Harrison Smith, the director of the slasher Camp Dread, which I blog about here, takes on the zombie genre with the curiously titled Zombie Killers: Elephant’s Graveyard. The title alone might make you hesitant. Be warned. There’s another catch. Going into it, you aren’t made aware that this is not a standalone film. There’s no conclusion, just a final scene that introduces the cast to new situation and new characters (aka: the next movie).
This is one lofty attempt at an epic zombie film franchise. It’s also a plot that might better be delivered as a TV show. Actually, it already has. It’s called The Walking Dead. Heard of it?
In Zombie Killers: Elephant’s Graveyard, a group of people has created a safe, fenced-in community after the zombie outbreak. There are changing loyalties within the community. Power hungry baddies who want to overtake the leadership. Religious zealots. Crazy gun lovers. A pregnancy. Sick and infected loved ones. Anarchy. And occasionally, zombies.
Are we really on camera now?
I don’t know when Smith formulated the idea for this project, but the timing of its release could either benefit it or have a negative impact. There’s no way that loser horror bloggers (like me) aren’t going to point out how this movie is like an already dragging episode of The Walking Dead drawn out to virtually the length of two episodes. Really, we’d be even bigger losers if we didn’t point it out. But there is one unique difference that might even be considered a political statement to the overly sensitive. The believed cause of the zombie outbreak is…fracking!
However, that isn’t even the main theme of this first film. Neither is horror. The hour and forty-five-minute running time focuses heavily on characters, without building horror atmosphere or suspense. Indeed, it’s essentially a social drama. Even the score is heavy-handed with the musical dramatics. There’s a load of dialogue. There’s a load of time spent watching the community’s army go out for some target practice (although, I didn’t mind the one with the shirtless hotties). And there are an excessive number of scenes of people driving across the countryside. Mostly on their way to target practice.
Enough standing around talking. Shouldn’t you be at target practice?
In between, we have a few zombie encounters, a scene of attacking fish—out of water—which will be explained in a later movie I assume, a wolf attack, and a deer stampede. Actually, the deer stampede is one of very few scenes that break the high-quality look and feel of the film. This does not look like a low-budget indie in most instances, so the computer generated deer sort of jump out at you.
I’ll believe there’s a zombie apocalypse when fish fly. Oh…shit….
As for the cast, we get horror icon Dee Wallace as a sick mother, and always awesome Billy Zane as the leader of the “Zombie Killers.” Billy gets to show off his humorous side a limited number of times because the movie is in no way meant to be a comedy. In fact, those moments seem out of place despite being super welcome.
We also get Felissa Rose of Sleepaway Camp as a religious loon and Mischa Barton of The O.C with baby. And, although it appears he’s supposed to be straight, the lead blond kid comes off gay in several scenes, especially when he makes a reference to Mommy, Dearest! Who knows? Maybe he’ll come out in the next installment.
With mustached studs like him around, bandana boy is sure to cave to temptation.
The director has also filled Killer Zombies: Elephant’s Graveyard with a whole lot of alumni from his film Camp Dread. The great news is, they can act. In fact, there are quite a few really strong performances that, despite the film’s plodding pacing, will have me checking out the follow-up for sure. What can I say? I’m a fan of The Walking Dead. Not to mention, the zombies look cool and I’m a sucker for cool zombies.
The zombie/human ratio: a visual guide