If you’re looking for some lighthearted zombie apocalypse fun and perhaps some laughs, well, you won’t exactly get the kick-ass Scout’s Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse (blog here) from April Apocalypse and Apocalypse Nerd, but here’s what you do get.
APRIL APOCALYPSE (2013)
April Apocalypse is sort of a zom-rom-com, but it’s pretty sparing in both the romance and comedy. It starts out as a bit of a generic teen angst flick, with the usual “boy-likes-best female friend-who-likes-asshole-jock” plot. This comes complete with some glaringly unnecessary tossing around of gay slurs—the main boy repeatedly tells the main girl the jock she likes is a fag, then at a party, the jock and his buddies call the main boy a queer. You think that shit would just cancel itself out, but no. Writers and directors need to go there because apparently it’s still the ultimate insult to hetero teens, and therefore, it’s important for filmmakers to reinforce it—I mean, make a relevant movie that speaks to its audience.
When the main boy runs away from home to escape his unsupportive parents and dick brother, he gets into a car accident. He regains consciousness to discover there’s been a zombie apocalypse. He’d actually crashed because he was swerving to avoid hitting zombies that were feasting in the road, which begs the question: considering he had his car window open and he was supposedly knocked out for a week, why didn’t zombies eat him? Anyway, he heads out on a road trip to get back the main girl (and rescue her from zombies).
Director Jarret Tarnol, who also brought us the horror anthology Barrio Tales (my blog here), gives us a film that may seem to be modeled after Zombieland (complete with our main boy narrating), but it’s more a heartfelt journey with our main boy as he teams with old and new friends to battle zombies on his way back to his girl. While everything, from the humor to the horror, is fairly standard and familiar, there is something charming about the film and its characters that keeps you watching.
I particularly think this is a film that would have stuck with me if I were seeing it as a teen (there’s even a reference to the Brat Pack), because the main boy (as well as all the other characters) are quite likable, and the basic teen crush story combined with some undead thrills is the perfect pairing. Plus, the cast is made up of a load of familiar faces. The main boy is played by Reece Thompson of Final Girl. Scream Rebekah Brandes (Nothing Left to Fear, Midnight Movie) is the main girl. There’s a brief appearance by Sarah Hyland (Haley on Modern Family, plus she appeared in Scary Movie 5 and Vampire Academy), and Matt Shively of The Real O’Neals is the main boy’s best buddy. The bully jock is pretty boy scream king Randy Wayne (Scar, Terror Toons 2, Grizzly Park, The 13th Alley, The Haunting of Molly Hartley, Ghost Town, Hold Your Breath, Paranormal Island). Even George Lopez has a small role as a psychiatrist.
However, one of my favorite characters in the movie is “The Priest,” played by quirky cute Todd Stashwick—who plays a priest on The Originals and a deacon on 12 Monkeys (holy trinity!)—and I wish his role had been larger.
His exchanges with the main boy are some of the most humorous moments of the film including jokes about Jesus freaks and a clever, neutral joke about gun control. Finally, the zombies are cool looking and make heinous noises, and the zombie sequences hit the mark perfectly.
APOCALYPSE NERD (2016)
Although The Big Bang Theory has faced backlash for the way it portrays nerds, after watching Apocalypse Nerd, I have to say nerds and geeks everywhere should celebrate the fact that the sitcom makes nerd and geek culture so palatable for mainstream culture and portrays its wacky characters as so likable.
Apocalypse Nerd is wonderfully crafted with a charismatic and competent cast, but damn was it hard for me to sit through. This seriously feels like genuine nerds got together and filmed their nerdy antics for an hour and a half. There are moments of humor I could appreciate, but overall, it was tedious for me to watch an hour of general survivalist role-playing shenanigans—with the two main characters talking to the camera as if shooting a video for YouTube—before getting to the final act, when zombies come into the picture.
The general plot has our two main nerds, their female friend, and a “hot nerd” going on a series of missions to save the world.
The two main nerds have a bromance that naturally has some homoerotic overtones, they’re both jealous of the hot nerd, and one of them has a crush on the female friend.
After numerous sequences of the nerds going out on missions, they finally get attacked by zombies for the remaining 25 minutes. The action is fast and furious, often to the point of being too chaotic to appreciate as they try to stay alive and come up with a cure.
I’d have to say, if this final sequence had been toned down, I wouldn’t have minded Apocalypse Nerd being a 30-minute short that just got to the point. As it is in full-length feature form, I imagine this one might just be meant for the hardcore nerd crowd that longs to be reflected on screen as the heroes.