a movie that would be about zombies from Land of the Dead in a world where they are the top of the food chain. Supposedly, it’s still going to get made. There was also another movie called Road of the Dead that had been talked about.

I want this movie to be bigger than it is. I want it to say things that it cannot. I want more and realize that I am being greedy.

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