Reel Advice from the Video Store Guy
By Steve Anderson
June 1st, 2010

Survival of the Dead

George Romero's Survival of the Dead
Directed by George Romero
Written by George Romero
Starring Alan Van Sprang, Kenneth Welsh, Richard Fitzpatrick, Athena Karkanis
Produced by Paula Devonshire
87 mins

This is a strange one this week, folks, because this one hasn't been released on video yet. Normally, I tackle direct to video, but this one is a bit special. This was released on video on demand ahead of its limited theatrical release, and it's extra special because it's the latest zombie release from none other than George Romero. Today we're talking Survival of the Dead, and I hate to say it, but it's a disappointment.

Remember those National Guard pusbags who stopped the Winnebago and looted its food before carrying on in Diary of the Dead? We'll be joining them as they set out looking for a safe place in an increasingly unsafe world. They think they've found it in Plum Island, a charming little place just off the coast of Delaware. It's not all sunshine and roses there--they've got zombies too--but they're working on getting rid of the problem. Of course, not everyone's happy with the way one of the island's leading families is taking care of business. Especially the island's OTHER leading family. And as the two families, the O'Flynns and the Muldoons, find themselves increasingly at odds with each other over what to do, the National Guard contingent will find itself neck-deep in the island's civil war.

Maybe we're all a bit spoiled by Romero's earlier work--that sweet awesome visionary stuff that got the whole zombie ball rolling. But this one, much like Diary of the Dead and Land of the Dead, seems somehow deficient when viewed against those much older pieces. For my taste, I preferred watching the world collapse, which was always a feature of the first three. The last three, not so much, though we did have a fair look through Diary, and Land did give us a "well after the fact" look.

Survival, on the other hand, is shockingly deficient on the zombies. Oh, sure, the first half is Awesome Romero Zombie Kickass at its finest, but the last half has almost nothing at all to do with the zombies and entirely too much to do with the O'Flynn / Muldoon battle, along with a particularly ridiculous subplot about trying to get zombies to eat animal flesh instead of human.

It's the lack of zombies that makes this so downright depressing. In Night and Dawn and Day, zombies were EVERYWHERE. You had to EARN a respite from them, whether by nailing the doors and windows shut or securing an entire mall or even getting parts of the army together. But Land was mostly zombieless until they figured out how to cross the river. And Diary was pretty slim on the zombies itself. Now we've got one more zombie-short Romero zombie film, and it's really rather sad.

Oh, sure, there's still plenty to like here...but it's so clearly lacking that it's nothing short of a disappointment. The ending may well be the most disappointing part of the whole mess, but that's generally the case with zombie movies. They never really end--they just kind of stop.

And there are no special features here...yet.

All in all, Romero's latest zombie spectacular is far from it, but still at least halfway good.

Bitch Slap

girls go wild in Bitch Slap
Directed by Rick Jacobson
Written by Rick Jacobson, Eric Gruendemann
Starring Julia Voth, Erin Cummings, America Olivo, Kevin Sorbo
Produced by Rick Jacobson, Eric Gruendemann

It may well have been one of the most hotly anticipated horror movies in a long time, especially in some circles. But was Bitch Slap worth the wait? That's this week's main attraction, folks, so let's wade right in!

Featuring three lethal femme fatales, Bitch Slap sends our little posse (and yes, that's POSSE) out into the desert to recover a fortune being held by a mob boss. But the farther in they go, the more they find out about the fortune they're trying to get their hands on. And the bad news, is they're not going to like most of what they find out.

When a movie can, unabashedly, offer up lines like "Stay down, dick splash!", you have to give it some credit. The overall effect, however, is almost unsettling.

It's almost as though someone handed over Sin City to Quentin Tarantino.

No, really. There's enough cheesy dialogue to kill three horses, enough gratuitous cleavage angles to kill another FOUR horses and half of the movie looks like it was shot over green screen. I'm having a seriously hard time (no pun intended!) telling if this is supposed to be a parody or if they're genuinely playing it straight.

And the movie will only get more bizarre as it goes along. In fact, it makes precious little sense at all, but it does so in a thoroughly gleeful manner that makes it really, REALLY hard to hate it. In fact, it's so completely over the top that it's terribly hard to hate.

The ending, in fact, represents about fifteen of the most over the top minutes of the whole thing, featuring endlessly priceless lines like "lube my boobs, skank twat!" and "lick my love pup!". In the midst of a cat fight so horrendous that the punches land with gunshot sound effects. But it will also manage to wrap up all of its loose ends with a constant string of eye-popping revelations that rival any of the best endings ever.

The special features include audio options, cast and crew commentary tracks, English and Spanish subtitles, and a featurette entitled "Building a Better B-Movie".

All in all, Bitch Slap is an unsettling chunk of massive, over the top weirdness.