APRIL 3, 2012
Well, that’s it. Zombie Nation was the last film in the horror section at my Blockbuster (the only one that hasn’t closed of the four that I have used since beginning HMAD) that I had yet to see. Barring a few films from the 90s and early 00s that I had seen but never reviewed for a non canon entry, you could go into the Blockbuster at Riverside/Fulton with your smartphone and get my thoughts on every single movie you see in the horror aisle. That is impressive, no? No.
Anyway, there’s a reason I had put this one off for so long – I knew it would be a piece of shit. Being an Ulli Lommel film, there was little hope of it being even mildly bad, being that just about every other one I’ve seen from him would rank among the lowest of the low in the crap bin. Plus, unlike those others, this has notoriety that extends beyond my own bias – Zombie Nation currently ranks 12th on IMDb’s list of the worst movies of all time, higher (lower?) than any of his others, as well as anything from Uwe Boll or notorious whipping boys like From Justin To Kelly. The only films that are lower are a few MST3k titles like Manos and Red Zone Cuba, and Baby Geniuses 2. In other words, movies that get hated on just for existing and having some sort of exposure. Zombie Nation, on the other hand (which was once at #1) had to be sought out; no one's rating it bad just to be funny like Gigli or Battlefield Earth or whatever.
But does it deserve to be THAT low rated compared to his others? No, because they’re all equally terrible, and suffer from the same problems. Incoherent plotting, terrible acting across the board, out of nowhere misogyny that lacks the “charm” of similar sentiment in old Italian films… it’s all here in spades. However, there are two reasons I can think of that might explain why this one would be so much more hated than the others. One – it was actually his last film as a director of “regular” horror movies before he got obsessed with serial killers, so there’s some novelty value to it, not to mention potentially more appeal for those poor sods who liked his early 80s work and wanted to see what he was up to. If nothing else, at least he’s not desecrating the memories of actual murder victims with this one.
The other thing that might cause some ire is that the cover boasts a typical ghoulish zombie with blank eyes, broken teeth and sores all over their face, yet the movie itself features the least zombie-like “zombies” I’ve ever seen. They’re resurrected dead, but they look pretty normal for the most part – their only blemish is that their eyes are now surrounded with dark circles, making them look like raccoons (or prostitutes). Once they figure out that they can just put on some sunglasses, there is no discernible difference between them and the still living characters.
Plus, they don’t even show up until the movie’s final half hour, making you suffer through Lommel’s usual garbage without any real horror to make up for it. The entire movie until that point is just a trio of scenes repeated over and over: our villain (Singer) kidnaps/kills a girl, his partner objects to his superiors, and then the two men talk. Sometimes we go into flashback mode, which is often represented by blurry still photos as Singer recounts going to church or something. Finally, the women that have been killed come back to life, giving the plot some semblance of “progress”, but it’s still a horrid mess, as they only have one target so there’s not much left to do from there but gather together and kill him. Lommel pads things out with a few random victims on their way (a couple of guys offering them a ride), but it doesn’t help much. I did particularly enjoy when he stopped the movie cold for no reason whatsoever to have Singer argue with an angry customer at the furniture store that he takes his victims to. The women is there to buy a couch, and he keeps telling her “We’re closed!” as she gets angrier and angrier about not having a couch. It’s one of those scenes you’ll be watching and start to wonder if you’re just having a fever dream or something, because your brain cannot possibly process that this moment was presumably written (or at least plotted out), shot, digitized, edited, and put into a film that some people in the world have presumably paid to see.
I was also charmed in a way by Lommel’s insane music choices, as the final third of the film features nearly wall to wall electronic pop that in no way matches the mood of what is on screen. This after a full length rendition of “Let There Be Peace On Earth”, which has to be considered some sort of sacrilege, right? Either way, it fits the movie’s wholly jarring nature, where almost nothing fits together – including the footage itself, which often switches to consumer grade video for closeups. Is it possible that the director is so inept that he forgot to shoot inserts and such when making the movie and had to go back with a different camera? Yes, it is very possible.
Lommel also provides a commentary with two others (producers, I think), but it’s akin to someone in a theater making a few comments under their breath to whoever they’re with as opposed to a “running” commentary. They go silent so often I occasionally forgot that they were even supposed to be there, momentarily thinking “Who is talking?” when they’d start up again. And most of what they DO say involves pointing out the locations or what other horrible Lommel movies the actors were in before or after (they say something about shooting this two years before recording the commentary). Occasionally one of the producers will mock a bad set design or something, but those moments are few and far between, and nothing is as funny as what you probably shouted at the screen while watching it. So there you go, an utterly worthless movie that features an even more worthless commentary. The trailer is also there, because Lommel and his people actively hate everyone else in the world and thus wanted to twist the knife that much more.
What say you?