Return to Mercy Labs: Review for Z Nation 411 By A. Zombie
Free from Chicago’s toxic foam, the team heads south for days. No one knows why, or where, or when this new side mission will end. Some weird sense of duty leads most of them along Roberta’s hazy path. 10k’s plan is a tad more complicated, but he knows deep down that the only way for his future to end happily is to follow the woman who kept him alive this far. It’s a little weird and slightly culty thinking, but 10k has a history of blind loyalty which fate happens to reward, though he’s got to be running out of universal brownie point by now. Everyone’s patience pays off when they reach a familiar building complex: Mercy Labs. Makes sense. During the original episode there was ample background building for Teller and his wife, seems a waste of effort not to bring it all back at some point.
This episode suffers from a little gratuitous time-killing in the form of flashbacks to the fight against The Man and his armored zombies, plus side trips to remember 5k and Red. There’s also too much filler when Roberta’s dream-walking through the lab, plus flashbacks to fill in information about Teller and Sarah’s son Andrew, and all that time the crew up north spends digging through files to find the Black Rainbow information. Getting to the meaty parts takes a bit, but once we’re there, it’s solid on the writing and acting front. Not to mention we finally, finally have the mission details in-hand.
Tracking down what they need means splitting up yet again. Roberta wanders, with 10k chasing behind after he takes a moment to mourn his losses alone. The dream takes her to an industrial refrigerator with about a dozen chains and just as many combination locks. A fungus-zombie interrupts the process. In order for Roberta to dream up the last combination, 10k has to hit her. Which, oh man, he does not want to do. If their lives depend on him ever selling that they’re arguing, they’re doomed. She goads him into getting the job done. Surprise, the fridge has a canister to match the one she’s already got. They join the others in Teller’s lab.
Sarge thinks she can reroute the solar powered batteries to work their radio for a few minutes. Doc and Murphy take her to the lab to find the power source. They find more than they bargained for after clearing a blockaded doorway at the back of the lab. During their first visit, Sarah worried about her son’s fate, begged Murphy to figure out what happened. Turns out Teller lied to his wife. Andrew naps in a suspended animation chamber powered by the solar panels atop the lab. Sarge faces a dilemma: Steal the kid’s saving grace or get the radio online? Opting for a middle ground only gets them so far. They barely make contact with Kaya and Citizen Z before the power cuts out, leaving the vital parts of Kaya’s message unheard. Roberta and Sarge have their first real heart to heart moment debating their next move. The fate of the many outweigh the fate of one, and Roberta spares Sage from pulling the plug on Andrew.
Getting the word out to Roberta isn’t as easy as digging through some files. Kaya’s having a little trouble readjusting to having her full family under one roof again; it’s distracting to want Simon, give him time to bond with JZ, but also figure out why ZONA was all up in their systems in order to maybe, probably, save the world. Plus there’s that mad-Z they never dealt with who almost chews Simon’s face off. Saving everyone’s day, Kaya pulls it together and what she discovers is . . . pretty much what they’ve been alluding to this entire season. So why this whole mystery thing? I don’t know.
Black Rainbow is a biological weapon meant to destroy whoever’s left after a catastrophic event. This is ZONA’s Reset. They plan to unleash Black Rainbow, hide on the island until all’s clear, then claim whatever’s left of the world as their own. The launch system is locked. But Kaya finds one loophole—they can cancel the launch at the base, so long as they have the thumbprint for the President of the United States of America.
Grab your good camera, gang. We’re going sightseeing at the nation’s capitol next week!
A. Zombie Reviews . . . Children of the Living Dead By A. Zombie
Rated: R (Contains violence, gore, and adult language)
Starring: Tom Savini, A. Barrett Worland, Damien Luvara, Jamie McCoy, Sam Nicotero, Marty Schiff, and Heidi Hinzman
Often when artists strive to find inspiration, they look to the past. For genre fans, there’s only a few franchises which define zombies in pop culture. Unfortunately, when it comes to grasping the same energy as the original films, that’s like trying to wrestle a greased zombie rabbit into a tutu. Sometimes the heart behind something can push past an obstacle or two. Children of the Living Dead doesn’t have that to fall back on. It’s a lackluster homage to the more ridiculous side of the living dead.
