A. Zombie Reviews . . . Resident Evil: Extinction by A. Zombie
Rated: R (Strong Violence, Nudity)
Starring: Milla Jovovich, Oded Fehr, Ali Larter, and Iain Glen
In the franchise’s third installment, not only has Raccoon City fallen to the dead, but the T-Virus spread like wildfire, decimating the global population. Mother Earth has set to reclaiming the land, sweeping it clear with vast deserts. Few living survive, mostly as nomads. The Umbrella Corporation thrives in underground bunkers. Their scientists, led by Dr. Isaacs, work tirelessly to use clone Alice’s blood to control the dead and reclaim the surface for human kind. The woman herself? She lives off the grid, so paranoid she can’t make a friend, but still cannot resist the urge to help those in need. A convoy, led by Claire, finds themselves in need of Alice’s special skills. In return, they help her break into the home of the very people hunting her down.
There’s actually quite a bit crammed into this deceptively simple film. It handles touchy topics like Alice’s survivor’s guilt, and the ethics behind using human clones for experimentation. We see a woman, Claire, leading a large group with none of the usual male arrogance costing innocent lives because they can’t be bothered to listen to the little lady. There’s ramifications for Umbrella’s genetic meddling, demonstrated when the arrogant, rich bastards sit down to wring their hands over dwindling supplies while they’re no closer to a solution to the undead problem they created.
But there’s also quite a bit of bullcrap pushing the plot along, like magically appearing undead and male egos.
Dr. Isaacs’ demeanor is much like that weird clump of gunk one collects on their shoes after walking a mile through alleys in the seedier side of the city. There’s no professional ramification for his obsession with Alice, nor does anyone actually stop him from torturing dozens of women. It’s not until the film’s climax when Isaacs is desperate to survive after being bitten that he pays for all his sins. And it isn’t enough to make up for the nauseating male arrogance propelling the character like a shark. Umbrella itself continues on, despite losing Isaacs and his American lab. The only price they pay is the woefully low supplies in their worldwide bases. While there’s some satisfaction in the end for Alice, it’s not the solid win one expects at the end of an action film. The full blame lies with the way the franchise was written early on, forcing each film to flow nearly seamlessly into the other. A stand-alone film would have to deal with Umbrella in a more complete way. It also wouldn’t have shipped off the entire cast, save one, and never follow up. They languished in knowing they could leave an open ending, and that’s not stellar storytelling. Each entry in the series should be written as its own entity. Cliffhangers aren’t actually all that fun.
The undead in the third film were pretty sparse up until the second half. For the most part, we had human foes and infected animals going for Alice’s blood and body. The infected dogs are a personal favorite. We also learn what happens when animals ingest infected meat—the crows proved far more terrifying than their canine counterparts. The avian threat wiped out a large piece of Claire’s convoy in a scene Hitchcock would’ve watched with a grin on his face. And the human infected? Well, much like other RE films, there’s various types of human dead. This time around there’s the mundane infected, like those surrounding the fence protecting the entrance to the Umbrella base, and the Alice-enhanced infected who’re far more aggressive. Makeup applications for the mundane are standard for the franchise—great detail on the hero dead, with just as much attention spent on the background actors so the blend is natural during in-horde shots. What irritated me was when they opted to strip individual characteristics from the enhanced dead, making them all the same angry white guy zombie in a jumper. The reasoning? Stunt work. The enhanced infected swarm what’s left of Vegas during Isaacs’ grand scheme to finally grab the real Alice for testing. In order to film so many simultaneous stunts, using masks instead of fragile prosthetics saved money and time. It also allowed performers to be swapped out at will in order to achieve different physical performances. But it looks bloody awful ten years down the road on a high definition screen. The scalps jiggle. The heads are too big. Try as I might to focus on the foreground fighting, I kept watching the Jell-O headed zombies in the background.
