Zombies of Mass Destruction
Zombie films are messy. It goes with the territory. They rip, tear, and chew. They never take bite-sized portions or use a napkin. Heck, even if theyíre not eating someone, theyíre slowly decomposing and gathering dirt. Thatís all part of the fun. Sometimes, though, a zombie film can get messy for different reasons, which is what happens with Zombies of Mass Destruction.
Zombies of Mass Destruction begins in Port Gamble, a small town on an island off Washington, where a lone zombie washes up on shore and slowly begins spreading its infection through the isolated community. We only get the barest hints of that, though, as the film then takes us to Frida (Janette Armand), the daughter of naturalized Iranian parents who grew up here in Port Gamble. Sheís on leave from Princeton to sort her life out and dead tired of trying to explain to the right-wing locals that sheís not Iraqi and, technically, not Iranian, either -- sheís an American. Sheís also tired of her dad (Ali Hamedani) pressuring her to take over the family business. Then thereís Tom (Doug Fahl), a Wall Street banker whoís been pressured by his beau, Lance (Cooper Hopkins), to come home and come out to his mother. And thereís also some local political shenanigans between the incumbent conservative mayor (James Mesher) whoís just found out heís campaigning against progressive schoolteacher Cheryl (Cornelia Moore).
As you may have gathered, the film shies away from the zombies for the first half hour or so. We catch a few glimpses of staggering locals here and there, hear a few folks chatting about getting nipped or bitten, but none of the characters think much of it until one of the walking dead finally takes a chunk out of Fridaís musician boyfriend (Ryan Barret) and ruins their night out. Her evening gets even worse, though, when she ends up hiding out with one of the local families and their wingnut father (Russell Hodgkinson) decides she must somehow be in league with the Middle-Eastern terrorists who have supposedly released the zombie plague. Things arenít much better for Tom and Lance, who escape Tomís zombified mother only to find themselves barricaded in a church with a preacher (Bill Johns) who tells his congregation the plague is Godís divine vengeance to destroy the heathen sinners and homosexuals of the world. In retrospect, the movieís also very zombie-light through these points as well.
Iíd love to say thereís more to this film but...well, there isnít. Frida escapes the right-wing family with a little help from reanimated mom, the guys escape the church with Cheryl, they all meet up and get rescued, the end. All that is 10 minutes, absolute tops, and thatís including Frida stopping at home to take care of some family business and grab a shotgun. Yeah, the story ends pretty much just as the heroine grabs the shotgun. Itís so abrupt and anti-climactic that an hour later, while writing this summary, I couldnít even remember how the movie ended and had to go watch it again. No, itís not just me -- my girlfriend watched it with me and she couldnít remember, either. The filmmakers donít seem to know what to do once theyíve said their bit on political/ religious conservatives -- which amounts to ďtheyíre idiotsĒ -- so they wrap everything up just when the bigger story is finally getting into high gear.
Really, thatís the annoying thing about this film. ZMD has a lot of great moments in it, but they donít gel together because it doesnít seem to know what kind of film itís trying to be. Is it a straight zombie flick with some biting social commentary? A comedy? A satire? A demo reel for makeup and special effects? The first big attack, where Fridaís boyfriend gets his face peeled off, is straight out of a classic Romero film, both in style and impact, but a few minutes later she rescues a little girl in a scene that almost feels like it shouldíve been in Scary Movie V: Zombie Movie. Tom and Lance fighting their way across town is reminiscent of Shaun of the Dead or Zombieland, but their time in the church suddenly shifts gears to The Stepford Wives (a whole different kind of zombie). When Fridaís dad goes looking for her and rampages through the horde shouting his daughterís name again and again, itís straight out of Raimiís Evil Dead movies. Screenwriter Ramon Isao and writer/director Kevin Hamedani have a scattershot approach to tone that keeps all the individual scenes from becoming a cohesive whole.
Going scene by scene, thereís nothing bad in Zombies of Mass Destruction. Itís all different types of gory zombie goodness, a few good laughs, and some not-so-sly winks at the ignorance and paranoia that have been gleefully fueled in America for the past seven or eight years. But a bunch of ingredients you love donít automatically combine to make a great meal, and my chocolate-chip, rum, and hummus pizza stands as a testament to that. Without any actual theme or consistent tone, the film just wanders along. Itís not hard to wander with it, you'll have fun along the way, but in the end you donít really feel like youíve gone anywhere.
Alas, thereís almost nothing for special features on this DVD. Thereís a preview and a making-of featurette, but itís only six minutes long. Writer/director Hamedani gets a moment to talk about how the film grew out of frustration with people questioning him one way or another over the past few years, a few cast and crew members are introduced, and then itís over. Itís maybe worth mentioning (because there may be a corollary here) that After Dark massively front-loads the disc with previews for all their other Horrorfests, plus some regular previews, and even a few ads for other movie-related services.
Zombies of Mass Destruction couldíve been something great, but instead it lingers on the low side of good. Itís not a bad way to spend an hour and a half, and zombie aficionados may want to add it to their collection. But itíll probably be one of those films you watch once, enjoy, and then never think of again.
Reviewed By: Peter Clines