Pride And Prejudice And Zombies (2016)

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Published in 2009, P&P&Z was a huge hit. It emerged seemingly fully-formed from the head of Quirk Books editor Jason Rekulak, who was comparing a list of then-current internet lolrandom words – “ninja”, “zombie”, “pirate”, etc. – with a list of famous public domain properties. P&P&Z is a brilliant title, no doubt, so when Rekulak stumbled upon it, he contacted Seth Grahame-Smith, a Quirk author who’d previously written a few lightly comedic books and comic tie-ins. G-S loved the idea, and realised the potential of the story – there’s a garrison of soldiers in the book for no reason, lots of to-ing and fro-ing to various stately homes, conversations where they could be fighting at the same time as talking, and so on.

 

And the book is great! It works surprisingly well, with the combination of Mrs Bennet wanting to sell her daughters off to wealthy suitors, and Mr Bennet wanting them to become the best fighters; and the subtext of the girls’ blossoming sexuality being replaced with…well, zombies. It was a surprisingly huge hit, spawning a prequel, a sequel, and a cottage industry of classic literature mashups (“Jane Slay’re”, “Sense And Sensibility And Sea-Monsters”, “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter”, and probably others that have mercifully slipped into obscurity). While Abraham Lincoln hunting vampires, also written by Grahame-Smith, was turned into a well-regarded movie (that I didn’t care for), the rest of them were pretty rubbish, lightning being unable to be captured in a bottle twice, and so on.

 

Obviously, talk of a movie started as soon as the size of the publishing frenzy became apparent, and what’s fascinating is how many huge names were at one point attached to it. Natalie Portman’s name is still there as producer, but she was also going to star originally, and David O Russell was to direct. After they left, many directors and writers were hired only to leave due to scheduling conflicts, until eventually we get to 2016 and Burr Steers, director of a couple of Zac Efron movies five years ago (as well as being Gore Vidal’s nephew), who ended up both writing and directing. He apparently put some “Pride and Prejudice” back into the script, which leaves me wondering how little was in the one he was handed.

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The only problem with all this delay is that by 2016 the literary mashup bubble had very definitely burst. If new books in this vein are still being written, they’re either in the realm of fan-fiction or so obscure that I’m yet to hear of them, so the huge amount of free publicity that would have come from a release near when it was first announced was lost, and there was a vague air of “they’re still making that? Really?” in the press it did get. While not quite as embarrassing as releasing an “Angry Birds” movie in 2016, it’s still pretty bad.

 

An indication of how far down the studio’s importance scale P&P&Z had fallen is the level of acting talent they got. David O Russell and Natalie Portman would have filled the cast with stars, one feels, but the biggest names in this are the supporting cast – Charles Dance as Mr Bennet, Lena Headey as Lady Catherine, and Matt Smith as Mr Collins; none of which you’d exactly call box office draws. The Bennet sisters are all very good, though, especially Lily James as Lizzie; and the cast is packed with people who could all do fine turns in straight Austen adaptations (and some top comedians, such as Sally Phillips as Mrs Bennet).

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I’ve not even got to the plot yet, but if you’re alive in 2016, reading this and aren’t even a little aware of what P&P is all about, then I worry for you. The Bennet sisters are living on the poor edge of country society, so when the handsome, charming, single Mr Bingley moves into a nearby mansion, Mrs Bennet sees the opportunity to get one of her daughters married into money. Bingley and eldest daughter Jane hit it off immediately, but Bingley has an old friend, Mr Darcy, who just immediately antagonises Lizzie, and seems to have something to do with Bingley’s rapid departure from town. Plus, he hates the handsome and dashing Mr Wickham, who begins romancing Lizzie.

 

From all this, a classic novel grows. The movie manages to keep most of the major beats of the story intact (well, very broad brush strokes and all that), but has every social event, ride to a country house, and conversation interrupted by zombies. There’s also the story of how London has become completely overtaken, and how Darcy, Wickham, Bingley and the other soldiers deal with them. The story of Darcy and Lizzie is one of the great romances in all of literature, and it’s difficult to mess up, so they don’t, even adding zombie rescue to the courtship, which sort-of improves it.

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I know it’s sort of stupid claiming any status for a mashup novel intended for a quick laugh, but the movie treats it more as a name than as anything to copy, particularly. The domination of London by the undead is mentioned in passing in the book, but becomes a major part of the movie – if I had to guess, I’d say it was someone with money suggesting it needed a bigger climax than a conversation and a kiss. In fact, that attitude shines through regularly, that people couldn’t possibly be interested in the original story with zombies in it, but needed SPECTACLE!