So how does Resident Evil: Extinction compare to the genre offerings which have come since? It fails to adhere to the typical gender roles for zombie flicks, that’s a huge bonus. The plot—a savior type wanders the countryside, helping others while fighting their inner and outer demons—isn’t original, but fit so well within Alice’s story, it’s almost refreshing to escape crowded RE sets in favor of gorgeous desert landscapes. And it’s certainly an improvement over seven seasons of Rick’s people being unable to see zombies in a sparse forest. The personal interactions go deeper than some films—Alice and Carlos’ scenes in particular—without devolving into time-consuming, but not plot advancing, sex. Honestly, the film is solid. I keep trying to poke holes in it, but the problems I found were small enough to ignore. The only real thing showing its age is the trademark glossy computer graphics from the turn of the century, giving every CGI element a wet look even when it wasn’t supposed to be. I give Resident Evil: Extinction four oozing eyeballs out of five—the same rating I gave it ten years ago.
Rated: R (Adult Language, Violence, Drug Use, Nudity)
Starring: Yael Grobglas, Yon Tumarkin, Danielle Jadelyn, and Tom Graziani
Camera gimmicks aside, this is perhaps one of the most unique zombie origin stories I’ve seen in years. It’s not just a random, evolved disease. There’s no shadow government running tests on humanity. Asteroids have nothing to do with spreading a weird virus. For JeruZalem they went back to the religious origins behind mankind’s obsession with the dead rising. Every Rosh Hashanah mankind is judged. This time around, the living fail the test and the dead rise in Jerusalem to punish them.
Tourists Sarah and Rachel are side-tracked from their vacation in Tel Aviv by a handsome anthropologist, Kevin, who suggests they go with him to Jerusalem instead to celebrate the New Year. The trio pack into a hostel run by the charming Omar and his family. Desperate to party, the ladies take Kevin and Omar out to check out the nightlife. We get a taste of the everyday conflicts between the numerous cultures jammed into the city during their escapades. They spend some time flirting with two soldiers, Omar isn’t as welcoming. For the most part, the party scenes are just that, save the splashes of stark reminders that the people living in Jerusalem do so in constant tension with one-another. It’s not until the final day of the celebration when things get weird. Violent news reports dominate the airwaves, which Omar brushed off until it was too late to take action, and too widespread to continue softening the horror for the hostel’s guests. Because they’re so slow to see the undead threat, they’re trapped in the city when it’s put under quarantine. The only way out is through a massive tunnel system; one older gentleman knows the path.
By then, they’ve had a few face-to-face encounters with the undead. These zombies are a hybrid, bringing in more demon than zombie aesthetic to the creature design. They’re rotted humans, but the final evolution includes functional wings, black eyes, and claws. Because this was shot to look like Glass footage, everything in the dark is super grainy, no matter what resolution screen you watch it on. What could’ve been a super neat zombie design is muddied in the shadows. Fight scenes where the undead are close enough to see detail are choppy. Almost all of the latter fights include several minutes where the point-of-view is seriously compromised, there’s no light, or the camera is sideways on the floor. The zombie/demons aren’t the only creature. We get one head-scratching shot of something the locals call a Nephilim. It’s massive, towering over the buildings as it strolls by. Then we kinda forget there’s a huge thing walking through the Old City and continue on.
There’s little to get to know about the characters. They wear it all on their sleeves. Sarah is emotionally scarred from her brother’s death. Rachel is tired of her buzzkill bestie and wants to party. Kevin has a niggling idea about the undead rising, but by the time he thinks past getting in Sarah’s pants, he can’t save anyone. Omar has the most depth of them all, completely stealing the show from the ladies at every turn. This is the kind of film where it’s easy to forget to spend time developing the characters because the writers are so focused on how they’d die. And die they do. We see first-hand how a living soul turns into one of the undead. Which is really ridiculous because it means the main characters knowingly tote an infected person along for the great cave escape. Spoilers: Like any good zombie movie, there’s not much hope for mankind. The ending isn’t that shocking, but does leave fans with a nice sense of dread with the closing shot of a zombie/demon swarm over Jerusalem.
