JANUARY 15, 2012
Guys, sit down. Take a deep breath. Calm yourself. What I am about to say can cause shock and panic.
…The Asylum’s Zombie Apocalypse is good.
And I don’t even mean “Good for Asylum”, I mean it’s a genuinely decent and fun zombie flick, with likable characters, a ton of action, and a lovably batshit finale. As long as you accept that the excess (and not very good, though I’ve seen worse) digital blood is allowing for more action, you should agree – especially since the dialogue is otherwise the worst thing about it. When folks are killing zombies, they're not stopping to talk.
To be fair, the dialogue isn't ALL bad – there are some decent exchanges here and there, and again, the characters are likable for a change. Even when some hardass humans show up in the 3rd act, they’re not “evil”, and they actually end up becoming good allies. Any zombie movie that skips over the usual “but MAN HIMSELF is the real villain!” stuff is already on my good side – not that the plot point is bad on its own, but it’s become such a cliché, and rarely seems thought out; the goals of the human villains usually make less logical sense than the idea of zombies in the first place.
But unfortunately, a lot of the dialogue falls on the exposition-y side of things, which can get tiresome. Our heroine is Taryn Manning (well, by default anyway - she doesn’t DO anything in the movie but she’s the most well-known of the female stars), and she’s not as experienced at killing zombies as the other characters. So we get a lot of exchanges where someone will say “Let’s pop and drop!” and she’ll have to have it explained to her. And then five seconds later someone will refer to a “runner” and she’ll need THAT explained to her. It borders on ridiculous as well; our hero is telling a story about how someone recently died, and says “we encountered a pack.” As always, she has to ask what that is – isn’t it kind of obvious what it is when discussing how someone was killed by zombies? It’s a bunch of fucking zombies! I’d almost rather they use weird terms and not explain them than over-explain things that are pretty damn self-explanatory.
Luckily, things never get too talky, a problem that plagues most Asylum films, where we see scene after scene of people looking at monitors from control rooms while Giant Octopus and Mega Shark do awesome things off-screen. In the first 20 minutes we get three big zombie fights, with lots of dismemberment and decapitations. Again, it’s all done digitally, and it rarely looks good, but I’d almost rather they were consistent instead of doing it right (i.e. practically) every now and then, which would just make the digital stuff look even worse when cut together with the practical effects. Their goal here was quantity over quality, and usually they botch BOTH.
I was also surprised how much Ving Rhames was actually in the film. I saw his name on the cover (which adds a “2012” to the title) but figured he’d be in the movie for like 10 minutes or so, tops. But nope, he’s there until the final reel, and there’s only one instance where I caught them using a double. Every now and then they find ways to keep him out of the camera range when his character is present (his character usually brings up the rear, so the camera will go in close on the guys up front, cutting him from view), but it’s a real lead performance, not just the usual bait and switch you get from these things. And for a guy far more respectable than many; no offense to Dean Cain, but when the distributor tries to sell a movie on his name when he’s only in it for five minutes, it just looks doubly desperate to me.
It also has some scope to it, again something that often escapes Asylum films. It’s obviously all LA when it’s supposed to be somewhere in the Midwest TO LA, but there are like 5-6 locations in the first half hour alone, and the characters never hole up anywhere for too long. A school, a sporting goods store, a shipyard, houses, lots of different exteriors… again, it’s like a real movie! Hell at one point they could have even stayed longer in a spot; there’s a fun bit where the survivors are trapped in a work van, surrounded by zombies on the outside while one of their number starts to turn. They could have milked the claustrophobia a bit more, but the matter is settled and they’re on their way again after a few minutes.
On that note, it kind of reminded me of Left 4 Dead. The plot is similar to any level of that game, where your four characters make their way to some sort of rescue vehicle (in this case, a boat). There are different kinds of zombies (including a “tank” type), the weapons are similar, and like the game, it’s remarkably straightforward. Again, no evil humans, but there aren’t too many other obstacles either – it’s just all run n’ gun, with zombies as the only real threat. That said, they took a bit from "The Walking Dead" as well – in addition to an off-screen character named Kirkman (someone mentions Pittsburgh as well – they did their homework!), our badass black female character almost exclusively uses a sword as her weapon. But hey that means they’re reading stuff instead of copying popular shows/movies like usual – Michonne hasn’t appeared on the AMC show yet!
The DVD has a pair of fairly worthless features; a gag reel in which I can’t even see what went wrong (if anything; some of it just appears to be random shots of people hanging out), and a brief making of that focuses mostly on the cast. I’d actually love a look at the Asylum “creative process”, and if they were ever to do such a thing I’d prefer it was on something like this, where the movie’s actually pretty fun, than some piece of junk like Amityville Haunting or whatever. But hey, if cutting corners on those other productions is what allowed this one to be pretty enjoyable (the co-production with Syfy probably helped, too), so be it. Good work guys; too bad you opted for your usual fake quote on the back – I would have given you “Best Asylum movie ever!” for real.
What say you?
P.S. Don’t comment “Why didn’t you mention the ____?”, because I won’t post it. Yes, it was awesome, but mainly because I didn’t know anything about it. Let people be surprised for once.