 

This is shown best by the way the movie, quite a lot of fun to this point, completely screws the ending up. Grahame-Smith keeps most of the ending of the novel intact, in spirit, with Wickham getting his just desserts, younger sister Lydia revealing an unknown strength of character, Mr Collins having a tragic end, and so on. Love conquers all, across class boundaries, with Darcy not asking Lizzie to change a thing about her athletic, zombie-killing ways. But the movie inserts the Four Horsemen Of The Undead Apocalypse, turns Wickham from monster into Monster, features an explosion-laden climax and then gives us a post-credits coda which completely ruins the last 2 hours.

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As much as I enjoyed it on a (pardon the pun) mindless level, it really doesn’t bear up to the mildest scrutiny. They ignore enough of the original story to be irritating, and seem to think the joke of beautiful refined society ladies talking about (or fighting) zombies is enough to get you through. I don’t think director Burr Steers was the right choice for the movie, either. You’ve got three basic elements – romance, horror and comedy – and a more capable director would’ve worked out which order he wanted the three in, or just which to emphasise in which scene. But it all ends up a bit of a mess. And to ignore both the original source and the mashup source to bolt on a stupid horror movie “all our struggles were for nothing” ending is really dumb. I always think of “Clerks” at times like this, and how Kevin Smith was persuaded to replace his original, terrible ending, and how leaving it how it was wouldn’t really have changed too much of the movie but would’ve cast a pall over the memory of it, probably greatly changing the course of his career. Someone should have told Burr Steers to change his damn ending (or he should have fought whoever suggested it), and I can’t help but feel this limply received movie will do no favours for him.

 

Rating: thumbs in the middle

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The release of ‘Zombie Hood’

BRINKVISION RELEASES THE U.K. HORROR ZOMBIE HOOD IN NORTH AMERICA ON VOD AND LIMITED EDITION DVD OCTOBER 21ST!

ZOMBIE HOOD

 

LIVING AIN’T EASY

 

“A SOLID, GRIPPING, SKILLFULLY CRAFTED ZOMBIE FEATURE.” – MJ Simpson

 

“ZOMBIE HOOD IS ONE FUN RIDE INTO THE WORLD OF UNDEAD” – Sin Isolation

 

BrinkVision releases the U.K. horror ZOMBIE HOOD in North America on VOD and Limited Edition DVD on October 21st! ZOMBIE HOOD has been called impressive, gory, odd-humored, and fun. The film is fragmented into parts, introducing characters skillfully into the chaos that is the post-apocalyse battleover of England. Zombie Hood is exciting indie horror showcasing a band of survivors against the ferocious threat of the undead. ZOMBIE HOOD releases October 21st on VOD and Limited Edition DVD.

 

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Synopsis:

The initial infection begins after the virus spreads through a nightclub and is quickly transmitted throughout the city. After a night of disturbances across the whole United Kingdom, the police and emergency services lose control of the situation, with hospitals overrun and the dead coming back to life to attack and devour the living. With the cities now the domain of the undead, the survivors flee the built up areas and take refuge in the countryside and small villages. Zombie Hood follows the story of a small group of survivors who are thrown together in the outskirts of Nottingham. Like Robin Hood and his merry men, the rag tag band look to Sherwood Forest for sanctuary, but soon find out that even the countryside isn’t a safe haven. With food and supplies in short demand, the group find themselves arguing over their plans for survival, which isn’t helped by Sam, a wayward teenager with a confused and dangerous personality.

 

Trailer:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ie0Iwd0L5zQ

 

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VISIT:

BrinkVision

www.brinkvision.com

The Zombinator (2012)

Of the caption, the only word I agree with is

Of the caption, the only word I agree with is “A”

I wish this was a real documentary, and everyone involved was really killed for real by a bunch of zombies. Or, failing that, the wrap party was blown up by people who love cinema. This is probably one of the five worst films I’ve ever reviewed for this site, and it’ll take a really really bad one to bump it down the list.

My review notes are full of questions, like “why are they doing this?” and “why did they make this film?” But it’s my job to try and formulate coherent thoughts, otherwise I could just replace this review with one long fart sound and it would be the same.