JeruZalem has its faults, it really does. However, I cannot tell you how refreshing it is to watch a zombie-centric film which isn’t set in America, the UK, or Germany. The change in location and culture dictated a change in the story-telling process. Doing something different is a terrifying challenge, one genre filmmakers relish and fans lap up like warm milk—watching the same set of characters doing the same things and running from the same monsters over and over is a drag. This film is not the next NotLD, but I’m giving JeruZalem three-point-five mangled mandibles out of five. I’d add it to a marathon night of found-footage films.
Starring: Dougray Scott, Jessica De Gouw, and Elen Rhys
Here’s something a tad different, yet the movie somehow follows all the checkpoints of a solidly uninventive plot. I grabbed The Rezort to review primarily because it boasted a complete lack of pointless make-out scenes and nudity. Horror movies don’t need sex to make them interesting. Human emotions go far deeper than that. While there’s nothing horribly surprising about how this film’s plot unfolds, there’s a world of nuance in not only how the characters handle a resurgence of the undead outbreak, but it demonstrates how humanity will always manage to shoot itself in the foot when they attempt to drag war-time normality into post-war life.
Melanie survived the zombie war, but it left her an orphan. The emotional damage from years spent scrambling to survive leaves her with PTSD and an inability to move on thanks to nightmares. Someone at her support group suggests immersion therapy, giving her information about The Rezort—an island off the Australian cost filled with undead, where the rich go to pretend they’re brave and safely shoot zombies. She and her boyfriend Lewis, who fought in the zombie war with no obvious mental repercussions, decide to give immersion therapy a try. They’re tossed in with a group of others and off they go into the park, with naught but a few hidden fences keeping them out of real danger.
You see where the plot goes from there. The fences fail after a zombie activist group sneaks a virus into the resort’s computer system and it’s a race to escape before the island is torched by the government in the Brimstone protocol. The characters are, for the most part, prototypes: The Survivor Girl, Her Boyfriend With A Dark Secret, The Warrior Old Guy, The Mindless Morons, The Employee With A Heart, The Clueless Activist, and The Heartless CEO. We never form attachments to them. Hell, most of their names fly over the audience’s head up until their death scene. As each main character bites the dust, it confirms the unoriginal writing process for this script. The only character with soul is Mel, and she is the survivor girl, so we expect her to be an actual character. To show how little effort goes into the characters, it’s not even that satisfying when Vivian, the CEO, is attacked by the zombies she created and imprisoned. Here’s a character who took refugees and turned them into a profit, but without character depth it’s just a fact tossed out to sound interesting right before a death gag featuring numerous zombies tearing a body apart.
Vivian’s actions do lend to some intriguing discussion about what happens when the rich put everything they have during wartime into one venture, and then must move on once they’re found on the winning side of the war. In this case, the Rezort isn’t formed until right after the war. It comes across as a novel way to contain remaining undead while making a buck from a free resource. But what happens when there’s too many keen to relive the “glory days,” where it was marshal law and everyone walked around armed to the teeth? How does one keep up with that kind of demand when the zombie outbreak is under control? Make more zombies, of course. Just use what you have. No one will miss the refugees—a startling statement, but look at Syria. At the cost of the most fragile, the wealthy can have a weekend vacation in paradise. It’s disgusting, and exactly the same mentality countries like the USA currently adopt.
The message in The Rezort is the real take-away here. It’s not the characters having fun or even Mel mistakenly trying to cure her PTSD by participating in forced slavery. It’s the complete lack of care for the human lives affected by the war which is the story. It’s a corporation looking at people who only want to know when they’ll have a home or a full stomach again and determining their lives count for nothing except a paycheck down the line, which should petrify anyone with any concern for their fellow humans. It also just so happens that this film is shot beautifully—except for the opening shaky-cam footage—and has some rather impressive FX makeup for the zombies. Overall, I’m giving The Rezort four oozing eyeballs out of five. It’s not Shakespeare, but it’ll start a conversation about the state of our world.
