JUNE 1, 2008
HMAD reader Kristian recommended Undead Or Alive, and while I don't love it, I have to admire writer/director Glasgow Phillips for combining three genres in one film, particularly three that hardly ever work together even in pairs: Western, Comedy, and Horror. Sadly, it doesn’t really work as a comedy, and that is clearly the main ‘ingredient’, considering the wealth of comedian actors and relative lack of zombie action.
Right off the bat I was a bit unsure as to how funny the film would be, as I saw the names Chris Kattan, Chris Coppola, and Brian Posehn in the cast. Posehn is OK but his comedy stylings seem mainly limited to sitting there and making faces at the other, more entertaining characters in the stuff I have seen him in (a few episodes of Sarah Silverman, Fantastic Four 2). Kattan I never cared for on SNL (Mango being the least funny recurring sketch in the show’s history), and Coppola is just awful (though I guess it takes some sort of skill to stand out as the worst part of an Uwe Boll movie). The only character in the film who managed to get any laughs out of me was James Denton, playing the straight man. Like Tommy Lee Jones in Men in Black, Denton’s laid back, straightfaced approach to the nonsense around him was the most amusing part of the whole thing. And as clichéd as it is by now, I laughed every time they played a takeoff on the Brokeback Mountain score during any scene of Denton and Kattan “bonding” (how great is it that I not only recognized it, but knew it wasn't the actual score but a slight variation of it?).
But that’s pretty much it for the laughs. The rest of it was just Police Academy-esque pratfalls and obvious humor (Posehn actually puts his foot in a bucket and tries to walk around after getting a pie in the face – come on, this doesn’t even work as a meta-joke on comedy itself) and even the less generic stuff made me groan (the opening text crawl calls attention to the fact that no one wants to read at the beginning of the movie - Ha. Ha). And according to one of the extra features, Glasgow once worked as a writer on South Park during its strong 6th season (Free Hat!) which makes the failed humor even more disappointing; even the weakest Park episodes have a good laugh every couple minutes or so. Actually, speaking of the extras: the commentary track is actually pretty funny, as the three leads and Glasgow just shoot the shit for the most part and rib one another. Since the dialogue isn’t exactly Shakespeare and one could probably figure out what was going on without it, I would actually suggest just watching it with the commentary right off the bat.
Does it work as a horror movie then? Well, no, not really. The zombie makeup is good and I rather liked the idea that simply shooting them in the head won’t do (here they literally have to remove the head entirely). But all of the zombie attack scenes (of which there aren’t too many, plus the zombies disappear entirely for a solid 15-20 minute chunk in the middle of the film) have these nonsensical cutaways to the ancient Indian men who created the zombie curse. Doing it once or twice so the audience gets the idea would be fine, but they literally do it on EVERY SINGLE ZOMBIE BITE. It completely ruins every single attack scene. Also not helping matters are the rockabilly songs that accompany every such scene, which are just completely out of place (it’s supposed to be the 19th century) and lousy songs to boot (though the theme song is rather rousing). And the zombies talk (source of more non-humor), which outside of simply saying “Brains!” I never quite shine to, especially when only a few of them talk while the others utter the usual moans and groans.
It’s a shame too, because the film concludes on a rather mean-spirited note that I loved, but tonally didn’t fit the sort of good natured humor of the rest of the film. It’s an idea that should have been saved for a horror comedy that was as morbidly funny for the entire running time.
It’s a pretty good Western though.
What say you?