George A. Romero’s Survival of the Dead

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]

Wet Bum

It’s the start of the Spring term in a small northern town, heralding swimming lessons, hanging out with best friends, new classes and new possibilities. But this year, things are different for 14-year-old Sam. While her friends are moving on, focusing on boys, experimenting with drugs, Sam is too uncomfortable to even take off her bathing suit in front of the other girls. After landing herself into trouble, she is forced to work as a cleaner at the retirement home run by her mother. Sam finds unexpected and unlikely friendships with two of the retirement home’s residents who end up teaching Sam a few things about growing up… and growing old. [Synopsis courtesy of Toronto International Film Festival]

The Aviator

Martin Scorsese’s Oscar-winning biopic about the life of film-maker and aviation pioneer Howard Hughes from 1927 to 1947, during which time he became a successful film producer and an aviation magnate while simultaneously growing more unstable due to severe obsessive-compulsive disorder. After a scene from 1914, which may explain his later fear of dirt and disease, the film starts in 1927 during Hughes’ filming of the World War I aviation film “Hell’s Angels”. He’s 22 years old, has inherited the family’s fortune and tool company, but wants to spend his time making film instead. However, he soon finds himself just as involved in the aviation industry, buying an airline and developing new planes.

The Art of the Steal (2013)

A dynamite cast — including Kurt Russell, Matt Dillon, Terence Stamp and Jay Baruchel — enlivens this crackling crime film from writer-director Jonathan Sobol (A Beginner’s Guide to Endings). [Synopsis courtesy of TIFF]

The Story of Luke

Sheltered by his grandparents, Luke, a young man with autism, is thrust into a world that doesn’t expect anything from him. But Luke is on a quest for a job and true love. And he isn’t taking no for an answer.