Without zombies, sharks and kung fu, my reviews for this site would be few and far between. When modern zombie films are discussed (which is surprisingly often in my group of friends) this gets brought up, with sensible people going “it’s pretty good, you know”, so I decided to check it out.
Zombiedom this time comes from a government experiment, and we see the black-and-white video of a group of military top brass stood round a test subject, who’s treating this as if he’s going to become a super-soldier. The only bit of colour in this scene is the serum they’re about to inject, and it’s bright green. So, we’ve been reminded of “Re-Animator”, a classic of the genre, along with a nod to the Captain America comics (this being made in 2007) in the first five minutes. Unfortunately, the serum turns our brave subject into a super-strong zombie, so the top brass decide to…dump their remaining supplies of the toxin into the bay. I’m no scientist, but that just seems deliberately wrong. Why so, scientists?
One of the barrels on its way to the bay gets loose and ends up, leaking, outside a bowling alley-cum-bar in a fairly run-down neighbourhood. We’re still in the world of black-and-white by the time we meet our heroes there, and they immediately differentiate themselves from just about every low-budget zombie movie of the last decade by being able to act. One of them is Matthew Davis, who fans of high-quality TV will remember playing Alaric in “The Vampire Diaries”. They’re fairly archetypal – the joker, the lovestruck everyman, the girl next door, and the over-achieving career woman; but their friendship is sketched out well and you find yourself caring about them from the off.
Right about here is where the film gets interesting. Readers of ISCFC will remember my fairly gushing review of “Warm Bodies” – https://iscfc.net/2013/02/10/warm-bodies-2013/ – and this film seems to be its direct forebear, just lower-budget and played more for laughs. The serum makes its way into their ice cream serving machine, and they all take a big bite, and collapse to the floor…only to wake up in colour!
The gimmick of the rest of the film is that we see it from two different perspectives – colour for the zombies, who appear to themselves to be completely unchanged but see everyone else like they’re watching a video on fast-forward; and black-and-white for the rest of the world, who see the zombies like they appear in so many films, moaning, shuffling monsters. It’s a really clever idea, and although it’s a gimmick that gets stretched fairly thin throughout the rest of the film, it’s certainly unique.
Our four friends get sucked into a plan first to combat the disease that the rest of the world is apparently suffering from, then to find a place for them and their zombie brethren to call home. But that’s just boring plot stuff. There’s a nice running joke where being really drunk slows your brainwaves down to such a degree that you can communicate with zombies, including a scene where our heroes try to keep an entire bowling alley full of people plied with booze.
They’re obviously trying to discuss some questions about humanity here, with colour being reserved for being undead and so on; but I think it got lost on the way to the screen a little. Ultimately, it’s a surprisingly good comedy about what would happen if you became a zombie and didn’t know, and any wider thoughts about society are just an added bonus, if they come through. It’s such a relief to see a zombie film that isn’t mostly set in the woods or in a deserted parking lot, to be honest. There’s also quite a few scenes lifted to a greater or lesser extent from other zombie movies, so it’s got that element of loving homage to a whole genre too.