B-Movie Night: “Zombies! Thousands of them!”


In the run up to the launch of Northern Gorehouse, and then for the week until Halloween, I’ve watched a few zombie films. I shuffled over 70 of them to the top of my rental list at Cinema Paradiso (my chosen, and recommended replacement for Lovefilm). Obviously, I ddn’t get through all of them, but maybe I’ll keep adding undead reviews to this post as they arrive.

Zombie Creeping Flesh (AKA Hell of the Living Dead, in the print used for this disc)

Something called the Hope Project is working to solve the problems of overpopulation and food shortages. Of course, they’re doing this by creating a eugenics gas that will be used to kill off the world’s poor. Unsurprisingly, it doesn’t work, and has unforeseen side effects (can you guess what they are?)

After a couple of establishing scenes- a gas leak at the Hope plant, involving a cool zombie rat moment, and a hostage situation at the US consulate in an unnamed country- we get into the action proper. Four special forces operatives, previously seen gunning down the hostage takers, are in Papua, New Guinea on a secret mission. Pretty soon, they stumble upon a reporter, her cameraman, and their unfortunate guides. The guides have brought their seven year old son along, and he’s been attacked by a “crazed native”, and will soon die. Cue the soldiers’ first encounter with zombies, and an undead toddler who was genuinely creepy.

After this, the group stumbles around the jungle, meeting zombies everywhere and, each time, forgetting the lesson they’ve learnt about shooting them in the head. The best sequence is when they come upon a native village. The reporter says she spent nearly a year with local tribes, and knows how to gain their trust, promptly stripping off and daubing on body paint. The villagers are carrying out funeral rituals for their dead, who have all succumbed to a mysterious disease in the last few days. When the corpses come back to life, the soldiers and their passengers take off and abandon them.

One by one, the group are picked off by the undead, the soldiers proving too highly strung and incompetent to save themselves, let alone the rest of the world. They find the chemical plant and…. do nothing. The epilogue shows us how the gas has carried to the rest of the world and the true zombie apocalypse has begun.

This Italian production was one of the ‘video nasties’ banned in the UK in the early eighties. It certainly has the gore effects to merit that, all appropriately gruesome, backed up by stock footage for scene setting. It wanders from one bloody set piece to the next, lacking a coherent plot, But, be honest, it’s the blood that the story’s all about.

Not a classic of the genre, but a fun time capsule of blood and entrails.

Zombie Undead

Low-to-no budget efforts such as this should be applauded for seeing the project through to the end. However, a participation medal is all I’m willing to give out to this uninspired film.

The tautologically twisted title hints at the lack of invention inside. A dirty bomb has gone off in a British city, and a bunch of survivors are trapped in a provincial hospital filled with undead and with only one way out. They go nowhere for most of the film. Stilted acting struggles with a clumsy script, shot with little thought to production design and no obvious colour correction or grading to pump up the flat imagery.

Gore effects are good, and the mini movie in the closing titles is better than the rest of the film put together. So there’s hope. Best of luck to the team behind this, and I hope they come up with a more original idea next time, do a few more drafts of the script, and take the time to frame better shots.

Zombi Holocaust

Very few zombies in this one, despite the title. The ones who do show up are more brain damaged slaves than shambling undead. This is actually a cannibal film.

After a bunch of cannibal attacks across the US, a team of anthropologists is sent to the place the protagonists all came from. This place is the mysterious island of Kito in the not-at-all-insultingly-named Mullato chain. Along the way, they drop in on a famous surgeon who’s dropped out to do missionary service in the islands. Following his directions to the wrong island, they end up on Kito nonetheless.

Soon enough, their guides are being picked off and eaten by the natives. Whittled down to a final two, they eventually find out why one of this film’s alternate titles was Doctor Butcher M.D. (Medical Deviant).

The gore effects are mostly well done, there’s some gratuitous nudity, and the evil doctor gets his deserved comeuppance. But the storytelling is disjointed, the way so many Italian horrors of the era could be, and the racism inherent in the sub-genre.

Bonus material on the disc included a documentary about the short-lived cannibal genre, which produced few great works of art, but was well represented on the video nasties list.

Zombie Virus On Mulberry Street

Another case of false advertising, because it’s actually a were-rat virus. As the infection takes hold across Manhattan, the occupants of an apartment block on teh eponymous street fight to survive.

It’s another low budget effort, but not as low as Zombie Undead, and definitely more better scripted and directed. It also helps that it takes place in the Big Apple, rather than some non-descript English market town.

Rec

Similar in many ways to Mulberry Street, this Spanish horror is even more tightly paced and chilling. Its creatures are closer to the traditional zombie as well.

A two person film crew from a local television station is shooting a night in the life of a fire station. Responding to a call in an apartment block, they’re soon out of their depth as an unknown infection turns the occupants into flesh eating monsters.

With its found footage technique of viewing everything through the news cameraman’s lens, and the characters trapped in the block for most of the film, it’s more effectively claustrophobic than Mulberry Street. In that one, at least they got to pop to the bar next door. There aren’t many occupants in the block, but the confined space means that each one that changes increases the threat level immensely.

Vampire Apocalypse

This one sneaked in as a last gasp from Lovefilm. A low budget vampire romantic dark comedy, it stars Jason Mewes, who’s initially unrecognisable without the long hair he sports as Jay in all those Kevin Smith films. He plays Jack, a lovelorn paramedic trapped on the night shift with his arse (well, ass, as this is a US/Canadian productio- but I can’t bring myself to say ass) obsessed co-driver and only friend.

When Jack meets Danica, she’s covered in blood down a dodgy alley near his home. Trying to help her out, and clean her up, he falls in love almost immediately. Things are going great, until he comes home to find she has taken a big chunk out of his ex-girlfriend’s neck.

Desperate to sate his vampire girlfriend’s thirst, Jack initially helps her feast on the local drug dealers and hide their bodies. But things soon get out of his control.

Not a masterpiece, but I’d definitely call this a little known gem. The Apocalypse part of the name is a bit off, and it seems the original name was Bitten, which is more appropriate.

Zombie Hunters

This one hits the new low, taking the prize away from Zombie Undead. On top of the poor script, direction and acting, there’s also some really bad CGI as well.

In the future, everyone lives on walled cities, spending all their time in virtual reality. Five wannabe real-life hunters break out, intent on bagging a deer. Unfortunately, the place they’ve chosen is just over the hill from a secret military research establishment which has just created, and leaked, a magical wound healer that also raises the dead. Cue boring, tension-free, useless zombie killing.

Undead

Another little gem, this one is full of inventively gory Aussie humour. After meteor chunks and/or aliens- it’s kept nicely ambiguous, right to the end- land in an outback town, people start turning into white eyed walking corpses. A slowly dwindling bunch of survivors tries to fight their way out of the town. I won’t try to break down the action for you, but recommend going off and watch it yourself.

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