Everybody Dies in the End: Review for Z Nation 314 by A. Zombie
The episode rolls onto the screen, following The Man and the hounds on his tail, Addy and Doc. The worst babysitters ever get some help from Grandpa, the zombie Lucy sent off on an unknown mission in the last episode. He’s kinda sweet. Too bad the nice guys always bite the big one in the end on this show. Grandpa does a pretty good job of leading Addy and Doc to the Zona base hidden in Mt. Casey. Only one problem: Their backup was last headed toward Puget Sound. They have no clue if and when help will arrive, so Addy makes an executive decision—she’ll climb the mountain without any gear or training; Doc babysits Grandpa. She seriously spends most of the episode uselessly scaling a mountain when the rest just walk in the front door not long after.
Dr. Sun and Roberta cobble together a communication rig and contact Kaya to get an update on The Man’s location. Thank goodness someone is at Northern Lights manning the computers. Citizen Z and Kaya’s uncle have been missing for twelve hours, and there’s not much hope left for their survival. Updated on the change in pick-up locations, the rescue team shifts gear and heads off. They end up stopping again long before reaching the mountain.
All the drugs in 10k’s system were bound to gunk up his system. The serums constantly battle the infection hidden in Murphy’s bite. In a blink, 10k goes from fully functional to each breath coming out a death rattle. By the time Roberta’s team pushes ahead to Mt. Casey, he’s pretty much toast. Only a Hail Mary can pull him from the drug-induced full-body shutdown. Do they really have time to try an experimental procedure on 10k? Not really. Roberta clearly states that Lucy is the priority, but somehow they all wind up playing doctor instead. How do you save a problem like 10k? Same way Dr. Merch accidentally saved Murphy—kill him. Dr. Sun drops the death bomb on Murphy’s reality with no preamble. When the zombies attacked during the original vaccine procedure, Murphy’s heart stopped. He’s been dead for four years and somehow looks better than some people after a week at the spa. Suddenly his brand of living doesn’t seem so bad, so long as one isn’t squeamish about eating brains.
Yet again we almost lose 10k. The doctor’s plan works, thankfully, snatching him from Death’s greedy paws once more. What will the long-term effects be? No clue. We’re not even sure 10k is technically the same kind of undead as Murphy. There’s no clue what balance of vaccines are in his system. If Dr. Sun doesn’t take the opportunity to study him, as well as Murphy and Lucy, she’s insane.
Curing the world will have to wait a little longer.
Roberta, Doc, and Murphy race from 10k’s newly-revived side to intercept The Man and Lucy before their transport arrives on the mountaintop. Being somewhat sane again, and the rational shot-caller since Murphy’s too emotionally compromised to effectively lead the rescue, Roberta attempts to talk The Man down from his plan. Why break up a family which never had a chance to bond? Why torment a child? It takes no time at all for civil debate to end and the bullets to fly. Murphy uses Roberta to distract The Man, shooting him so Lucy can race to his side.
It’s not the reunion anyone anticipated. Yes, Lucy readily embraces her father. Then she hits him. Several times. There’s also quite a bit of yelling about abandonment and her mother. Yada, yada, yada. There’s no time for personal problems with The Man still fully functional. Murphy and Roberta take him on, but he slips their grasp yet again. The Man hits Murphy and Roberta with the same bullet, in that order. If they survive, Roberta’s life will be incredibly different. As will their personal dynamic. There’s always been an almost loving respect from the pair, which strengthened greatly around the time they passed the Grand Canyon. How much will it deepen when they’re mentally connected? Then again, Roberta may buck against the change like 10k has, which resulted in his death and magical resurrection. Murphy or Roberta may die from the gunshot. We don’t know! The episode ends with the Zona aircraft—actually a United States Airforce vehicle from Zone A—firing a weird weapon at everyone on the mountaintop.
Know who’s not on the mountaintop anymore? The Man, because Addy pushes him to get him away from Lucy and the aircraft. Addy herself goes over the edge, too. Then 5k sprints over and jumps after them, wings outstretched like he can actually fly. I don’t even know what’s going on now. If the kid saves Addy, whatever. I’ll buy it. There’s no use over analyzing anything they do on here.
