JUNE 10, 2013
If I was a guy who called the shots on anything, I'd have a weekly animated series based on The Amazing Adventures of the Living Corpse on the air ASAP. The concept is fun, I loved the animation style, and lord knows there needs to be more animated genre fare... but the movie ultimately disappoints, because it seems Justin Paul Ritter (whose name appears in the credits more times than I can count, so let's just sum up and say he's behind it all) tried to cram far too much material from the source comic into his 88 minute feature. With room to breathe and time to flesh out the world created by Ken Haeser and Buz Hasson in their comic, this could be kind of awesome.
Instead, it's just something I'd throw on in the background for a Halloween party; it's frenetic and colorful enough to draw the eye, but never engaging enough to actually distract someone away from conversation (though if they were talking to me, I'd probably just be talking about underwhelming horror movies I saw, natch). The jumps in the narrative are incredibly jarring - at one point (the end of the second act, basically) they just skip ahead 15 years as if it was only an hour or so, and even individual sequences suffer from the same "and now we're over here!" issue. Our hero zombie and villain are seemingly trapped in a lab, but suddenly they're in what appears to be a church. A seemingly important character named Asteroth disappears for the last 20 minutes or so, and even the end is obnoxiously abrupt, as if they were supposed to put in an epilogue but forgot. Having not read the comic, I can only assume that they were trying to adapt an arc that lasted several issues and highlighted their favorite parts?
Another way to look at it would be the cut-scenes from a video game strung together without the gameplay (and "codex" style entries) that would actually give it some context and structure. It's hard not to think about games - some of Ritter's angles seem to be specifically recalling the over the shoulder approach of your Mass Effects and Dead Spaces, while more than once there's a long zoom into a character's back that reminded me of any big open world type game where the first big cutscene transitions to gameplay. The music frequently has that repetitive "boss battle" looping feel to it, and even some of the plot and art style was reminiscent of the Splatterhouse reboot from a few years back. I'm not saying it's necessarily a bad approach - I certainly love games and, as with the animated format, feel that there aren't enough of them that appeal to horror fans - but with the disjointed approach to the narrative, it doesn't work as well as it could.
Which is a shame, because again, the animation style is kind of awesome. No one will mistake the CGI for Pixar or whatever, but the character designs strike a great blend between being appropriately horrific and also "heroic" (it's the sort of thing where most of the good guys are monster and the bad guys are human), and even in the human world there's an appropriately colorful but dark look to everything that I quite liked - sort of Paranorman meets the art of Clayton Crain, I guess. The backgrounds can be sparse, but that's fine - this was an independently made production and quite an impressive one for the most part, so things like that are not unexpected. I was a little more disappointed with the vocal work; not sure if the mix wasn't great or what, but it felt very disconnected, and I had trouble distinguishing voices when I couldn't actually see who was talking.
And it got me interested in reading the comic, so on that level it's a success. The story involves a man who becomes a zombie and turns good when recognizing his son as a would-be victim (his wife and daughter - too late!), and how he lives with the curse (still needs to eat folks to live!) while hoping to protect his son from bullies and mad scientists alike. Not quite sure what the mad scientist villain was up to since it involves a bunch of gobbledygook, but I DO know that in the 3rd act he has an exposed brain in a glass bowl like Bill Moseley in Silent Night, Deadly Night 3, so there's something. Again, the story jumps around a lot, so I had trouble following it on more than one occasion, but assuming the comics make sense, it seems like a fun "good vs. evil" yarn where the sides are swapped - I mean, the movie's most endearing character is a little troll demon named Worthless Merk. I'd totally read an issue about him.
The Blu doesn't have a single goddamn bonus feature, which surprised me - they had a premiere at Comic Con, it's an indie production, and it's based on a comic book - surely there is a wealth of "built-in" supplements, and they don't even give us a trailer? What gives, Anchor Bay? They could at least show us some art from the comic and how it compares with the 3D animated version, or some animatics or whatever. So that plus the underwhelming narrative makes this a tough sell, but they have the elements - let's see about doing a web series or something! I'd even toss in a couple bucks on Kickstarter.
What say you?