SEPTEMBER 2, 2010
Well, I'll say this much, I've certainly seen worse zombie movies than Zombie Wars. There's a refreshing limit to the CG effects (basically just blood), there's a lot of action, and there's some semblance of creativity in the story, with the war referring to more than just the usual swarm of undead - these zombies actually have a base and everything!
But it's also too ambitious for its budget, which renders most of the movie laughable. The acting is atrocious pretty much across the board, with nearly every main actor looking/sounding nothing like the role they're supposed to play. Particularly grating is Jonathan Badeen as Sliver, who is supposed to be a sleazy, runty type guy, but just looks/sounds like Corey Feldman doing a bad Christian Slater impression for the entire movie. The two main guys are supposed to be brothers, and they do share similar physical attributes (my nice way of saying it took me a while to finally be able to tell them apart, since they were so bland), but they have zero chemistry. One of them is kidnapped by the zombies and held for weeks, but when they reunite they're just like "sup?". And when one of them dies, the other doesn't seem all that upset by it.
More troubling is the lack of any sort of visual proof that the world is in any state of disarray. We're supposed to believe that there's no civilization left and all that, but we just have to take their word for it, as the entire movie takes place in a state park of some sort (I kept thinking of "Goth Talk" from SNL, half-expecting to see a few frisbee players in the background). And if it's been 5 years, why do they STILL not have any sort of permanent docile? Shouldn't they have built a few huts or something by now? That's where doing something interesting is sort of a double-edged sword when it comes to no-budget horror filmmaking - you can be more ambitious than the other films, but that also makes your flaws all the more obvious and crippling.
But it's not impossible to achieve this sort of "different world in the near future" landscape on a limited budget. I recently watched the film Monsters, which had a budget even smaller than this one, and that film was quite successful at creating a world where a huge chunk of Mexico and part of the US was destroyed or quarantined due to giant space aliens. I believed everything the movie said, but never once did I buy into this movie's depiction of a post apocalyptic world. It never looked like anything but a bunch of bad actors in a park.
Like I said, it's technically decent though, at least compared to other DTV zombie flicks of this era. The digital image won't win anyone over, but at least director David Prior doesn't just leave the damn thing on a tripod and hope for the best, like many of his peers. Nor does he go overboard with shaki-cam, the go-to process for folks hoping to give their film an unneeded/unearned "edge". His editor needs to be kicked directly in the groin for his wipe obsession though. Maybe he just watched Star Wars too many times while editing, or maybe he genuinely thought they looked good, but they're horribly stupid, made worse by an annoying "whoooosh" sound that accompanies most of them.
They also don't really think their "smart zombie" concept through. Somehow they have the mental capacity to learn how to farm, make camps, kidnap humans and force them to breed "food"... yet they still walk right into guns aimed at their head, and never bother to use any of the tools we see them use as any sort of weapon. There's also some half-baked nonsense about them being fed/aided by the requisite evil humans, but this subplot is so under-utilized, it almost seemed like a deleted pair of scenes from another movie entirely. Again, if you're going to think outside the box, you have to follow through. A generic story well-told is better than a unique one told poorly, I think. Now if someone with a big budget and decent actors decided to make a true "zombies vs. humans" war film (and no, the long-promised World War Z film doesn't count - the zombies there weren't smart), they'll be accused of ripping off Zombie Wars.
So it's sort of a mixed bag. It's not as generic as I sort of expected, and it's refreshingly low on humor (thanks to Shaun of the Dead, most indie zombie films are would-be comedies). But it's laughably low-budget with respect to its storyline, and the actors will put just about anyone to sleep (took me two sittings!). It's a shame Prior didn't sell his script to a company with a few million to put into it, because then we might have gotten a good film instead of a "nice try".
What say you?