Greatest Movie Series
Franchises of All Time
George Romero's 'Living Dead' Films

Survival of the Dead (2009)

"Living Dead" Films
Night of the Living Dead (1968) | Dawn of the Dead (1978) | Day of the Dead (1985)
Land of the Dead (2005) | Diary of the Dead (2007) | Survival of the Dead (2009)

George Romero's 'Living Dead' Films - Part 6

Survival of the Dead (2009)
(aka George Romero's Survival of the Dead)
d. George Romero, 90 minutes

Film Plot Summary

The film opened with narration delivered by National Guardsman Sarge "Nicotine" Crocket (Alan Van Sprang) after a failed raid. He described an apocalyptic world overrun by zombies:

The last time anyone counted, 53 million people were dying every year, a hundred-fifty thousand every day, a hundred and seven every minute, and that was in normal times. Now, every one of those dead people gets up and kills another person and every one of those gets up and kills. On top of that, suicide, murder, chaos, and us - the Guard. We added more than our fair share to the body counts, but it didn't do any good. The dead were comin' back to life. We should have been afraid of them, but we weren't. They're easy enough to kill, except when they were your buddies.

Crocket reprimanded one of his superiors named Lou for mistakenly sending the Guard to a "hellhole," implying that he was responsible for causing the death of his zombified fellow buddy DJ (Joshua Peace). When Lou couldn't pull the trigger on DJ, rising from a nearby gurney, to forever kill him, Crocket put a bullet through the reanimated zombie's brain. Suddenly, Lou was attacked by an 'undead' Cheek-biting guardsman (Dru Viergever), who took off a large chunk of the side of his face. Crocket shot Lou in the head - and the zombie was decapitated by a gun-blast. Crocket was disgusted: "This sucks. I never signed up for this s--t." Believing that "we're better off on our own," he decided to desert his post by going AWOL with three other guardsmen (identified later). The rogue group became "stick-up guys," randomly robbing people on the road. They held up a bunch of kids traveling in a Winnebago while shooting a documentary - it was included in this film as a brief segment of archival film from the previous film Diary of the Dead (2007). Crocket ordered the cameraman - at gunpoint - to stop filming them, as he narrated: "It had become an us-vs.-them world. All we were lookin' for was a place where there was no 'them'."

The credits played with aerial views of Plum Island, off the coast of Delaware, an isolated and rural island. It was "Six Days After the Dead Began to Walk." The leader of one family, an old Irish "coot" named Captain Patrick O'Flynn (Kenneth Welsh), led a posse of men bearing shotguns around the island to try to eliminate any of the 'undead' - even if they were reanimated relatives (he believed that "the living would be better off if the dead stayed dead"), although his coarse views were opposed by his outspoken daughter Janet (Kathleen Munroe). That night, O'Flynn came to the house of Matthew and Beth Muldoon (John Healy and Philippa Domville) who were protecting their two zombified children (Kristina Miller and John Fleming), chained upstairs in their beds. O'Flynn suspected the children were infected - and during a brief defensive standoff, Beth was shot and killed by the posse. Matthew had no choice but to shoot his deceased wife in the head, as O'Flynn went upstairs to execute the two zombie children.

The group was interrupted by the approaching voice of Seamus Muldoon (Richard Fitzpatrick): "There's been enough killin' for one day" and O'Flynn's men were quickly outnumbered and disarmed. Muldoon believed that undead loved ones should be preserved until a cure could be found, contrary to O'Flynn's view: "Puttin' the dead to sleep before they put all of us to sleep." Muldoon claimed it was up to him to save the two Muldoon children ("It's up to me to save 'em...Maybe they're not dead. Maybe they got some kind of sickness or somethin'. Somebody's gonna find a cure for this. It might take a hundred years, but somebody's gonna find a cure"). The two feuding families had become "strangers" - and Muldoon threatened to shoot the O'Flynns if they didn't turn his way. Janet begged Muldoon for mercy toward her father, convincing him to be exiled rather than eliminated. O'Flynn was joined by only a few supporters as he departed on a motorboat from the island.

