Well, it’s better than “Zombie Night”, I’ll give them that. Although, that line could apply to about 99.9% of all movies ever made, so I ought to elaborate a bit. It’s yet another SyFy Channel / Asylum production; it doesn’t appear to be one of their mockbusters, although it shares a star (Ving Rhames) and a few vague plot details with 2004’s “Dawn Of The Dead”. I also remembered, about halfway through, that I’ve seen this before – it was one of the last movies I watched before starting to write for the ISCFC, a little over three years ago. But this isn’t a blog! You want the hard hitting movie analysis!
It’s 6 months after initial contact with the VM virus, which has spread throughout the world and resulted in the deaths of the vast majority of the world’s population, and then their resurrection as zombies. Humanity is done as an organised species, it would seem, but into this world come three people – Ramona, Billy and Kevin. And we’ve got the return of a long dormant ISCFC feature – GERALD WEBB ASYLUM WATCH! He’s our favourite member of the Asylum’s repertory cast of players, but sadly we don’t get much chance to get used to him on screen before he’s eaten. These three have apparently been living in a cabin since the outbreak, and are thus completely unprepared for what they see; you’d think this would make one of them the audience’s POV character, but I’m guessing someone realised that the ostensible leader of the three, Ramona (Taryn Manning) wasn’t exactly the most charismatic actress in the world, and turned it into an ensemble piece. Or maybe it’s just shoddily made, like every other Asylum movie?
Their first encounter with the undead is a disaster, but luckily round a corner are group 2, a friendly gang which includes Henry (Rhames, who’s just effortlessly brilliant), Cassie (Leslie Ann Brandt), and a few bits of cannon fodder. I am being mean – the characterisation and acting is pretty decent in “Zombie Apocalypse”, with everyone apart from the long –haired woman (who I kept forgetting was in the movie) given a decent amount to play with. They stroll along for a while, encountering lots of arrows sticking out of zombies, which they say is a group they’ve been following since at least Kansas City. The plan is to get to LA and then to the docks, where organised humanity is still okay on Catalina Island (they cleared out the zombies from there early on) and sends a boat to pick up survivors every week.
Eventually they run into group 3 (the archers) and…everyone’s fine with each other. No particular conflict, no betrayals, the only thing that happens is Henry and Cassie get separated from the main group for a bit (and they end up using a huge machine gun on an alley full of zombies, which is pretty cool). Will they make it to Catalina? Who’ll make the dramatic sacrifice to save their friends?
Let’s try and be positive for a minute. Think of it like a fun thought experiment – what would someone potentially enjoy about “Zombie Apocalypse”? Like’s been said, the acting is mostly strong. The way they explain no-one having any tech to help them out shows someone at least put a bit of thought into things. The zombie makeup is okay too. Ramona has sort of an arc, which is so rare as to be worth mentioning in an Asylum review.
But boy oh boy, is it way easier to point out all the dumb stuff. They talk about a battle outside Pittsburgh, which is a reference to “Dawn Of The Dead”; and they crowbar in a story about a guy called Kirkman, clearly a reference to the creator of “The Walking Dead”. When you mention the titans of the genre like that, it might be an idea to learn from them; but “learning” gets in the way of profit for our old friends at the Asylum. The “secret bite”, the laziest zombie trope of all time, is a fine example of this – it’s that thing where someone gets bitten but doesn’t tell their friends til it’s too late.
Halfway through the movie, we get a zombie dog, which is just to get the idea of zombie animals in our heads so the finale, and the rather larger zombie, doesn’t come out of nowhere. The problem is, zombie dogs would wipe out the human race overnight, as even the best trained people would let their guard down for a dog after months of not seeing anyone. Why not zombie birds? It’s a Pandora’s box of plot problems that should probably have been kept closed.
One more, and this is ignoring the little stuff like why everyone seems to have an unlimited supply of the ammunition of their choice, and how many conversations are that thing where two people stare off into space and monologue at each other. Shouting! We’re told, right off the bat, that noise is bad, and it attracts zombies. So what do they do every single bloody time they set foot in a new building? “Hello, are there any humans in here?” What, do you think it’s just bangs and explosions that zombies can hear? Or did the writer forget he’d put that bit in earlier?
On the plus side, it rips along at a fair pace, and Ving Rhames is great as always. One the minus side, it’s a bit stupid. But…it’s worth a go, I reckon.
Rating: thumbs in the middle