A film crew is making a documentary about a fashion blogger. If your first question is “why would anyone make a documentary about a fashion blogger?” then you’re keeping pace with me. The blogger and her friends take the crew to a patch of wasteland just outside town, and while the girls go off for a stroll, the cameraman spends a few minutes interviewing the sound guy. Why would anyone leave this clip in a film, presuming in this film’s world this footage was edited after the fact? Who knows? They then go to a party, which turns out to be a wake for a local guy who joined the army, and they carry on making the documentary at the wake. Huh?

A couple of points become immediately apparent – one is that not all of the people in this film are good at pretending they’re in a documentary; and two is that the filmmakers are bad at pretending this is a documentary too, as there’s multiple camera angles on lots of shots, and it gets way worse later. They appear to abandon the documentary concept when a band starts playing at the wake, but no – they sort of try to maintain it right to the end. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

This garbage “Cloverfield” really kicks off when zombies start attacking people at the wake, and everyone loses their minds. The survivors run off to what they claim to be a school, and meet a group of people filming a ghost-hunting documentary with a couple of priests along for the ride; this group say they got permission from “the homeowner”, a weird choice of words when you’re in a school. They stay there way too long, no-one says “hold on, when did the church start believing in ghosts?” and after wandering round a few derelict rooms, they head off somewhere else and meet the Zombinator.

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He’s an army guy who fills us in on the plot, which I’m going to spoil to hell because none of you should be watching this garbage. Zombie-ism is a military-created virus which they were going to sell to the highest bidder – one of several examples of a sort of extremely naive left-wing ideology that runs through this movie (as a leftie, I found myself embarrassed for the 16-year old who apparently wrote the script). Anyway, even though he looks nothing like the Terminator at all, one of the kids makes the comparison so this film can have a better title than “Not Another Awful Fashion Blog Documentary Zombie Movie”.

There’s bad army guys in town checking on their investment, so while there’s a fairly lengthy religious scene in the middle of the movie, we see them trying to capture the Zombinator and make sure there’s no evidence of their crimes. Blah blah blah.

This film made me angry with its badness. Firstly is the pointlessness of the documentary concept, when you’re just going to abandon it ten minutes in but keep every bit of footage in the movie cheap-looking and handheld. There are times when the camera is clearly not supposed to “exist” in the world of the movie, like when it’s right next to the bad guy who has a gun, but this is mixed in with scenes where the cameraman is part of the action. A scene where someone films a guy get snuck up on and eaten, five feet away, AND DOES NOTHING makes this impossible to accept. It makes no sense whatsoever, but this pales in comparison to my chief bugbear with all found footage movies – there comes a time when continuing to film everything that goes on is severely detrimental to your health. Someone asks this in the movie, and gets the answer that they need to film this in case it’s a government conspiracy. Okay, I get that, just, but when you’ve filmed an hour of people getting eaten, do you never think “well, I’ve got enough footage now, time to put the camera down and concentrate on not dying”?

We’ve got poor acting, a plot that doesn’t stand up to the first second of scrutiny, a concept the movie itself doesn’t seem to be bothered to maintain, and a stupid non-ending. Have I covered everything? Oh, there’s the couple that breaks up, on camera, hinting at some deeper backstory, then three seconds later are fine again and in each other’s arms. There’s the way hundreds and hundreds of zombies stealth-attack people, again and again. There’s the OH MY GOD THIS IS BAD PLEASE STOP THINKING ABOUT IT

The sole interesting thing about this movie is its creation. The director, Sergio Myers, is a fairly successful reality TV producer, and shot this movie in four days while in Youngstown, Ohio to make an actual documentary, working with volunteers from the fashion website he was covering and no script (I guess that answers the question “who’d make a documentary about a fashion blogger?) I said interesting, I didn’t say worth watching, and I kind of have an inkling that there’s some stretching of the truth going on there – there’s too many locations and too many zombies for them to have managed to pull it off from a standing start in four days.

I hope Myers sticks to producing TV I have no interest in, or that he bothers to write a script for his next one. For fun, though, go read his IMDB profile, and if anyone thinks it was written by someone other than Myers, I’ve got some good real estate on the moon to sell you. What a thoroughly boring, depressing film this is.

