Saturday, August 10

Some quick thoughts on Zombie Massacre (2013)

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Stop me if you've heard this one before. A team of mercs each with specialized skills are assembled to plant a nuclear explosive after a black toxic rain falls in an industrial town in Romania turning its inhabitants into raging undead. After infiltration they discover that the device, set for denotation in under an hour, is hardwired into their only truck and can't be deactivated. Setting out on foot to find a fast way out of the area, they discover a few other survivors and the daughter of the head scientist responsible for the outbreak who might also hold the antivirus to stop the plague's spread.

Pardon getting all stupidly philosophical for a moment, but as a horror fan, there comes a time when you realize it's simply all been done. Very rarely do examples come along with even a single revelatory concept. The genre is constantly cannibalizing itself and the best that can hoped for is a continual stream of standout films with enough twists on old tropes to keep inching the genre forward. As such, most of us have learned to see value in movies that provide entertaining takes on nothing new and that's perfectly fine because that's a large percentage of what horror is.

Then we have backwash like Luca Boni and Marco Ristori's Zombie Massacre which doesn't fall into either of these categories. This sad effort, that you could literally fast forward through without missing anything, represents an almost total reversal of the budding positive qualities of the pair's 2011 debut, Eaters (thoughts here). That feature has a sense of enthusiasm that manages to outshine rough patches most likely due to being their first time out. Sure, overall Eaters was just another formulaic zombie movie in a popular (yet now waning) era of the subgenre, but ZM takes such modern direct-to-video walking dead formalism to an unprecedented height.

Far too much faith is placed in the cardboard hired as actors as we endure thickly accented gibberish from characters we never grow to care about (people who disliked the Evil Dead remake because of "unlikeable" characters, see this and then say that). Eaters was talky as well, but you could tell everyone in front of the lens gave a damn even if you didn't know Italian. This never happens in ZM and it quickly devolves into the same ol' cheap zombie movie claptrap shoveled by actors who eat by driving to endless casting calls with the best they'll ever achieve being "Silent Tough #4" buried in the credits of some moderately budgeted Hollywood production.

Enjoy because it's a gray dark smear in the movie
Intermixed into this boredom are encounters with running packs of zombies being mowed down in short order. The make-up is great but there's hardly any time to appreciate the work with the frenzied editing of the action and the ugly desaturated appearance of the entire film destroying any subtly by the artists. The one female hand-to-hand "expert" on the team, who looks a bit like martial arts legend Cynthia Rothrock, ends up especially embarrassing because it's obvious the actress doesn't have the background and the movie doesn't mask her lack of skill. She flings swords around with less zeal than the Star Wars Kid as her undead victims do the Harlem Shake while falling. Actually, why not just dump many of the needless actors and get Rothrock kicking decomposed ass for ninety minutes? The first image in your mind after reading that was way more awesome than anything ZM offers.

Besides of the make-up, and I know this sounds ridiculous, but the military garb and equipment by Italian outfitters S.O.D. Gear is more interesting in looking "correct" and functional than any of the individuals wearing them. One of my weird pet-peeves is military gear in movies that doesn't look right when worn or used by actors but for all this boring waste does well, boring that aspect is nailed down. And yes, that ad above is real and they should be proud.

Boni and Ristori state in the featurette on the Blu-ray that this movie was essentially a favor to Uwe Boll for all he did for the distribution of Eaters. That's great but it's hard not to wonder whether they truly had their hearts into this movie that was originally an ultimately cancelled video game. There's even a short, unrelated sequence before the end credits of topless zombie babes attacking three of Eaters' principal actors poolside. After sitting through Zombie Massacre, it's like waking up from a coma and I would have much rather have seen that movie instead. Hopefully these guys have more creative freedom next round (Eaters 2, please). Once again, bigger isn't always better...
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