NOVEMBER 21, 2012
When I first loaded up Zombie Apocalypse: Redemption, I thought it was a sequel to the surprisingly enjoyable Asylum film Zombie Apocalypse, which had Ving Rhames. And this one had Fred Williamson, who I figured was playing the same character since they're both black badass types who are undeservedly stuck in this sort of shit at this stage in their career. But I checked to see if they were indeed the same one, only to discover that this is actually a sequel to a DIFFERENT Zombie Apocalypse, one I never saw. However, I noticed no returning characters of note, so I figured I was safe to watch it, same as you can watch Romero's zombie films in any order that you like - the minor bits of continuity aren't significant in any way.
The weird thing about this movie is that it's basically the last 20 minutes of Dawn of the Dead stretched out to feature length. There's a team of survivors and a team of bandits endlessly fighting over some supplies, and the zombies are just sort of an obstacle. It offers enough z-action, but the intro tells us that there are 10,000 zombies for every human on earth, so I was kind of expecting to see them more often. Then again, most of the headshots are presented with lousy CGI blood, and the makeup is as basic as you can get (Walking Dead has really spoiled me on finding new ways to both design and kill zombies), so it's no big loss that we don't see them as often as human villains.
However, it IS a shame that the human villain is so cheesy. The film is mostly pretty serious, but the villain seems like he was modeled after Willem Dafoe's over the top cartoon bad guy from Streets Of Fire, except a. we don't get a sledgehammer fight and b. the actor here ain't no Dafoe. Every time they cut to him, and then again every time he opened his mouth, I felt my interest in the movie drop rapidly, which is problematic when it's not that interesting in the first place.
To be fair, it's not too bad, it just lacks personality. It's a typical action movie story of a guy with a dark past joining up with some folks, some of whom immediately distrust him, but by the end he's practically running the show. Replace the zombies with random prisoners and the movie is basically No Escape, with Williamson in the Lance Henriksen role and the same "we just got back from the bad guys' camp let's go to the bad guys' camp!" repetitive plotting. Some folks die, others live, and you won't really care much either way - though there is a rather endearing subplot about the hero's issues with Williamson's right-hand man. They butt heads for the first half hour or so, but then they bond when... well, when the hero knocks him out cold so he can take charge on a particular mission, which inadvertently results in one of the other guys getting killed. After that, they have a funny little exchange where they bust each others' balls, and from then on they are best buds. I dunno, it's weirdly executed but kind of charming all the same.
I was also impressed with the overall production; cheap CGI effects aside, they commit to their post-apocalyptic world and play it fairly straight, minimizing the potential to annoy me. I read the plot of the first film and it sounds like a typical zom-com, with two slacker types as the heroes, so I am relieved that returning director Ryan Thompson opted for something more dramatic here. Hell, a few more familiar faces in the roles (and if it was on film) and this could be any late 80s early 90s action/horror flick, something that would air on Cinemax after the big Wings Hauser movie for the night but before the softcore porn. And I would tape all three movies in SLP mode!
Really, Thompson's biggest problem is that there are just too many damn zombie movies out there these days, and he's merely hitting the expected beats without a lot of personality or creativity. One could assume he took the bad reviews of the original to heart and set out to do something more serious this time, but never really developed anything further than that. I didn't hate watching it (except for the villain scenes), but I never felt really engaged by much of it either, and at 100 minutes that's a bit much to ask anyone who has seen even 1/3 of what's come along in the past 5-6 years. Perhaps he should have reigned in the more ambitious ideas of the backstory (i.e. drop the opening text!) and cut the cast in half, giving everyone more time to be a meatier character while putting them in a story that was a little more exciting. With so many options in the genre, and so many ways to watch them (DVD, streaming, cable, etc), you gotta be more than competent to stick out. I mean, hell, I have to hunt for stuff almost every day and even I somehow missed the existence of these two films (the first one came out in 2010 and has a mere 76 user votes on IMDb - even a ), so it's not like they have a big marketing push or anything - make it weird or different so when people like me stumble across it we have a reason to help pimp it out! I can't tell people to check it out just because it's not as incompetently made as a number of the ones I've suffered through recently. Good try though.
What say you?