MARCH 3, 2011
I will give The Zombie Farm (formerly Macumba) this much credit – it’s not the generic zombie film its cover and synopsis would lead you to believe. Even with another film named Zombie Farm already on the marketplace, it has its own voice and should stick out from the (too many) zombie movies on the shelves today. Unfortunately, it’s also geared specifically at the Latino audience, which is NOT part of the description, and thus that will likely lead to some disappointment from a general audience.
While I’m all for “foreign” horror films, it just felt a little awkward watching one where characters are looked down upon for finding Americans attractive (especially since it was filmed in Louisiana, not in say, Mexico), and somewhat annoying when you consider that this sort of stuff seemingly takes up more screen-time than the damn zombies. It takes nearly forty minutes for our first proper zombie scene (and he’s by himself), but by then we’ve already been given a five minute lecture about Latino women disgracing their people by wanting to wear blue contact lenses in order to look like “them” (Americans). Yeah yeah, we suck, we’re the bullies of the world... fine – get to the goddamn zombies! You can flat out call us racists for all I care, but make sure there’s a flesh eater nearby to at least keep the entertainment value afloat.
Plus the zombie action is wholly unsatisfying. The gore and makeup have a borderline grade school level of quality, and the heroes barely even kill any themselves. Bullets to the head don’t even work, which is kind of cool when it first happens but they don’t really exploit it nor do they come up with a satisfying alternative way of stopping them (plucking out their eyes, perhaps?). Instead, the zombies collectively all just sort of burn up and drop dead at the end of the film, due to an accident that caused some important voodoo element to burn up. How about that! The only reason our heroes are alive is because someone else was careless. It’s like having Jar-Jar and Anakin bumble their way to victory at the end of Phantom Menace, but with shitty effects and no John Williams.
I liked that it was a voodoo-based zombie “outbreak” (there’s like 20 total zombies in the movie), however. The Louisiana setting was already giving me some Fulci/The Beyond flashbacks, so it was fitting and again, a nice change of pace from the usual chemical-based stuff (or just having no explanation). However they don’t spend enough time with the voodoo priestess (who has a delightfully profane mouth), because writer/director Ricardo Islas is too busy with scenes that seem lifted out of some lame romantic comedy. Yes, our two leads – a documentary filmmaker and a con artist with a heart of gold – engage in “witty” repartee every other scene, and it gets tiresome after about 20 minutes (generous estimate). Oh, she walked into a double entendre! Oh, he acts like a handsome lothario when he’s a chubby average guy! WHERE ARE THE ZOMBIES? This, I suspect, is what happens when there are something like 15 producers listed at the top of the film – you get a movie that tries to work on too many different (and incompatible) levels.
And did I just miss it, or did they never live up to the elderly grandma zombie that was more or less promised? We see her with a giant bite on her leg but I can’t recall ever seeing her again (I might have dozed for a couple minutes). I know I didn’t miss the rather idiotic “twist” (spoiler!) when the now zombie abusive boyfriend character suddenly becomes a hero, attacking the voodoo priestess who is slapping around the woman he himself slapped around (which started this whole mess in the first place). I’m all for poetic justice, but it just comes out of nowhere and doesn’t really fit with the zombie mythology. Then again, shooting them in the head didn’t even work, so I guess it shouldn’t surprise me. Still, if you’re going to have zombies that retain some of their humanity, it should be with a character who displayed some prior to becoming a zombie. It also should be explored more than 12 seconds before the end of the movie (well, not the actual end, but 12 seconds before all the zombies die and thus we stop caring about whatever’s happening in the movie).
The only bonus feature besides an endless trailer reel is a 15 minute making of featurette that seems like it was produced for a 3rd party basic cable or internet show. It’s very geared toward the benefits of shooting in Lousiana – it’s not often you hear about tax incentives on the bonus material (and for good reason – it’s fucking boring), and the local crews and scenery are also given quite a bit of praise. There’s not a lot of discussion of the story or even the characters, but we DO learn that “DP” stands for “Director of Photography” and that his job is to work closely with the director. So there’s something.
So it’s a bit too all over the place to really work on any level, but if you are in the mood for a rom-com/domestic abuse fable/minimalist zombie movie hybrid, I can’t think of any better option than The Zombie Farm!
What say you?