Three weeks later, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, a TV talk show named "LAFF" was being broadcast, with the host (George Stroumboulopoulos) spouting tasteless zombie jokes: "Why are zombies good at oral sex?" The answer was given: "Because they'll eat anything you put in front of them." The show was being watched by Kenny (Eric Woolfe) on a laptop - he was one of the guardsmen in the group of deserters led by Crocket. The other two members were Francisco (or "Cisco") (Stefano Colacitti) and lesbian Tomboy (Athena Karkanis), who was self-pleasuring herself with her hand down her pants in the front seat of an open jeep, telling Latino buddy Francisco: "I'd let you lick me, Frannie, but guys just don't know how...What's too bad is there's not another bitch in this litter." Turned-on Francisco had vainly offered to turn the tough-talking Tomboy straight: "You give me five minutes, I'll change your life forever."

On patrol, they came upon an abandoned armored truck and a group of redneck zombie-killers around a campfire in a wooded area, crudely showing off eight decapitated African-American zombie heads planted on stakes. Like target practice, Crocket put the living undead out of their misery, and after a deadly gun-battle with the four good old boys, the group of guardsmen took along wise-ass, teenaged techie kid Boy (Devon Bostick). They drove away in the commandeered truck, filled with stacks of cash in a safe - $1,000,333. Boy advised the group to retreat to a place where "the s--t can't get at an island." On his portable hand-held device, he showed them a video ad (YouTube?) by "Captain Courageous" (alias Captain O'Flynn) on Slaughter Beach, promoting the safety of Plum Island.

They proceeded south on deserted I-95 to Slaughter Beach's harbor and dock area, where exiled O'Flynn was holding out in a fishing shop. A gunfight broke out between Crocket's and O'Flynn's groups as "dead-heads' (zombies) ambled toward them. During the skirmish and confusion, Francisco (and Tomboy) swam over to the Amherst Islander, a ferry boat parked at the dock and successfully commandeered it, although he became sickened after ingesting undead blood when he bit off the tip of the index finger of Tawdry Biter (Angela Brown) - an attacking infected zombie in the water. He also did away with another threatening zombie, Fire-Extinguisher Zombie (Jerry Schaefer) by shooting flame retardant down the undead man's throat and exploding his head. Patrick O'Flynn was the sole survivor of his group when attacked by zombies in the fishing shop, its side wall half-destroyed by a grenade lobbed by Crocket. After O'Flynn obliterated the zombies with sticks of dynamite, he joined Crocket's group on the ferry as they traveled from the marina east over to Plum Island. He told Crocket: "We're all on the same side, those of us living." Once within site of the island, O'Flynn advised that they take the dinghy to be less conspicuous and telling everyone: "They don't like strangers." Sgt. Crocket killed one more zombie (Flaming Zombie (Chad Camilleri)) onboard - he shot a flare into its chest, causing its head to catch fire. Sarge lit his cigarette on the zombies' burning head before kicking its body over the side. The group also killed a few more zombies in vehicles parked on the ferry's deck, with Boy speculating that the zombies were getting smarter (one zombie started a car).

Once on land, O'Flynn told Crocket of his "little disagreement" with another patriarchal family leader about whether or not to "expand the island's cemetery" - and how he was unwelcome on the island. At his old homestead near a marsh, the group found zombies allowed to be alive but chained up. They endlessly and mindlessly performed their previous occupations using their sense-memories - a mailman was delivering mail, a farmworker was pushing a wheelbarrow, and a wood-chopper was using an axe. During an attack in an open field, Kenny was shot and killed - and put away by O'Flynn to avoid reanimation, and Crocket took a bullet in the shoulder. O'Flynn admitted that he had been sending over innocent people to the island specifically to anger the Muldoons, who it appeared had killed the "strangers" but let zombies live (Tomboy noticed: "These people didn't get chewed on by dead-heads. They've been shot"). O'Flynn's daughter rode by on horseback - now zombified. O'Flynn was angered by the wholesale slaughter of the people he had sent there: "I never meant for them to die...Bastard! Shootin' the living and sparin' the dead! That bastard!" O'Flynn went off to exact revenge against Muldoon, planning to meet up with Crocket at nightfall. As he walked off, he killed the three chained-up 'working' zombies.