Rating: thumbs down

Swamp Zombies! (2005)

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There are two main reasons that low-budget filmmakers tend to make their films short (typically, 90 minutes and below). Firstly, making films is expensive, and it’s not like you’re going to be able to charge more for your 2-hour film than you would for an 80-minute one. Secondly, if you’re fortunate enough to sell your film to a TV channel, it’s convenient for them to have it in a 2-hour block, which minus adverts is around 1:30. So when I saw that “Swamp Zombies!” was almost 2 hours, I was intrigued.

I loved this film. Absolutely loved it. It’s beyond cheap – filmed on camcorders, a cast of rank amateurs, weird stunt casting, non-existent lighting, sub-bargain-basement special effects – but it’s got something to it that I just warmed to immediately.

You don’t need a ton of recapping with a name like “Swamp Zombies”, but you’re going to get some. Evil doctor is experimenting with fresh corpses, but before he gets the chance to finish it off, the Government comes to do an inspection of his hospital, so he has to pay some criminals to dump the bodies in a lake next to a swamp. Also in the swampland – a group of students doing some biology fieldwork; a Sheriff and his amazing kickass deputy; some sunbathing ladies; and the corporate villains. They keep one of the test subjects at the hospital, and he turns into a zombie too and starts causing some havoc there.

The stunt casting is minor stars of wrestling – Brian “Blue Meanie” Heffron plays a guy living out in the swamp, mourning the death of his wife and son; his real-life wife at the time, former porn star Jasmine St Claire, is the evil doctor’s main investor, or boss, or something; and MMA legend and occasional dabbler in pro wrestling Dan “The Beast” Severn is a cop who shows up near the end. If the rest of the cast isn’t just Kabasinski’s friends, family and people from his martial arts school – the guy was a nationally ranked martial artist before turning his hand to filmmaking – I’ll be very surprised.

The extreme lack of a budget shows itself in a hundred small ways, but there’s little more boring than film reviewers going “haha look at that continuity error” or whatever, although if that’s your bag then you’ll have a good time. My favourite is when Jasmine goes for a shower (which includes a great deal of her lathering her boobs with spurts of creamy white shower gel) and when she leaves you can see urinals on the far wall. Not too many urinals in female bathrooms, I’m thinking.

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Favourite character is Deputy Anna, played by Monica Picirillo (her only credit, sadly). She’s clearly a martial arts friend of the director’s, and looks like the sort of character who’ll see a zombie, shriek and then get eaten. But no! She whups an absolute ton of ass and although she does a bit too much standing around trying to figure out where to go, she shows those dead scumbags who’s boss…until she gets overwhelmed, bitten and turns into perhaps the world’s first martial artist zombie. My notes just read “deputy = BADASS” and that is absolutely right.

Your opinion may vary radically from mine about this. It’s incredibly low budget and the performances are truly abominable, the sort of people who’ve seen a lot of genre movies but have never had an acting lesson (with a few honourable exceptions – I liked most of the group of teenagers, who seemed pretty natural). The doctor is extraordinary, almost a new level of acting badness – but you know what? I just think it all works, and for a film which cost an estimated $12,000, these people had to really want to make a movie. Compare that to the similarly low-budget “Agent Beetle” we reviewed recently, where the people all seemed to be on the Hollywood ladder (even if it’s right at the bottom) but the finished product was cynical, nasty and cheap – trying too bludge a few dollars from people drunkenly expecting a real Blue Beetle movie. This could not be called cynical at all – it’s a guy with a few credit cards, lots of friends and lots of chutzpah trying his best to make a fun zombie movie.

Time for my now obligatory railing against sexism in genre movies before we part, dear reader. There are a lot of boobs in this movie, most notably Ms St Claire’s, but far too many females in the cast show too much flesh, while the only thing for fans of the male form is a few seconds of the director (who is put together, I’ll admit) doing some shirtless katas on his deck. Take a look around, people. The world is changing and there are a lot of straight female and gay male genre movie fans, and you should either be catering for them or catering for no-one. I don’t think anyone’s sitting through two hours of a movie about swamp zombies just for the occasional shot of boobies, is what I’m saying.

So be prepared for wildly disagreeing with me, but I’m going to go out on a limb and say that, if you’re in a forgiving and friendly frame of mind, you’ll have a damn good time watching this.

Rating: thumbs up

Zombie Hunter (2013)

It’s Saturday afternoon, you’ve done everything you need to do for the day, so what can you do after that? Watch a zombie movie, of course!