We’ve got the two lead characters bleeding to death. The team’s sniper just died and came back to unlife as a fully functional Blend, or something. They’ve gained a hormonal teenaged girl who can control zombies—except the Zona guards inhabiting the mountain our heroes are trapped atop, who keep turning in droves as their version of the cure fails. Their main fighter fell off a mountain. They did have two new mouths to feed, but now it’s just Red because 5k took a flying leap. Oh, and let’s not forget the impending doom hovering above the crew.
It’s going to be a very, very long wait until season four. I’ve got no clue how they’ll wiggle out of this corner. Though, it’s not as tight as the corner they wrote themselves into when Murphy nuked the entire USA, so it’s doable. Maybe. Hopefully.
Zombie Reviews . . . Pride and Prejudice and Zombies
By A. Zombie
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies delivers a timeless tale, rife with fighting, set in a post-apocalyptic, yet historical era. You can’t deny that it is oddly satisfying to watch a group of accomplished young women mow down a ballroom of zombies with naught but long daggers—which were concealed under their gowns—and some serious martial arts skills. Are there issues meshing the worlds? Of course. In the end, the film is visually satisfying enough to overlook most of it. As a boon, fans of the Pride and Prejudice story still find enough of the source to reconnect with their favorite characters in a whole new way. Or, as is one case, finally come to somewhat like what is possibly the most annoying character in literature.
Sam Riley and Douglas Booth in Screen Gems’ PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES.
The Pride and Prejudice story has enough twists and turns to make it a compelling tale. Adding in the undead posed a particular problem: How to keep the romance in the forefront without compromising a solid story about love’s place in the social structure by changing the setting to the apocalypse. In order to achieve this the quickest way possible, the film doesn’t open with the Bennet ladies and their marriage-worried parents—I will note that post-apocalypse Father Bennet has no interest in wedding off his daughters, only training them to survive. Instead, it begins with Darcy on the hunt for a zombie hiding in the midst of the upper crust. As far as first impressions goes, it’s a pretty sharp introduction. The first zombie isn’t a rotter, held back from the full transformation because he didn’t consume human flesh. Nevertheless, he’s infected and must be dispatched. It’s the first-person point-of-view kill which ruins the scene’s impact. Darcy is cunning and ruthless, then there’s this cheesy head-rolling moment with the camera. When it recovers from the point-of-view shift, the camera pans upstairs to a second, far more detailed zombie before the scene changes. The scene is crammed in before the traditional start to the PaP story, and the outcome of Darcy’s escapade, plus his failure to kill the second zombie, is dragged in again as a way to bring zombies to Bingley’s first party. At least it isn’t a single-purpose moment.
For the most part, the story itself is predictable if one is aware of the source material. There’s very few surprises, like Lady Catherine’s part as a one-eyed, sword-wielding leader in the human forces fighting the dead for control of London and the surrounding countryside. Even Wickham’s true nature, beyond being a cad and a narcissist, isn’t really shocking if one follows the natural progression of how the original book unfolds. I would’ve liked to see more effort to adapt the full story into something different. Lady Catherine remaining on the side of the angels bugs me in particular, seeing as she’s pretty awful to Elizabeth no matter what incarnation of PaP is being told. It would’ve been more shocking for her to side with Wickham over a common undead state than to willingly take in the Bennets, whom she sees as barely above her lady’s maid in social status.
Lily James and Bella Heathcote in Screen Gems’ PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES.
