If I was given a time machine, after I’d done all the important stuff (stopping wars, recording the lost episodes of Doctor Who), I’d pop over to Pittsburgh in 1968 and make sure George Romero filed the copyright paperwork for “Night Of The Living Dead”. Due to its seeming public-domain status, it’s been the subject of several remakes, a million ripoffs, and full-length parodies, along with many many awful VHS and DVD releases, both colourised and not. In 2006, we were treated to a 3D remake which I never bothered with because it looked terrible; but 2012 brought us a 3D prequel to that movie, and as it starred Andrew Divoff, Jeffrey Combs and Sarah Lieving, I decided to check it out.
Divoff is Gerald Tovar Jr, the boss of a cemetery / crematorium / undertaker’s. We know he knows about his rather unusual problem from the very beginning, as the local Health & Safety Inspector is bitten by a zombie just wandering round the graveyard, and there’s quite a lot of the movie which is sort of farcical, as Gerald runs round closing doors and stopping people from walking down certain corridors and so on. He’s got a few staff members – the possibly necrophiliac DyeAnne, pothead Russell, and Aunt Lou; and into this mix walk two people. There’s new hire Cristie (Lieving, whose character is named after Romero’s wife, fact fans), a mortuary expert; and the other Tovar brother, Harold (Combs), down on his luck and needing some cash.
So you’ve got live bodies and a potentially enclosed location. Everything we need for a zombie movie! And here’s where the logic starts fraying round the edges somewhat. Tovar Sr apparently did jobs for the Government, involving the disposal of “unusual” corpses, but the problem is we see lots of communist paraphernalia round the place, and I find it at least a little unlikely that a communist would agree to help the US government, or that they’d want his help in the first place.
The second, and far bigger, problem, relates to how the plague spreads. Gerald carries on helping Uncle Sam after his father’s death, but one bodybag leaks green liquid, it falls on a corpse, that corpse reanimates. The movie’s blurb calls Gerald pyrophobic, but the only explanation the movie gives us is that he can’t work the oven (perhaps I missed that bit?) So, he’s got a basement room absolutely packed with rotting corpses, which he videotapes to see if any of them start coming back. If he sees movement, he blows their head off, job done. Now, peeling that onion, why doesn’t he get the oven fixed, or just ask someone else to operate it? Why doesn’t he decapitate everyone who passes through his doors, so to speak, preventing this being a problem? Why not chuck the corpses in a lime pit or something?
If you can ignore this logic, there’s a surprising amount to like. Harold is a right-wing conspiracy nut, and loves “Fixd News” with its most famous correspondent, the Alaskan platitude-spewing “Sister Sara”. As well as being the second movie we’ve covered with a Sarah Palin parody in it (the other being the tedious “Iron Sky”), she’s another ISCFC link, being played by the great Denice Duff, last seen by us in the “Subspecies” sequels, and looking like she’s not aged a day in the intervening 20 years. There’s a ton of references to Romero and the previous movies in the series, which is done with a nice amount of tongue-in-cheek; and there’s a scene where DyeAnne, Russell and Cristie smoke weed after embalming a corpse, which is pretty funny.
Divoff and Combs are B-movie royalty and do their parts rather well (even if one suspects they could do this in their sleep) and everyone else is fine too. Lieving, though, deserves better. She’s got that combination of talent, physicality (she looks like she could kick ass, in other words) and beauty that mean she ought to be doing roles like this in much bigger budget movies. I mean, it’s nice we get to see her in trash, but it’s time for her to fly!
I’ve skated round it a bit, but simply put, this is boring. The plot doesn’t really make any sense, and such action as there is is pretty much confined to the last 20 minutes (not enough zombies, guys), with people dying haphazardly and the ending being terrible. That enough bad stuff for you? Okay, more. The special effects are not helped by being in HD – there’s one scene where a zombie’s jaw is punched off but you can still see the actor’s perfectly okay mouth underneath, coated in black paint, for instance.
What a shame. I wish they’d doubled down on the comedy personally, or had more zombies in it, or done anything other than what they did with the first hour (which was pretty much nothing). A completely wasted opportunity.
Rating: thumbs down