In another area of the island, Muldoon was overseeing the capture and imprisonment of zombies (now called "dumb-f--ks") in stalls within a horse barn, supervised by his hired ranch hand Chuck (Joris Jarsky). A few of them that "don't show promise," including Pitchfork (Zeljko Kecojevic) and Hat Zombie (Kevin Rushton), were shot in the head. Muldoon was unsuccessfully attempting to teach Scanlon Boy Zombie (Curtis Parker) to eat a pig, although hopeful that O'Flynn's intelligent daughter "might be the one" teachable zombie.

Francisco became delirious and wandered off from the group, followed by Tomboy. Knowing he was becoming undead from the bite, he begged to be killed by her rather than committing suicide (something against his religion) - and she complied, reminding him of his frequent request to her in her final words to him ("You finally changed my life forever. I'll never forget you, amigo"). Lem Muldoon (Matt Mirman) and Chuck apprehended Tomboy and took her to Seamus Muldoon. At the dinner table, Muldoon preached to her about keeping the undead with the living for as long as possible. He spoke about his family's tradition of honoring and photographing kin upon their deaths, and showed her his zombified wife Sally (Heather Allin) chained up in the kitchen. Chuck also lassoed and captured zombified twin sister, Jane O'Flynn (also Kathleen Munroe), while the normal uninfected Janet met up with Boy and stitched up Crocket's wound after he had passed out. Her presence revealed the weak plot twist - that she had a twin sister. The three joined up with O'Flynn and his followers to confront the Muldoons, although Janet was reluctant, "stubborn and willful" and refused to join her father. Boy was attracted to Janet: "She's a babe," but was cautioned by Crocket: "You're too young, I'm too old, she's got issues, kid." Boy thought: "We'll see."

A stand-off of the two clans occurred at the Pussyfoot Bridge - the boundary line between the two families. Crocket encouraged Boy to leave before the expected shooting started ("Go live"), with the money in the safe of the armored truck (on the ferry). Muldoon was holding Tomboy as a bound hostage, threatening her within a few feet by two hungry zombies on leashes. The O'Flynn group (with Crocket) laid down their guns and surrendered themselves to the Muldoons. Tomboy told Crocket about the whereabouts of Cisco: "He's in heaven, telling the Virgin Mary he can change her life." After being led on foot to the Muldoon ranch, they were bystanders witnessing an attempt to teach the kinfolk zombie creatures to eat non-human meat (after efforts to have them eat pigs, rabbits and squirrels failed). Muldoon announced to everyone (affirming the film's title):

...I figured you might better understand what I've been tryin' to do, trying to keep the fallen with us. You can't ever do that unless we can get them to eat something that ain't human. It's important and not just for us, but the rest of the world. God's gonna send us all to Hell, and the Devil will surely send us back again if we don't do the right thing.

Muldoon claimed his only desire was for O'Flynn to admit that Muldoon was right, and that he was wrong. Zombie twin sister Jane failed to devour horse meat during the demonstration, in front of everyone (including zombies released from the stable to watch - although Muldoon was hopeful: "Who knows, maybe they'll learn something"). Meanwhile, Boy and Janet met up in the forest, returned to Muldoon's ranch, and surreptitiously resupplied the O'Flynn clan and Crocket with their confiscated weapons (to "even the odds"). Their choice was to either open fire, or end the long feud. As Chuck switched allegiances, he was shot in the leg by Muldoon. Janet was bitten in the hand by her twin sister Jane when she foolishly believed that she had been recognized. During an ensuing gunfight, Chuck spitefully released the zombies from their pen, was shot two more times by Muldoon, and was quickly devoured and eviscerated [the goriest scene in the film!]. As the zombies disrupted and overshadowed the gun-battle with a destructive assault, Muldoon and O'Flynn faced off - each with one bullet left. When O'Flynn asked to spend time with his dying daughter, he was shot in the back as he turned away. As he lay on the ground dying, he rolled over and shot Muldoon twice in the chest with his concealed wrist gun.

