AUGUST 19, 2008
Why is it every high concept “re-invention” horror movie eventually just becomes the same type of movie it tried to circumvent? Behind The Mask eventually became a slasher, but that was at least part of the joke. And now, on the heels of Fido, we have Zombies Anonymous (aka Last Rites Of The Dead), which has a unique first hour, and then turns into another zombie bloodbath, complete with evil zombies (instead of the evil humans that usually turn up at the end of regular zombie movies, since in this one, zombies are the ‘good guys’).
However, unlike Fido, it’s actually funny and consistently interesting in that first hour. Instead of the obvious gags like the ones in that film, ZA deals with more random and minute issues. The parallels to both racial segregation and homophobia are pretty obvious; some humans care about and help zombies, others fear and oppress them. And since in this world, zombies are allowed to live and hold jobs and all that, we have things like the titular meeting group, where the zombies bemoan how they lost their parking privileges and discuss the best way to hide their zombie wounds/skin (a mixture that looks suspiciously like peanut butter seems to be the answer). Clever use of mundane life details is far more interesting than obvious satire, at least to me.
I also like that this is the “real world”, in that our beloved Romero zombie movies (and all that followed) exist. One guy announces his desire to be like Ben in the original NOTLD, and a woman who tries to hide her zombie nature is scoffed at for being bland. “I hate a zombie with no personality!” her tormenter announces. “So Fulci!”. The opening theme is also quite good, as is the sequence under it: a series of news reports explaining the zombie plague and how its being dealt with (mostly ignored), cross cut with the events that lead to our heroine becoming a zombie in the first place.
But then it all falls apart. Our hero zombies are captured by some evil humans, then some zombies come rescue them, only to bring them to a compound run by a religious zealot type zombie. The last 10 minutes is just an endless and dull series of gore gags and low budget fighting, to the point where I was just yelling “End!” at the screen. I’m not opposed to some action, but the satire and “zombies are people too” angle is entirely absent from this section of the film, leaving you only with a regular zombie, albeit a cheap one.
Yes, this one is VERY indie. It seems to have been shot on consumer video at times (much better than the Decrepit Crypt stuff, but certainly not the quality HD that is used in a lot of recent stuff, such as Wizard Of Gore, which was finally released on DVD this past week*), and the actors are pretty bland (though the lead chick is cute, like a young Holly Hunter). Some of the zombie makeups are impressive, but the gore gags are usually pretty lame, and the blood looks like paint. I should note, however, that none of this bothered me until the movie became just another zombie movie. Once again – keep me engaged in the story and all other flaws are forgivable, if noticed at all. Turn generic, and you need technical savvy and high production value to maintain my interest.
The DVD only has a single extra, a collection of deleted scenes. I would have liked a commentary or some making of, but alas. I am curious if the ending was a decision to make the film more marketable or simply misguided intent, because it honestly seems grafted in from a different movie at times. Bummer. I should note that the deleted scenes, none of which are necessary viewing, do include a text explanation of why they were cut, so there’s something. Also, I later learned on IMDb that 17 minutes were cut from this DVD, so maybe that's why they aren't really involved with it. Bummer squared.
What say you?
*Someone posted a comment on my review for that film last week, accusing me of bootlegging a DVD, even though it clearly states that the film was seen at a film festival. It even includes an anecdote about how I had to go see it again (same festival) because I slept through it the first time. Folks - when accusing me of things I abhor (such as bootlegging movies), please make sure to pay the fuck attention first and make sure your claims could at least hold SOME water.