This is one horror film where it’s hard to do what we’re accustomed to: hoping all the lead characters bite the big one. Primarily, PaPaZ is a romance with relatable, quirky characters. The zombie war is there in the background to give Elizabeth and Darcy something to bond over, to put them on equal footing at last. That’s the big difference in this retelling of the classic. Elizabeth isn’t some seemingly-damaged suitcase her parents try to sell Darcy—and any other man without a bride— with no concern for her feelings. Yes, Mrs. Bennet’s marriage obsession plays a huge role in breaking apart the primary couple, as it always does, but it’s not as depressing as usual when looking at what Elizabeth has accomplished without a husband. Her prospects with zombies raiding England are better than they were in the actual historical era, all because their new society saw an education with the key sources far beyond the country’s borders as the only way to survive the menace—looking out to find a way to fix the problems within is something few societies embrace. Her progress in women’s self-empowerment doesn’t stop the entire Parson Collins plot from happening, though. He still arrives, annoys, and marries a Bennet daughter. Only this time around, Collins is somewhat tolerable because Matt Smith made him a bumbling fool, not a man coldly calculating how to sleep his way ahead in Lady Catherine’s good graces. Collins provides another opportunity to sew zombie conflict into the Bennet’s lives, but the potential went unchecked. The writer had a focus; Wickham’s established part as villain would be upheld. But why is he the villain? Why not any of the numerous people in Elizabeth’s life who degraded her for her gender or her place in society? Answer? He took a woman (property in the era) without permission. It’s a trope so old, I really hoped it would remain in the classic story and they’d do something different for the Wickham/Lydia plot.
The zombies in the film range in appearance. For the most part, they’re seen at a distance in groups. Few zombies get the close-up treatment, even fewer actually show grotesque wounds like traditional undead depictions. When the camera does get up close and personal with a zombie, I cringe. The design overall is great. Having undead waltzing around in these grand gowns and waistcoats strikes an oddly-pleasing discord. The illusion blows to pieces when one realizes there’s little practical gore on the actors. Featured dead have digital wounds; presumably to enhance the ick, plus make wounds deeper and move naturally during dialog. However, even the church girls on-screen for all of a minute appear to have digital rot on their cheeks instead of practical makeup. That’s where the design decisions stop making sense and become a headache for genre fans. The film cost enough without making the makeup digital. In a way, it feels we were cheated from a proper zombie battle scene because of the zombie design relying on digital gore. Yes, there’s a rather tense bit toward the end when they finally confront Wickham and the undead at St. Lazarus, but the camera is pulled back. Distance from the main threat in the film leaves the undead with the menace of a mosquito, not a lion hunting the countryside. It robs a little justice from Lydia’s rescue, as well, when there’s no real danger from zombies who are too far away to see clearly.
Overall, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies delivers what it promised: A classic story with zombies wandering in to seriously ruin everyone’s day more than Darcy’s absent sense of humor. Is it a perfect retelling of Austen’s novel? Hell no. Is it a decent zombie flick? Yeah, I’ll give it that. PaPaZ gets four majorly dislocated jaws out of five. Grab the film to enjoy beautiful things covered in blood n guts, stay for the witty snits between Darcy and Elizabeth.
Z NATION — “Duel” Episode 313 — Pictured: Caitlin Carmichael as Lucy — (Photo by: Go2 Z/Syfy)
Addy tracks The Man and Lucy to a boatyard. The girl plays with new zombie friends, and has no clue where her captor went. Great. Convenient. Time to run. By the way, anytime in the episode you think Addy and Lucy will get away, they make it no more than half a mile before they’re caught again. It’s beyond frustrating. Not just as a fan, but as someone who really does not enjoy watching the hero get their backside handed to them at all turns, especially when there’s someone more than capable of helping standing ten feet away flapping their hands. I fail to grasp how The Murphy’s daughter, raised on tales with her father’s heroic feats to save humanity, would allow the woman she calls an aunt to be beaten within an inch of her life. It makes no sense that she’d stand up to The Man when they’re alone, but the minute Addy steps on stage, Lucy is an infant needing rescue.
That side thought took wings and flew. Unlike this episode.
During one of their half-mile trips, the ladies stop to replace Lucy’s too-small clothes. Just what every horror fan wants, ten minutes trapped in a department store with a moody tween and her zombie pals. Lucy has no interest in clothes fit for survival. She has no grasp of danger because the undead, the main threat in the apocalypse, treat her like a princess. So why bother grabbing heavy clothes to protect her skin? Addy does manage to find suitable clothes for Lucy; a leather jacket for protection, as well.
