Shot entirely on Red One Digital Cameras you would have expected this to be a pretty seamless release from its theatrical run in the US to Blu-ray disc. It's presented in its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1, 1080p using the MPEG-4/AVC codec and whilst it might be well free of grain and some serious digital anomalies all is not well in the zombie rodeo camp.
First impressions were good, there's a scene early on with a darkened bridge set in the subtle glow of a moonlit night and the blacks and contrast range are pretty much spot on. This however is not par for the course though. Blacks go downhill from there on in, becoming a murky grey affair. Whites are on the boil though so they're ok, but the contrast range suffers and the presented image is a lifeless affair. At times it's as though there's a fine mist permeating the image, and you're left thinking that this could have been so much better.
Colours are similarly inhibited. What should have been bright vivid intestinal reds and lush greens turn out to be somewhat muted, not bursting with colour as perhaps expected. Skin tones verge on the red a little too much but, those pasty faces of the recently deceased are suitably ashen.
The encoding is a little better but still not free of all faults. There's some banding to be seen in some of the darker night time scenes and included in here for good measure is a slight amount of noise. Haloing around starkly contrasted objects fares a little better and this is kept mostly in check. Like the actual movie I'm dithering between a 6 and 7 for this one, but this time I'll be a little kinder.
The DTS-HD MA 5.1 English track lays out its stall pretty early on with dialogue nicely prioritised in the centre frontal array; it's very crisp and clear. Tonal range is acceptable but not the best of the bunch with higher tones a little clipped and the lower tones never quite reaching the hellish depths that some other premium releases can be renowned for. There are good examples of LFE usage in the ferry's motor engines, the dynamite which O'Flynn passes to a willing zombie and the slight sound of a horse's hooves on the rolling hillsides of Plum Island. The upper tones are mainly some screams, and the higher crack of small pistols.
Panning at the fronts is rather narrow, but the sound stage opens up well towards the rears with an assortment of satisfying moans and shuffles from the wandering, soulless undead beings populating the roads and fields of Plum Island.
It's better than the video but still nothing really to write home about - ticks all the boxes, but you still feel you're almost getting short changed somewhere. There is a PCM stereo track if that takes your fancy. This has the same range but is obviously an all up front affair.
There are no extras in this release and that in itself is a travesty. If you search the usual places on the net you can find little featurettes and trailers, some interviews and these could have easily been strung together to at least give the cinema or zombie fan something more to get their teeth into.
Romero owns the zombie genre, there's no doubt about that, but you have to wonder if he's resting on his laurels somewhat. A larger budget for Diary of the Dead produced a pretty lame affair and like Carpenter, Romero seems to make the most of a lack of money rather than the other way round. So going back to his roots, we now have the latest in the Dead series, but it's still not as enjoyable as his earlier efforts.
With Diary being an almost self-reboot, Survival of the Dead seems to be an attempt at making a coherent series of his aging franchise. Coherent in so far that Romero is perhaps taking one, or a number, of characters and showing them in successive films; the next will prove if I am right or not. The humour is still there, perhaps a little too slapstick in this instance, and the zombies are going from strength to strength, but it's just not enough these days I feel. Romero needs to inject something else into his films before they go the way of the many zombies he has dispatched beforehand.
As a disc package this locked Region B release is left somewhat wanting; pale video, only marginally better audio and no extras doesn't make for a release that even the hardest of fans will be looking forward to; that in itself is a great shame and missed opportunity. Those fans will undoubtedly pick this one up, as for the rest I can only ever recommend a rental. Enjoyably hokum, but you might just be left wondering if Romero has his best work behind him.
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