Another calendar year goes by the wayside for Zombie Movie Night. Still no end in sight. Really thought we would have seen them all by now. Not even close.
First up was The Revenant. American soldier, Bart (Really? Bart? I think the Simpsons has laid claim to this name for the rest of time. There should never be another character anywhere named Bart. Or Homer) is killed in Iraq and shipped home. Not long after his funeral service, Bart wakes up as the titular revenant. He visits his best friend, Joey, and together they try to piece together what Bart has become and what to do about it.
The problem the film has is that it doesn’t quite know what it wants to be. The plotting, pacing, and tone are all over the map. There are shades of a buddy comedy here, but the two leads don’t really do or say anything all that funny. There’s a lost love subplot about Bart and the woman who was waiting for him to return from Iraq, but the woman is barely a character and the few scenes she has are played like she’s come kind of crazy person. (I don’t think a sane person would yell, “why are you doing this to me?” when their boyfriend miraculously returns from the dead.)
The movie’s best sequence is when Bart adopts the ‘Dexter’ philosophy of “if I have to do bad things, I will do them to bad people,” and starts administering some vigilante justice in the violent inner city. Not with a particular skill set, mind you. Mostly just his ability to absorb gunshots. Eventually, things get complicated and Bart’s fragile world starts to fall apart. Not in terribly logical ways, however, and it is the ending where the Revenant really goes off the rails. There might be some drama to mine from an immortal undead’s inability to commit suicide but not after eighty minutes of weak comedy. Ironically, the film’s funniest moment (probably unintentionally so) comes during this serious part as we bear witness to the most incompetent SWAT team in movie history.
Ultimately, I’d have to say skip this one. It’s frustratingly close to being something good, but it just couldn’t quite get there. Grade: C-
Next we watched the second half of Insane in the Brain, a spoof/homage of 70’s blaxploitation films. We had started this one last month, but the disc was damaged so I had to request a new one from Netflix. Goldie and Sloan are two hip detectives who are called to investigate when the prostitutes at the local brothel start getting killed off. This can only be the handiwork of some particularly horny zombies.
The film starts off slowly and badly. The first scene is an extended sequence of some of the most annoying zombies of all time rising from their graves screaming, “BRAINS!” My initial instinct was “this is the worst thing I’ve ever seen, I want to shut this off.” So I have to give the movie some credit for improving from “worst thing I’ve ever seen” to “I want to replace this disc to see how it ends” in about a half hour’s time. Once you get past the brutally long zombie intro and first murder and the pointless and tiresome exposition of the prostitutes’s characters only to have them be offed, the proceedings get much more interesting. Goldie and Sloan are likeable characters and the film starts having a lot of fun with its low-budget limitations. The silly dialogue, wacky sound effects, looping and reversing of the same shots all give Insane in the Brain a hilarious “what the hell am I watching” kind of charm. And when is fast motion not funny? I say never.
It might have something to do with the split viewing, but the ending felt kind of sudden and abrupt. The climax plays more like a build-up to a climax and ultimately, I was left wanting more. Again, not bad considering my instinct after that opening scene. Grade: C+
Lastly, we watched Gangs of the Dead, another in a long line of direct-to-video extravaganzas filled with slightly familiar faces, C level actors and a slew of “that guys.” Yes, you’re right, that’s probably describing one thing in three ways. Anyway, this is your standard ‘glowing meteor causes a zombie outbreak/rivals must work together to survive’ affair. This has been done before and in much better fashion by The Horde and even by Mutant Vampire Zombies From the Hood. Gangs opens with some solid zombie action but quickly grinds to a halt once the characters become trapped in a warehouse. It wasn’t that late in the night for us both to be starting to fall asleep. This one is just mind-numbingly boring when there was no reason for it to be. The acting isn’t bad. We’re given backstory on at least one of the characters and there’s even a bit of mystery as to which gang member is secretly a NARC. But it’s all done in the least interesing way possible. In terms of gore, plot, and overall fun, I’d say there’s nothing here that hasn’t been done better somewhere else and for that, I just can’t recommend it. I’d much rather watch a low-budget film really commit to its badness like Insane in the Brain than sit through yet another medium-budget snoozefest. Grade: C