Thursday, January 26, 2012

In short: Zombie Apocalypse (2011)

Not to be confused with other Zombie Apocalypses. This is the Syfy/The Asylum one.

As its title oh so subtly suggests, the film takes place in the late stages of JAZA (Just Another Zombie Apocalypse, featuring all four types of zombies: fast, slow, mid-tempo and CGI tiger). After having hidden away in a hut in the woods for most of the end of the world - which makes them zombie apocalypse virgins who can be exposited to whenever necessary - Ramona (Taryn Manning), Billy (Eddie Steeples), and some zombie-chew friend of theirs emerge to wander around randomly and provoke zombies by being obnoxious and loud.

Ramona and Billy are saved from a zombie attack that kills Zombie-Chew by a merry band of effective  survivors (who'll turn ridiculously ineffective whenever the script calls for it) lead by Henry (Ving Rhames) and Cassie (Lesley-Ann Brandt). The survivors adopt the two slackers, and together they go on their way to Catalina where there's supposedly a zombie-free area to be found. On their way, the group goes through all the zombie movie standards, except for the dialogue about how much women suck popularized by The Walking Dead.

Curiously, Zombie Apocalypse is another SyFy-produced movie I don't utterly loathe. Even stranger, it's also a The Asylum production that looks like an actual movie. Sure, the film's script, written by Brooks Peck and Craig Engler who were also responsible for that other SyFy movie that was at least entertaining crap, seems to be out to remove as much subtextual complexity from zombie cinema as possible while going through all the genre's clichés and presenting all its expected set pieces, but at least it's doing that with a degree of competence and love for (alas, CGI-infested) cheap zombie carnage that's actually pretty entertaining to watch. Plus, this is one of the few horror movies I've seen that contains more than one person of colour in a central role without trying to sell itself as some sort of hip hop horror thing; this natural inclusiveness goes a long way to make up for the film's flatness in all other social and political regards.

For once in an Asylum film, the direction's not too horrible either. Director Nick Lyon actually manages to shoot decent action scenes (until the ridiculous CGI zombie tiger in the climax, that is), and is doing a job that is all-around not crap. Probably a first in the world of The Asylum.

Then there's the additional bonus of a very good low budget movie cast, doing very decent low budget movie acting. Okay, Taryn Manning's pretty horrible, but I have witnessed The Asylum's Sherlock Holmes movie and know that "pretty horrible" is still better than what this particular production company is willing to take from a lead actor.

If all this sounds as if Zombie Apocalypse's greatest virtue in my eyes is that it's not atrocious, then, well, you do understand me right. Sometimes, not being horrible is enough.


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