MAY 22, 2011
The most depressing thing about Platoon Of The Dead is that I could have watched it on Netflix Instant and spared myself some boredom. But instead I rented the disc, which came loaded with a ton of bonus material, nearly all of which was seemingly designed for the actors and crew members to enjoy exclusively. In-jokes and the like fill just about every second of the roughly 90 minutes of supplemental bonus material; none of which really explained why the movie was so damn dull.
Well, one part does. Over a particularly obnoxious and anticlimactic shot of one of the characters endlessly shooting at unseen assailants, the director explained that none of their zombie extras showed up for the shoot, and they HAD to shoot the scene that day, because the main actor (who most of the extras are focused on, as if he was some sort of major star that was gracing their shoot; his resume is actually one of the smallest in the entire production) had to go off for another shoot (presumably his role as “Army Colonel” in a TV movie that came out two years later). So I’ll give them that one. But how do they explain the rest of the movie’s shocking dullness? I’ve seen more than my fair share of no/low budget zombie movies in the past couple years, and I can’t think of a single one that featured so little action. By the one hour mark of the 80 minute film, all six of our main characters are still alive, and we’ve seen maybe three zombies. That is not acceptable.
Plus, the appearance of one of those three zombies is largely confusing, because it’s clearly being played by one of the actors playing the heroes. So I thought it was him, and didn’t understand why his friends were all hiding for him, until I realized it was supposed to be another character. The actors didn’t really fit their roles either; this guy was a typically hard-ass looking, crew-cut dude in his early 40s, but the commanding officer looked like a typical stoner (long hair and all) in his late 20s at BEST. It’s fine when a bunch of 12 year olds make a movie and pretend to be soldiers and other age-inappropriate things, but come on guys.
I bring up kids because their guns are clearly plastic rifles from Toys R Us, but the difference is that they shoot lasers instead of bullets. Maybe I just missed something; was this movie supposed to be taking place in the near future or something? Because everyone drove 90s models caravans and such, and there were only two locales in the movie (a forest and a very homey ranch house), so nothing but the lasers suggested anything later than 2005 or so.
Platoon Of The Dead also makes a good case for why you should never explain where the zombies came from, and just let the audience make up their own reasons. Because whatever you come up with is likely going to be less interesting than whatever the viewer thinks is the cause due to the fact that everyone always thinks they can do better. But in this case it’s actually true, because we discover that the zombies are all born from five kids messing around with a Ouija board, which barely passes for a good back-story even in movies that are ABOUT Ouija boards. And this explanation comes in that final 20 minutes, so not only are we still not getting any action, we’re hearing full blown nonsense instead.
The best thing I can say about the movie is that the actors are pretty decent for these sort of things, and the director seemed to know what he was doing in terms of blocking and shot setups. A lot of these things tend to have endless master shots where all of the actors stand around awkwardly so they can all fit in frame, or even more awkward back and forths that are clearly shot separately, with jarring pauses in between lines because the director didn’t know how to edit properly. But this one is actually sort of professional in that respect; there are good angles, the editing is fairly strong, etc. If he had a script worth shooting this could have been a pretty good movie!
I urge you to skip the extras, save for maybe the commentary which is thankfully not too jokey or arrogant; the director is pretty straight-forward and amiable as he discusses the production fairly thoroughly, and doesn’t seem too bitter or blame-y about the film’s issues (i.e. the extras not showing up), so that’s good. But everything else is just obnoxious; the Tom guy giving the actors a “boot camp”, a making of that seems more like the home videos of one of the crew members, a tour of the house (which is covered with Jesus paraphernalia for some reason), etc. Bizarrely, the better extras are only available on the DVD-rom part of the disc, which means folks are likely not going to find the deleted (really extended) scene, an interview with the director and producer (there’s a random anecdote about lunch in this), and some outtakes, which might be funny, I guess – never found them to be particularly funny even in movies I like featuring actors I know. It baffles me why this stuff was more or less "hidden" though; could they not figure out how to make two pages on the special features menu?
So once again, we have a movie that no one was demanding with several flaws that could have been avoided. Zombies don’t show up? Shoot the scenes when they do. Actor not always available? Hire someone who is. To the best of my knowledge, the release date of Platoon Of The Dead was not set in stone by its parent studio, so I don’t see why they couldn’t just wait for their situation to be more ideal before shooting. The locales they had were perfect for a slasher movie; why not make one of those instead of trying to pull off a zombie war epic when you don’t even have zombies? Fake guns, recycled actors... all of this stuff I can deal with as long as the movie isn’t boring me to tears. The six hottest/best actors and actresses in the world couldn’t have held my interest if they weren’t doing anything interesting.
What say you?