With dead zombies and clan members lying everywhere ("It's over" declared Janet), Crocket and his group decided to flee the island. They left, as Janet was left to watch her zombie sister suddenly bite into the horse's neck - proof that zombies could indeed be trained to eat non-human flesh. She ran after Crocket and began telling him what she witnessed: "It happened...My sister, she---" - but a bullet to the temple silenced her. Her crazed father shot her to prove that he could kill one of his own - before he himself staggered away and fell down dead. Ironically, Muldoon's theory about zombies being able to feast on animals came true, but was unable to be communicated.

The trio of survivors (Crocket, Boy, and Tomboy) prepared to leave the island, with the money in the armored truck to be used for their uncertain future. Crocket told the others: "There's a world out there and there's money out there. The reason we came out here was because we thought it would be better than any place else. It still could be..." - but he seemed to have been proven wrong. Tomboy feared they would become like the two feuding families if they remained. Although Crocket originally saw Muldoon as "the enemy," he "always wondered" if he was right. As the ferry crossed back to the mainland, Crocket spoke in voice-over: "What if we could teach the dead to eat something that wasn't us. What if Muldoon was right? I guess we'll never know." Back on Plum Island, more zombies were seen feasting on horse-meat.

The film ended as it began, with Sgt. Crocket's voice-over: "In an us-versus-them world, someone puts up a flag, another person tears it down and puts up his own. Pretty soon, no one remembers what started the war in the first place, and the fighting becomes all about those stupid flags." A zombified O'Flynn and Muldoon approached each other from afar with guns in hand, endlessly feuding and attempting to kill each other during a hillside duel - both guns clicked empty.

Film Notables (Awards, Facts, etc.)

The sixth film in Romero's extended trilogy of "dead" zombie films was, in effect, a tangential sequel to the 5th film. It was the first Romero film to feature a returning character, the anti-hero Sgt. Crocket (Alan Van Sprang) from the 5th film Diary of the Dead (2007). The story also seemed like a sequel to the 4th film Land of the Dead (2005), which concluded with a military unit taking off in a heavily-armored vehicle (Dead Reckoning).

It still presented the thought-provoking idea that the human race might become zombified if it fought against itself over a long period of time. The film's major theme was whether flesh-eating zombies, cared for as loving kin-folk even if 'undead', could be rehabilitated, and co-exist with humans by learning to eat non-human flesh. The theme was carried out in the midst of a deadly tribalistic Hatfield-McCoy feud (O'Flynns vs. Muldoons) fought on an island between two powerful families, led by rival Irish patriarchs with differing views on coexistence with neighboring zombies. The storyline of tribalism and deadly internecine conflict was based on the classic western The Big Country (1958) crossed with the Irish drama in David Lean's Ryan's Daughter (1970).

With a production budget of $4 million, and grossing only $101K (domestic) and $143K (worldwide). The film was a major box-office flop. Although it was screened at various film festivals in 2009, it wasn't released theatrically (on a limited basis) - and on pay-per-view and DVD - until the next year.

With the taglines: "Survival Isn't Just For the Living" and "Death Isn't What It Used to Be."

Sarge "Nicotine" Crocket
(Alan Van Sprang)

Patrick O'Flynn
(Kenneth Welsh)

Janet O'Flynn
(Kathleen Munroe)

Jane O'Flynn (twin)
(Kathleen Munroe)

Seamus Muldoon
(Richard Fitzpatrick)

(Eric Woolfe)

(Athena Karkanis)

Francisco ("Cisco")
(Stefano Colacitti)

(Devon Bostick)

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