I do love a bit of stunt casting (please don’t check any old reviews where I probably say I hate it), and this could be the stunt-cast-est movie of them all. Nick Carter, formerly of Backstreet Boys, had long hankered after making a movie, and he came up with the idea for a post-apocalyptic zombie Western, and then got The Asylum and the SyFy Channel on board. That cast? Howie Dorough and AJ McLean, also from Backstreet Boys, Joey Fatone and Chris Kirkpatrick from N-SYNC, Jeff Timmons from 98 Degrees, and what would appear to be the entirety of O-Town (I’d never heard of either of the last two bands until I saw this, so apologies, US 90s / 00s boy band enthusiasts). Rounding things out are Jon Secada, “Shifty Shellshock” from Crazy Town – of “Butterfly” fame – and perhaps most bizarrely of all, Art Alexakis of Everclear!
While the acting quality is, to put it mildly, variable (Carter and Fatone all seem to have experience, Timmons was great despite it being his first time on a movie set, whereas Dorough is a little on the “naturalistic” side) there’s lots of enthusiasm, everyone’s having fun, and best of all, no sneaky winks to camera about the cast’s former professions at all. Honestly, if the choice for the Asylum and SyFy is stuff like this, where everyone’s having a laugh, and stuff like our recently reviewed “Alien Lockdown”, which sucks enjoyment from the rest of the universe, I’ll take the former.
Copper-miners start emerging from the mines with a mysterious illness, and by the time it’s developed into full-blown zombie-ism, it’s too late for humanity, as it spreads extremely quickly. Copperheads (as zombies are known) almost completely wipe out humanity, and the pockets that are left retreat back into a simpler existence, which means small towns, and a sort of Wild West vibe to everything.
I’d already written a Magnificent Seven joke in my notes before one of the “chapter” titles came up as “The Magnificent Dead 7”, and that’s what the film is all about. A small town is wiped out by an army of zombies, and they’re about to move on to the next one, so the Mayor (Secada) gets a gang of rough and tumble outlaws to fight the zombies, their controller, the super-evil and absolutely bonkers Apocalypta (Debra Wilson, “MadTV”) and generally save the world. There’s Jack (Carter); Whisky Joe (Fatone); Daisy Jane (Carrie Keagan, TV presenter / producer); The Vaquero (Howie Dorough); Komodo (Erik-Michael Estrada of O-Town) and Billy (Timmons). Billy and Daisy Jane are a couple, but she used to be with Jack, who’s Billy’s brother. I think, I might have missed that bit. Rounding out the seven a little later is the beautiful and mysterious Sirene (Lauren Kitt-Carter), who lives in the wilderness and hunts Copperheads for sport.
Alexakis has a cameo as a potential member of the Seven, which I almost missed because I was too busy going “bloody hell, that’s Art Alexakis!” (I was a bit of an Everclear fan in my younger day). But the biggest “bad guy” role for a boyband-er is AJ McLean as Johnny Vermillion, Apocalypta’s sidekick, face painted, a demented laugh never far from his lips, and really surprisingly good.
It also seems someone has bothered giving this world some background. Currency is now zombie teeth, as anyone who’s prepared to kill zombies deserves a reward for it (you see scumbags taking out other living peoples’ teeth to try and cheat the system); and you’ve got the sort-of religion that’s grown up around Apocalypta (who apparently invented her own gibberish language for some of her scenes). The town looks interesting too – filmed over a couple of weeks in Butte, Montana, it heavily features the gigantic “Our Lady Of The Rockies” statue, which is just outside of town and gives the movie a really interesting visual.
The special effects are fine (probably borrowed the same computer package that The Asylum’s “Z-Nation”used), the outfits look authentically grimy and lived in, and most of the acting is decent too. The fight scenes are excellent, with special mention going to Fatone’s surprisingly graceful drunken bar-fights (Estrada, as the ninja-like Komodo, had only a week to prepare with swords, and it shows, although his long-distance stunt double is great). It feels weird to say, but there’s not a lot to complain about! There’s the odd dropped plotline, like the specially trained zombie doesn’t do anything all that special at the end, but that’s small potatoes.
I mean, if you really hated that boy band music era, then this movie will wear thin pretty quickly. But I didn’t care much one way or the other – I was an adult who never listened to pop radio, and most of them passed me by. One of my sisters was a big fan of the Backstreet Boys, and they seemed like reasonable chaps – no sense blaming them for the culture that allowed them to exist. And now, as they’re in their mid/late 30s, and all seem to have a pretty reasonable attitude to the super-fame being gone, they decided to do something a bit more fun than yet another reunion tour (although I’m sure they’re going to do one of them too). Amazingly, AJ McLean and I have exactly the same opinion about the radio, how it’s all controlled by Clear Channel, who want nothing even remotely different or new or interesting – I imagine McLean and I would disagree on what we’d fill post-Clear Channel radio with, but that’s the boring part of the argument.
It’s fun, the cast are having a good time, there’s some interesting ideas, lovely scenery, plenty of zombies get hacked to bits…it’s absolutely worth a watch. And the cast even do a few new songs for the soundtrack, if that’s your cup of tea!
Rating: thumbs up