Life in a small town is hard enough, what with the gossip networks having so few souls to pick on and all. One town in particular has it worse than most after an incident in the late 60s left them fending off the living dead. They won, but only for a little while. In ’87, the dead rise again. This time notorious rapist Abbot Hayes returns and promptly resumes his kidnapping ways. Hot on his trail are deputies Hughs and Randolph. Only Randolph and the rescued children survive the encounter. Hayes gets away, laying low for fourteen years. One afternoon, he’s intrigued by a group partying on his mother’s grave, then he gets angry. The concert-goers make it less than a mile down the road. Hayes scares them over a cliff. After the funeral, he interrupts a couple grave robbers in order to collect the accident victims, turning them into his personal army. A year later, Hayes’ family property is sold to a car dealership. In order to build the showroom, the crew first has to remove the family cemetery’s occupants—they opt for mass burials over the hefty cost to move them to another cemetery, as any scuzzy contractor would. Hayes doesn’t take kindly to the Michaels’ family and their plans for his home. His army attacks, ever-growing as they move further into town seeking revenge . . . and a snack.
This is probably the slowest zombie movie I’ve seen to date. Not even the opening sequence with Savini is punchy enough to grab the audience and drag them along for the ride. There’s rarely a viable sense of urgency which isn’t artificially inflated with awkward dialog. For heaven’s sake, there’s a five minute scene with Hayes—a mute zombie who moves slightly faster than a slug—shuffling through the woods outside his family home, like that’s supposed to make us lean in for the kill that’s surely about to happen. It’s like watching Deadpool kill that guy with the Zamboni, but without the witty dialog to save it from being laughably bad. The final fight is such a waste of time, as well. Nothing of note happens. [Spoilers!] Hayes walks off unscathed. Our heroes live to see tomorrow. The dead are, for the most part, contained. What is at stake? Humanity wins the day again. Without his father in the way, Matthew Michaels can build the family empire in his name. Laurie yet again escapes Hayes’ grasp without injury. I’m all for a happy ending occasionally, but there has to be a resolution to at least one story line which isn’t so open-ended it’s like they assumed people would clamor for a sequel instead of calling them out for failing to commit to the story. The poor time management and overuse of time jumps is likewise to blame for limp motivation for the characters. For example, here’s Hayes, a guy who just loves to kill and he’s been reanimated, given a second life where he can wallow in gore. Yet we’re supposed to believe he’s content to live alone in his house, next to a major road, without incident for fourteen years. His brand is murder and mayhem, that part obviously doesn’t change after his death, so why does he twiddle his thumbs?
There’s some decent FX makeup in this film. Hayes’ face will stick in your memory thanks to the detail work. As will the awkward as hell gloves the poor actor has to wear. Watching him “grab” things is cringe-inducing. The wound appliances for the undead are great, but often the detail is lost in the poor image quality and copious blood. That’s where the good makeup ends. The standard for these zombies is, for some unfathomable reason, pale greasepaint and blood. On the same zombie we’re getting quality wound work, and a teenager’s attempt at Halloween makeup. It’s a head-scratcher, that’s for sure.
Honestly, this script needed a hefty revision before they started shooting. There’s so many plot holes, and even more plot threads left in the wind at the end in a most unsatisfactory way. Cliffhangers are a cop-out. Even with how slow the film is, plus the ever-repeating dialog, and underwhelming zombies, if they just stuck a solid ending I was ready to forgive a lot of the bad. But they didn’t. Children of the Living Dead gets one bloody, matted clump of hair out of five.