After years upon years of Zombie Movie Night, it is finally starting to seem like the pickings are getting slimmer. Zombie movies are still being churned out, don’t get me wrong. I’m eagerly anticipating both Cooties, starring Rainn Wilson & Elijah Wood as teachers battling zombie children (http://www.comingsoon.net/films.php?id=96539#/slide/1) and Zombeavers:
But these sure-to-be cinematic masterpieces are still off in the seemingly distant future. My brother and I need content now and for that, we have had to turn more and more to “queue clearing.” Things that have been on the radar for a while and/or collecting dust in the Netflix queue because they just weren’t all that enticing. So while I wait impatiently for Zombeavers, first we check in with SyFy channel’s zombie craze cash-in from a couple of years ago: Zombie Apocalypse.
The Syfy Channel has become relatively famous for cranking out intentionally low-budget cheesy monster flicks that have a self-aware, campy kind of charm that’s well-suited for blowing up the snarky Twitter-verse. While Zombie Apocalypse maintains the look, feel and production qualities of this kind of Syfy specialty, it is sorely lacking in the all-important fun department. You would think that a cable channel that gleefully gives us a shark inside a tornado would be able to wring some humor out of the tiresome zombie genre, but this venture, for whatever reason, is played completely straight. The result is a movie that is just as boring as its title would indicate. Well, the idea of a zombie apocalypse certainly isnt’ boring, but as a title, I just imagine Syfy execs ordering a project tentatively called “Untitled Ving Rhames Zombie Apocalypse Film” and then lazily dropping some of those words when it came time to make a title card.
It’s hard to pinpoint what exactly is wrong with this film and while pondering this, I realized maybe that’s actually what the problem is. There’s nothing great about it, of course, but there’s also nothing wrong with it to make it truly noteworthy. The actors are recognizable, competent or both. The script is above average, with a clear mythology, characters with personalities and a goal. The zombies and special effects are Syfy standard issue so you can’t really laugh at them like you’ve never seen it before. Zombie Apocalypse is a perfectly cromulent zombie movie with nothing innovative or exciting to offer unless you really dig Syfy’s patented “climactic fight with giant CGI monster animal.” It’s passable, but that’s not a compliment in this case. Grade: C
Next up was the Starz production, Dead and Deader, starring Dean Cain and a veritable all-star cast of vaguely familiar “that guys.” Cain plays Lt. Bobby Quinn, a special op soldier whose opening scene mission goes horribly wrong when a Cambodian lab that specializes in scorpion harvesting and zombie-making gets blown up. Quinn arrives stateside in a body bag, but surpises the mortician by waking up full of the all-too-familiar zombie super powers. Quinn is uinique in that he maintains his mental faculties, but his fellow soldiers are not so lucky. Quinn escapes custody and uses his zombie super senses to track and destroy the others before they can spread the zombie plague. Along the way, he picks up a wacky sidekick and a love interest and has a showdown with the evil scientist behind the whole thing.
In stark contrast to Zombie Apocalypse, Dead and Deader doesn’t take itself too seriously, making it the more entertaining of the two films. It’s impossible to break new ground with the zombie premise, so you had better bring the fun factor. Even while leaving a trail of gore and destruction, our heroes still crack jokes and keep the proceedings relatively light. The love interest is a bit of a misstep as she is just too “nerd fantasy perfect” to be an actual person. She’s super hot, loves movies, wrote her thesis on Dawn of the Dead and talks openly about wanting to find a motel to bang in. Yeah, okay. Also, the ending drags a bit as the whole climax is served up on a platter of obviousness, but it doesn’t ruin it entirely. In the end, it far exceeded my expectations, although after suffering through last month’s entrants, anything was going to be a step up. Grade: B