For some reason, “X vs Zombies” has been a remarkably durable sub-genre; I guess all you need is a few bags of fake blood and six or seven of any outfit. Anyway, filling in that X have been – Cockneys, Humans, MILFs, Cowboys, Bears, Pro Wrestlers, Santa, Models, Ninjas, Strippers, Bigfoots, Kids, Wiseguys, and Abraham Lincoln. They are all real movies.
So it really surprised me when I watched this, having been jokily recommended it by my friend Jamie, and it turned out to be pretty good! What the hell, movie? It looks like some serious coin was spent on it too, which is perhaps even more surprising – there’s one car wreck that looks like they set it up and did it without just stealing the footage, and there’s lots of real use of Government buildings. So kudos to the lunatic who put up a few million dollars (which they’re never going to get back) to make this movie stand out.
Also unlike just about every other zombie movie of recent years, it’s got a decent cast. Michael Dudikoff (“American Ninja”) is the Colonel, who we only ever see in one room so they probably shot all his stuff in one day; same with the great Molly Hagan (“Some Kind Of Wonderful”, “Herman’s Head”) as the CIA agent who knows what’s actually going on. Add in Ed Quinn (“Eureka”) and Rick Fox (former NBA star turned actor) and this is the low-budget equivalent of star-studded!
The Vice President is doing a speech in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, when zombies start pouring across the lawn of the building. Communication goes down, so the Colonel sends in a team of Navy SEALs, lead by Quinn, and with a new member who left his pregnant wife at home (fun fact, one of Quinn’s team – Kevin Kent – was legitimately a SEAL for 20 years, in case you were as impressed as I was by the real tactics, teamwork and communication showed by the group). As they’re about to wrap up the first rescue, Hagan tells them about a secret CIA lab which might have a cure for the zombie virus elsewhere in the city, so the majority of the movie is them – along with a reporter and cameraman who were covering the Vice President – getting across the city and trying to rescue the scientists.
A rule of thumb for how much I enjoy a movie is how extensive my notes are – the better it is, the fewer things I’ll write. It’s difficult, after all, to write “I’m enjoying this” twenty times. My notes dried up after the halfway mark, pretty much, which is a very good sign. So, let’s go through the ways this movie shows up the huge majority of recently produced zombie movies, aside from the budget we’ve already mentioned.
- Action – stuff happens! Throughout!
- Characters – even the minor characters are given a bit of definition (it’s my fault I kept getting the bearded guys confused)
- No stupidity – no-one behaves like a dumbass, just to give the zombies something to munch on
- Tension – the ending could genuinely go one of several different ways
- Sense of humour – not so much jokes, as humour arising from the situation they’re in, which is a refreshing change
For a “vs Zombies” movie, it’s far better than it has any right to be, and the people who made it understand what people like about these sorts of movies; they get the little stuff right too, like the competence of the soldiers, the locations, and so on. We have a first time director to thank – Stanton Barrett, a former NASCAR driver and stuntman, and I think he’s got a decent career ahead of him. I like the subplots, I like the ending, and I think you’ll have a fine time watching this.
Rating: thumbs up