APRIL 25, 2009
It figures. Netflix instant view finally delivers an acceptable transfer, and the movie itself disappoints. To say nothing of the film's content, if everything looked as good as American Zombie did when streamed to my Xbox, I could see the service as being a valid option of watching films. I mean, it's still not as good as an actual DVD, but I don't expect it to be. I just want it to retain some detail, not skip around, and be in widescreen; all qualities this transfer possessed.
Unfortunately, the movie itself failed to deliver. I loved the idea of doing the umpteenth "zombies are an accepted part of the world" movie (I have worked on one myself, albeit a short film and not a feature) and playing it completely straight for once. To the filmmakers' credit, they don't go for any of the easy gags you would expect from all of the other movies (Fido, for example) that have approached the same subject. And beyond one of the documentary team members being a bit of a "racist" (he constantly asks the zombies about their eating of human flesh), there are no "evil humans" for once (a rarity in ANY zombie narrative, pseudo-real or not), which was also appreciated.
The problem is that the movie ultimately has no point. Throughout the whole thing, the zombies are pretty benign. There are about four that are followed in depth, and they're all sort of bland, which is the point. One works at 7-11, one is a typically batshit young Asian girl with cat statues all over her apartment, another is a middle aged weirdo (read: pretentious artist), and another is a zombie activist. They're all well drawn and all, but almost all of them eventually go "bad" and attack our documentary team and/or others. Yeah, and? They're fucking zombies! Who didn't see that coming? It's one thing for a film like Behind The Mask to turn into a regular slasher movie for the 3rd act, because it continued to act as a deconstruction, while still offering the things fans would expect from such a film. But the "zombie action" only amounts to about 2 minutes of the runtime here, not enough to carry weight, but more than enough to make you wonder what the point Gracie Lee and John Solomon were trying to make was. "Zombies might act normal, but in the end they will still kill you"? No shit! Next up, a revealing portrait of Vampires - they enjoy blood!
Another issue is that the film bounces between being a documentary, and being about a documentary. It breaks the "realism" (such as it is) whenever we see the filmmakers watching their footage, arguing about what they should be shooting, etc. Again, it just makes me wonder what the point is. It's not played for laughs, and the only way we can truly buy into it as "real" is to keep any filmmaking aspects out of it.
And it's a shame that it doesn't all come together, because there's some great stuff in here. I loved the idea of a zombie sweatshop, and also that there are three types of zombies (rotting flesh kind, basic human function kind (think Bub), and fully functional kind). Also, and this is I think the film's most interesting concept - the zombies have no recollection of their former lives or how they died. The 7-11 guy even illustrates various scenarios as to how he got the massive headwound that obviously ended his human life. Had the movie been entirely like this, trying to help a few zombies learn more about their human life, Lee and Solomon could have had something truly special. As it is, the new stuff it brings to the table doesn't justify the occasionally bland and ultimately schizo approach they took to the material.
Ultimately, it's not the worst movie of its type, but its certainly the most frustrating. There are glimpses of brilliance, and for the first half hour or so I was pretty excited about the areas that the film seemed to be heading toward. But as a wise man once said, the last five minutes of a film are what the audience will remember the most, and here, those final five minutes are pretty goddamn lousy. A shame, really.
What say you?