After movies like Resident Evil, House of the Dead, and the Dawn of the Dead remake dragged the living dead into the new millennium, aspiring filmmakers who grew up on Romero, Fulci, and Return of the Living Dead movies started jumping on the zombandwagon, with mixed results. Here’s a look at two indie zombie films from that era that are pretty much in completely different leagues.
CATHOLIC GHOULGIRLS (2005)
Indie director Eamon Hardiman has made a bit of a name for himself with the cult franchise Porkchop, but Catholic Ghoulgirls was his first full-length feature, although it’s only 54 minutes long.
This is clearly the work of a young guy who dreams of making bigger horror movies, so yeah, it looks like he got a bunch of friends together and shot a movie in his backyard with party store monster makeup and a camcorder. Hell, many nighttime scenes are virtually black and white because of the lack of lighting.
That’s all fine, but I think the bigger issue here is that all the potential in the plot is just completely missed. The title alone is misleading, because the Catholic schoolgirls are not ghouls, nor do they conjure any. Catholic Ghoulgirls is simply a zombie film. They’re appearance is not explained. They just show up as a bunch of guys are sitting around talking about GI Joe and how the 80s were great but the 90s got all weird in its attempt to be retro.
The guys willingly accept that they are contending with zombies, so one guy decides he’s getting the hell out of town with his Catholic school girlfriend.
This is where there’s an odd catch—this movie is predominantly about the guys. The girls are virtually an afterthought until the end. I’m not complaining, because the guys are actually incidentally funny and humorous at times even though they have no acting talent. They are one of the highlights of the film.
The other highlight is the “Nobody Likes You When You’re Dead” girl punk theme song by Zombina & The Skeletones, which plays during the animated intro.
That alone leaves viewers expecting a much better movie loaded with campy comedy and adolescent sex humor that one can’t help laugh at as a bunch of busty babes in schoolgirl uniforms take down an army of the undead. But none of that happens.
Even the lesbian nuns mentioned in the movie description are underplayed. That description also references the Catholic schoolgirls being pursued by “Death himself – who happens to be gay.” I figured the film would at least be one to add to my “die, gay guy, die!” page here on Boys, Bears & Scares, but honestly, I’m not sure if gay Death was in the film. All I heard were gay slurs and anti-gay comments, including an AIDS joke about Greg Louganis. There was some bar bouncer they kept calling gay (but he kept denying it), so maybe he was supposed to be gay Death. Not sure because I could only make out about 25% of the dialogue in Catholic Ghoulgirls. The audio was horribly low in general, but a bigger problem is that a really bad decision was made to layer blaring rock music over a good portion of the dialogue. Sigh.
I must give credit for the FINAL zombie. Although most zombies looked about as horrendous as the zombie makeup in the original Dawn Of The Dead, the final zombie looked pretty cool.
ZOMBIE GAMES: THE KNACKERY (2009)
Zombie Games feels virtually like a sort of sequel to Clarke’s 2008 feature Zombie Wars: Battle of the Bone, which I blogged about here. While the setup of each film is different, the basic premise is the same – a bunch of guys is chased relentlessly through a city by zombies while also fighting off living human foes (that alone scores this film a place on my sausagefest scares page).
Just like its predecessor, Zombie Games is wholly action driven, not character or plot focused. It’s as simple as this – six guys are selected to be on a reality game show in which they have to battle it out on an “obstacle course” until only one man is left standing. However, the producers of the show haven’t bothered to tell them about the new catch…they’re releasing an army of zombies into the arena!
This is strictly an hour and fifteen minutes of guys running and jumping through what looks like an abandoned city while stopping every once in a while to beat the shit out of each other. The guys are amazing doing their own fighting sequences and physical acrobatics.
There’s more human fighting than battling with zombies, and while there’s a nice dose of blood and gore, the action is so rapid fire it’s hard to realize that we don’t actually get to see any detailed zombie faces. I assume this tactic was used to save money on loads of zombie makeup. This is what the zombies look like when their frantic movements onscreen are paused.
While interspersed clips of the game show host add some quirky elements to the film, there are some great comic moments that I would loved to have seen Clarke expand upon – a non-English speaking Asian contestant and a contestant he calls Fatty could easily have been the heroes and a great comic duo to root for, because their one scene together is a shining moment in the film.
There’s also some nice moonshine after the credits begin – we get loads of bloopers, including a clip of the guys in the cast mooning the camera. Thanks for that bonus, George! That’s George in the middle. Isn’t he cute?