In a world where the dead rise to menace the living, rogue soldier Crocket (Alan Van Sprang) leads a band of military dropouts to refuge from the endless chaos. As they search for a place “where the shit won’t get you,” they meet banished patriarch Patrick O’Flynn (played with zeal by Kenneth Welsh), who promises a new Eden on the fishing and ranching outpost Plum Island. The men arrive, only to find themselves caught in an age-old battle between O’Flynn’s family and rival clan the Muldoons. It turns out that Patrick was expelled from the isle for believing that the only good zombie is a dead zombie, while the Muldoons think it’s wrong to dispatch afflicted loved ones, attempting to look after their undead kinfolk until a cure is found. But their bid for stability on the homestead has turned perverse: the undead are chained inside their homes, pretending to live normal lives – and the consequences are bloody. A desperate struggle for survival will determine whether the living and the dead can coexist.
Such apocalyptic themes have long haunted George A. Romero, much to the delight of his legions of fans. He now follows Crocket, a minor character from his last film, Diary of the Dead, to present a new doomsday scenario. In that film, Crocket made a brief appearance with his militia to appropriate the heroes’ supplies at gunpoint. For Crocket’s subsequent journey, Romero does something that most horror directors have neglected to do in recent years – he uses the genre to address societal issues. Romero here creates a world in which he can wrestle with the human condition while simultaneously finding new and creative ways to exterminate lurching flesh eaters.
The film is also a sharp subversion of the western. It can be seen as a reflection of William Wyler’s The Big Country, in which stubborn clans feuded as larger troubles raged. We needn’t look further than today’s news headlines to see examples of such fracture and to understand how it prevents more significant problems from being solved.
Fear not, Romero is still determined to give you gruesome and macabre thrills, but will also serve up a bloody little parable on the side. So who are you going to side with, the living or the dead?
[Synopsis courtesy of the Toronto International Film Festival]