My “to see” streaming list is, as usual, getting a backlog of zombie films on it, so I chipped away at four of them recently and here’s how things turned out. While they’re all from the 20-teens, by coincidence, I watched them chronologically from newest to oldest of the bunch and it worked in my favor.
GRANNY OF THE DEAD (2017)
When you title a movie Granny of the Dead, no one is going to expect anything less than an insanely over-the-top zombedy. They just aren’t. I think Granny of the Dead is posturing itself as such, but it falls flat. It also falls flat in every other way – horror, drama, action. But it shouldn’t, because technically, everything about this film is well done.
Unfortunately, it’s as if the movie misses a beat early on and just never finds the right tempo. It becomes this monotone zombie flick that goes through all the motions yet never gets energized.
And with the granny angle being the key aspect of originality to an otherwise completely generic zombie outbreak story, it adds nothing to the mix beyond granny being a hindrance every now and then. She could be any zombie that accidentally became trapped in the main character’s house.
The intro scene is the most intriguing moment. A bunch of kids hangs out in a church, and suddenly a giant skeletal hand creeps into the cathedral.
An old lady appears, croaks something ominous, and then drops to the floor and begins to transform as the kids run out.
I don’t know what it means, and we never find out. It’s right on to the usual zombie outbreak after that, starting with the main kid discovering his grandmother is a zombie.
There are only two scenes that will stick with me from this film. Actually, three counting the big hand in the church. The second is the main guy’s cute, shirtless friend getting his dick bit off by a male zombie (and it’s a huge dick).
The third is one of the few funny moments the film needed more of – the main guy kicks a disembodied zombie hand, and the POV suddenly shifts to that of a zombie ambling over as the hand smacks it in the head.
HERE ALONE (2016)
It’s all about perspective, so reassessing Granny of the Dead as a totally rockin’ zombie flick is as easy as following it up with Here Alone. Tragically, it’s one of those zombie films that’s less about the crazy ways a filmmaker can find to turn people into zombies or what new inventive ways zombies can tear people apart, and more about the trials and tribulations of the characters before and after the outbreak.
Here Alone is well written. The characters are clearly developed. It’s emotional. There are intense flashbacks. The foreboding atmosphere is great. And once or twice, there’s a hint of a zombie.
This woman is on her own, having lost her baby and husband. She meets up with this man and his teen daughter. Even in a zombie apocalypse, the teen is a bitchy brat. She’s cold to the woman. She becomes jealous of the woman.
This is a whole lot of character development to get to the big shocking final scene, which at last delivers a thrilling, well-crafted zombie attack. It’s a tightly made film, I just think it’s a story that could have been told in a 30-minute short.
Not to be confused with Zombrex, the medication that slows down the zombification process in the Dead Rising video games, Zombex is a movie that slows down time!
Things begin well enough. A radio reporter rants about the dangers of a particular medication as a woman sits down to breakfast with her husband…then becomes breakfast right after her husband’s eyes glow green! Guess his medication kicked in.
Turns out Malcolm McDowell is a doctor who tried to make a cure for PTSD. It had the opposite effect. At least on the people who turn into raving mad zombies in the movie. For those watching, we become so chill we’re almost comatose.
Nothing happens as various characters come together (lesbians, the radio guy, a sexy singer dude) while trying to escape the zombie infestation and…hang out just drinking and talking!
There’s some fast, choppy zombie action now and then, but not enough to warrant sitting through the film.
101 ZOMBIES (aka Broken Springs) (2010)
Movies like 101 Zombies are why I keep watching zombie movies, are why I keep watching indie movies, and are why I keep watching indie zombies movies, no matter how many bad ones I have to get through before I get to ones like this.
Director/writer Neeley Lawson doesn’t let, well…anything stop him from making a solid little independent zombie film. I didn’t watch this film and think, “Look at this hack thinking he’s a filmmaker.” That’s because limited resources didn’t stop this guy from:
– writing a straightforward, succinct script that sticks to zombie basics with just enough surprises to satisfy zombie aficionados.
– balancing it all perfectly: likable characters; scares; gore; suspense; humor; quirkiness; action; storyline.
– all around dedication from everyone involved in crafting the best movie possible, including performances, the visual look, pacing, special effects, zombie makeup, camerawork, editing, etc.
The premise is about a small town in which this cute teenager lives in a pink trailer with his mom and his asshole stepdad. After a fight with his stepdad, he’s busy having no fun at all at a party with his friends when the townsfolk are suddenly infected with a zombie virus…the result of tainted moonshine!
Now our main guy and his buddies must fight off zombies as they try to get across town to rescue their family and friends from the infected.
From the beginning of the outbreak, at what I call “zombingo,” to the high school party breaking out into a rapid-fire daisy chain zombie infection, 101 Zombies is a charmingly clever flick with plenty of humorous moments that don’t take away from the fact that these are some fricking gnarly looking zombies!
But we are also never given a chance to forget that this one is all about horror being fun, the biggest reminder coming in the form of a wild car chase scene near the end of the film.
I will definitely be keeping an eye out for more films by Neeley Lawson.