AUGUST 1, 2009
Here’s a change. Usually these things are felled by poor direction or a concept that goes far beyond the resources of the production, but in Necroville’s case, those things are fine. The scope is smaller than something like The Dead Next Door or Shatter Dead, and the direction is quite good. The problem is that the script doesn’t have a single original idea, and the blatant theft from Clerks really ruined it for me.
The two main characters in Necroville as 100% identical to Randall and Dante, a fact that never stops distracting from the film’s strong points. Jack is a borderline neurotic who is having girlfriend issues, and Alex is a wiseass who never stops to think before he speaks, and seemingly has no life outside of insulting his “best friend”. They both swear way too much (and I’M the one saying this), make Star Wars references that double as dialogue, and spend most of the film talking and yelling at each other. Christ, they even work at a video store. There’s a bit of Shaun of the Dead in their roles as well, but the dialogue style is far more into Kevin Smith wannabe land than Edgar Wright/Simon Pegg. Plus, while they are better than some other no-budget films, the actors aren’t nearly as appealing as Brian O'Halloran or Jeff Anderson (it’s not fair even trying to compare them to Pegg or Nick Frost), which just makes the Smith-ified dialogue even harder to endure, because you know how much better similar sentiments can sound when delivered by better actors. They also have grating running gags that are the polar opposite of amusing. One involves the Dante guy hitting the Randall guy in the arm and saying “that’s my girlfriend!” (usually with an F bomb or two thrown in for good measure). The other involves Alex’s addiction to drinking holy water, which is just a setup for a dumb way of killing the vampire. It’s unique, yes, but nowhere near as amusing as it’s supposed to be.
Also, they blow their best ideas in the first few minutes. It starts off with a zombie wandering into their video store, and they are both distracted. You think that they will see the zombie, and then be like “Holy shit!” but it turns out that they know it’s a zombie and just don’t feel like dealing with one right now (one of them has a shotgun in his lap and eventually blows it away). So it’s one of those “Zombies are just an annoying part of life” movies. Then, they demonstrate this further when a homeless man asks them for spare ammo instead of coins. Unfortunately, after this, it’s just the usual stuff, with scenes you’ve seen in other movies blended with the annoying girlfriend subplot. Zombies aren’t the only problem, they also deal with werewolves and vampires (the film’s main villain is a vampire, in fact), overstuffing the narrative and giving our heroes more things to have a laidback reaction to. I always feel that these kitchen sink style movies are simply trying to cover the thin story, and this is no exception.
Another issue with this setup is that the villain hardly factors into the movie, giving the climax (which goes on way too long) a disconnect from the rest of the film. Had the girlfriend turned into the big bad, it would have been OK, but instead it’s just this shitty vampire guy who has been sitting in a chair for the whole movie. The girlfriend is dealt with in a quick epilogue, and then they steal a joke from The Simpsons (think “You shot the zombie Flanders!”) to finally end it, about 20 minutes after what would have been a reasonable end point for the film. You would think with a low budget (and presumably, limited time) that they would opt for a tighter script so they wouldn’t have to spread the wealth so thin, but that is not the case.
Luckily, the production value seems to be higher than the film’s reported $7,000 budget. The zombie makeup is good, and there are a lot of locations and minor action scenes to enjoy. And I laughed at a few of the sight gags (the bad guy drinks a baby!) and the odd Christopher Walken impression on a TV commercial advertising the “Zom-B-Gone” (yep, they crib from The Power Puff Girls too) service the heroes work for. The rotoscoped CG effects are largely acceptable, and derivative or not, the film is rarely boring as they are constantly hunting a different monster or moving around. The “zombies and humans co-exist” thing seems to just be a way to keep them from having to close off streets and such, because the town doesn’t need to look deserted. Even so, it’s kind of funny to see people going about their business in the background as our heroes prepare to fight off the giant swarm of zombies standing nearby.
The DVD seems jam-packed, but it’s largely filler. There’s some deleted scenes and outtakes that won’t be missed, and some behind the scenes stuff with the guy who played the vampire (ditto). A look at the Photoshopped special effects could have been interesting, but it’s just a bunch of clips set to music with occasional before/after still frames - the FX guy provides no insight as to how he achieved the effects or what he actually added to the scene. Then there are a pair of short films of no relation (they share some crew), and a commentary by star/co-director/co-writer Billy Garberina (he played Jack). This is the type of commentary where having the other guys (Adam Jarmon Brown, who also wrote and played Alex, as well as co-director Richard Griffin) would have been more appealing, as they are all friends and have clearly worked together before. But it’s just him, and he’s not particularly interesting - he just (very quietly) runs through the usual stuff - where this was shot, what that background object is referencing, etc. I was tuning in and out, so maybe he acknowledges Clerks as an influence at some point (he points out Evil Dead references at least), but if not, he should be ashamed of himself.
I appreciate the effort, and on a technical level its superior to many of its peers (including the others I watched in the past week - I need a moratorium on these things), but the script was just too damn messy for me to really get into it. Maybe 10 years ago it would have been kind of amusing, but constantly cribbing from a unique voice (of a film that hasn’t aged well to boot) just rubbed me the wrong way.
What say you?