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Luckily, this film doesn’t give you too much backstory before getting to the zombies. There’s a new drug called Natas (“Satan” backwards, which may be some subtle religious message on the part of the filmmakers), and it turns people into zombies, pretty much. The zombie virus doesn’t appear to be communicable in this particular universe, but still society has completely fallen apart in a year, with pretty much no-one being left alive.

This film really wants to be “Zombieland”, and they almost made it, just missing script, humour, and talent. Hunter will be our guide, as his raspy voiceover sort of gives us information about the state of the world now- it’s part Rorschach from “Watchmen”, part “Max Payne” (the computer game version, I’ve still not seen the film), and he must have found a hair-care kit because he’s got short hair with frosted tips, a year past the stage when barbers stopped doing business for ever.

Hunter gets shot and taken to a small settlement with the only humans he’s seen for a year. Now, I want to break this scene down a bit. He’s driving his car down the road, and the shot goes through the windscreen and hits his shoulder. Unless you’re the world’s greatest shot, you’ve got no idea exactly where that bullet is going, and certainly no idea where the speeding car will end up, sans conscious driver. Given they don’t appear to want to kill him, and don’t need him for anything, why not just wave by the side of the road and see if he stops? It makes less than no sense.

The wacky group of survivors is introduced then – slutty woman; virginal woman; fat slobby moron; grizzled old mechanic; teenage goofy-looking moron; and DANNY TREJO. The only reason anyone would give the remotest bit of a damn about this film, he plays a Vicar and we get not one but two different scenes of him slaying groups of zombies set to dubstep. They have half a plan to go to a nearby Army base, find a plane and fly to Hawaii and wait out the course of the zombie apocalypse, but this section of the film is just Hunter messing with the equilibrium of the five survivors.

On one of the walls of their building, are posters for “Orcs!” (never reviewed by this site) and “Ozombie” – reviewed here https://iscfc.net/2013/07/08/ozombie-2012/. As “Ozombie” is absolute garbage, I assume the same set of minds is behind both films – no, I don’t want to look it up. Thanks, guys! Feel free to go back to your day jobs!

After being introduced to a Resident Evil-style super-zombie, again with zero explanation, and getting a quick bit of pole dancing to keep the male viewership looking at the screen, they decide to set off for the airbase and get that plane. Obviously, most of them die on the way, but to preserve some sense of suspense I won’t tell you who. We get a bit of Hunter’s backstory too, how he was doing Natas one night, missed his own birthday and allowed his wife and daughter to get killed by…someone. The zombie apocalypse presumably hadn’t started by that point, but it’s hardly the worst error this film makes. He is motivated now by rage, he says.

Unfortunately, this rage doesn’t allow him to warn his friends that the plane they’re sat in is being slowly surrounded by zombies, which is a truly baffling moment. Is he trying to kill them all off? He’s either a scumbag or an unbelievable dumbass, and neither option speaks well of this film. But we do get treated to some Matrix-lite bullet-time fight scene towards the end.

This won’t mean a lot to most of you, but Hunter appears to be a straight lift of computer game superstar Max Payne. The voiceover (both in voice and style), the bullet-time (a staple of the games), the leather coat, all these are too similar to be a coincidence. I don’t know. It doesn’t make a lot of difference in the end, I suppose.

We’re treated to a minor but still noticeable “haha all our friends are dead!” moment at the end, after their plan fails and the film’s main characters die. Add to that a spectacularly stupid final few seconds of the film, and we’ve got a real loser on our hands. Did the makers of the film seriously sit down after the editing was done and go “yes, this film is both finished and great”? What was the creative spark that made them want to tell a story like this? What is the point of any of it?

There is one rather annoying motif running through this film that I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention. You know that thing where the action is so hot and heavy in a film that sometimes blood or dirt will splash on the screen of the camera? Well, it’s very rare, and outside of films where the camera is part of the film rather than the fourth wall, hardly ever used at all. During this film, I needed a 5-bar gate to count the number of blood spatters on the camera – 14 times. After the first time, you’re all “okay”, the second time you’re “huh?” and the fourteenth time you want to go and start a fight with the people who made “Zombie Hunter”.

Go stare at already-dried paint for 90 minutes, and have a roughly similar experience to watching this. AARRGGHHHH

"Psst...mate, which way out of this movie?"

“Psst…mate, which way out of this movie?”

EDIT: I have just discovered this film was the result of a Kickstarter campaign. To everyone who gave money: you’re idiots and should be ashamed of yourselves.