February 17, 2012

ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE (Review)

Zombie Apocalypse (2011)

(aka. 2012 Zombie Apocalypse)

Director: Nick Lyon

RATING: 
2.5 / 5 zedheads

 

Zombie Apocalypse is a paradox. Theoretically, it should be the perfect zombie movie. In practice, it`s one of the most flawed. How can this be? Two words: unoriginality and low-budget.

First of all, Zombie Apocalypse should be the perfect zombie movie for no other reason than it copies all the best parts from some of the best examples of the zombie genre. However, as a product of The Aslyum -- the low-budget producers of such B-movies and Mockbusters as Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus, Mega Piranha, and Transmorphers -- Zombie Apocalypse is predictably derivative. Set several months after a zombie virus has wiped out 90 percent of the American population, the film follows a small group of survivors who blast and hack away at zombies as they trek across the country to reach the island of Catalina.

It's so rude to interrupt dinner with a head shot, don't you think?
It's the kind of tale that we've seen countless times before in zombie movies, TV shows, books, and video games. From the opening montage of news footage (see Dawn of the Dead 2004), to the concept of a preternaturally fast virus (see 28 Days Later), to the appearance of zombie animals (see Resident Evil) and super-strong boss-type undead (see every zombie video game ever made), Zombie Apocalypse is so old hat that a hipster would wear it. 

Welcome to the 500 Meter Zombie Dash
The cast of characters are all types we`ve seen before, which is not helped by the fact that Ving Rhames, who plays the muscle of the group, seems to have wandered onto the set of Zombie Apocalypse right off of Dawn of the Dead (2004) without bothering to change his character. By the time the characters started using terms like "shambler" and "runner" while debating like real-life zombie geeks over the best way to kill zombies (cribbing from Max Brooks about the dangers of using fire), I realized something: Zombie Apocalypse is such a slavish product of zombie geek culture and decades of zombie entertainment that it has very almost no originality left to offer. It is a watered-down synthesis of 40 plus years of zombie popular culture. Far from making this the perfect zombie movie, Zombie Apocalypse instead becomes a litmus test for the poor quality of all future zombie movies. If your future zombie movie reminds me at all of Zombie Apocalypse, then you didn't try hard enough. Zombie Apocalypse is so derivative that it can be considered a prefect combination of the most overused conventions of the genre. Want to make a fresh and interesting zombie movie? Make it the opposite of Zombie Apocalypse.


"FAMILY DINNER!"
That being said, Zombie Apocalypse has some things to offer. Unlike other Asylum productions, Zombie Apocalypse comes to us with a very strong cast of talented actors from film and TV. Joining Ving Rhames is Taryn Manning (Sons of Anarchy) and Eddie Steeples (My Name is Earl) among others to form a very watchable cast of young and seasoned actors. Everyone does the very best to bring life and charm to a very predictable script. Zombie Apocalypse, I must say, contains one of the best casts of any Asylum production (no offense to Debbie Gibson in Mega Shark, of course). That's something to recommend!

Wipe that smirk off your mask, son.
The Asylum usually knows how to add just the right element of crazy whacked-out bullshit to keep their low-budget films entertaining. And make no mistake, Zombie Apocalypse is low-low budget. Most of the blood and all of the explosions are cringe-worthy CGI. Knife and sword blades never connect with the zombies they kill. The zombie makeup ranges from cheesy full-face masks to what is clearly home-made makeup the zombie extras brought with them to the set. When zombies are gunned down, CGI blood spurts emerge but no damage is caused to the zombies' bodies. Finally, the CGI animals are ten or more years behind the CGI industry standard. Yeah, it's low budget. But it's also kind of crazy and charming at times. In what other film can you see Ving "Fucking" Rhames fight off two zombie tigers using little more than a hammer?

Meow, bitch!
Sure, the tigers look like crap, but those parts are really fun to watch. Although I did not enjoy Zombie Apocalypse very much, I am still a supporter of The Asylum. They turn out a lot of garbage, but sometimes they hit upon the right mix of homage and insanity. To find a diamond in the rough, you have to pick through the rough. Zombie Apocalypse just didn't have enough of the insanity that made Mega Shark and Mega Piranha diamonds.

Frosted Human Flakes. They taste grrrrreat!
Zombie Apocalypse has its moments, that's for sure, but it's a deeply, deeply flawed film. Despite a strong cast and a clear appreciation of the zombie genre, it's so formulaic and so secondhand that it reaches the point of virtual unoriginality. Add heaps of bargain-basement makeup, effects, and CGI, to a derivative story and you have Zombie Apocalypse in a nutshell-- the most perfect zombie movie that never was.