While Lucy laments their so-boring task, she pries Addy for information about her parents, particularly her mother. They have similar conversations throughout the episode, with Addy dancing a jog around the truth for as long as possible. Who wants to be the person to tell a child their father is an egocentric jerk with a messiah complex? On top of that, no one needs to be the person to detail how a child’s mother died. But this is TV, and Lucy harps on her unstable identity because she was raised an orphan. The only way Addy sees to work toward peace of mind for the girl is to stop telling fairy tales. Gone is the king and his pie-baking queen. Lucy knows now that her mother killed a lot of zombies to keep her safe—zombies Lucy sees as innocent since no one knew they just wanted to be near the baby, not kill her.
Lucy’s interactions with the zombies take a bizarre twist in this episode. With her sudden maturity, she’s more in tune with how the undead think instead of just ordering them around like self-propelling dolls. For her, the undead are intelligent companions. Addy believes it’s the girl’s wild imagination at work, failing to understand Lucy isn’t drawing names and life stories from thin air. The girl’s powers are pretty heavy-hitting. Though, whoever decided a glass-shattering scream would be her main method to summon zombies needs to sit in a room listening to nothing but Nickleback turned up to eleven for twenty-four hours. Surely there was another power gimmick which wouldn’t result in a migraine for every viewer. Let’s hope with Lucy’s newest growth spurt taking her to a teenager that the screaming fits will fall to the wayside. She does seem far more like her parents—calm but dangerous when cornered—toward the episode’s end.
There’s a couple decent fight scenes between Addy and The Man. As I said before, the episode is one long fight with breaks to teach Lucy how to human. For the most part, Addy hold her own, delivering quite a bit of hurt during their clashes. She even gets the chance to almost kill him, though a bulletproof vest saves his life. But when each fight inevitably ends the same way, with Addy knocked down/out and The Man dragging Lucy away, it’s no longer fun to hop from brawl to brawl. It becomes a chore to watch The Man go from fighting to torturing Addy. There’s a line between incapacitating a powerful character enough to believe they couldn’t mount a rescue at the last minute and beating a woman within an inch of death—dislocating her shoulder and drowning her because it looks cool to nearly kill a lead character. But it gets the point across: No matter what Addy does, she can’t save Lucy alone.
Well, I didn’t think the finale would revolve around Lucy’s abduction, but here we are. I’d anticipated the clash in Murphytown to be what swings us into the fourth season. It just makes sense to send off with a civil war. However, if Zona is finally stepping onstage as a real danger, shifting the plot from Operation Bitemark infighting to joining forces against a new big bad makes sense. But is Zona really enough of a threat if they’ve only got one mercenary at their disposal and Murphy’s built an army? The Man is good; not that good, though.
The Siege of Murphytown: Review for Z Nation 312 by A. Zombie
When we catch up with Roberta, it’s much like I anticipated. She’s hyper-aggressive. Everything Roberta does or commands reflects only her mission to obtain Murphy’s blood. The soft-spoken way she handled Dr. Sun is replaced by hard, cold truths spoken with venom when they butt heads about whether the Red Hand should be ordered to avoid shooting civilians. To Roberta, if any person in Spokane will even think to stop her, they’re the enemy, and if they’re at his side then they’ve accepted the risk. It’s not like such battles haven’t taken place worldwide in the apocalypse—the Red Hand held a similar invasion on the toy factory. But I don’t think Dr. Sun has seen as much action as everyone assumes, leaving her often shocked at the lengths these American survivors will go to secure their place in the new world order. She’s seen nothing yet. Roberta is all-in on this game, nothing left to lose. That desperation mixed with grief will be her downfall.
With or without confirmation of Lucy’s location, Roberta will press on with her mission. Using her new army, they cobble a whole plan, not just a half-considered series of actions which may or may not blossom into a plan by the time all’s said and done. At last, we see her potential as a leader. For what it is, the plan has few faults and is pretty simple: Kill the power to the fences, stage a distraction at the front gate, then Roberta and Dr. Sun break in on the opposite side to grab stuff from the lab, not to mention the too-vital blood. And for the most part, the plan works brilliantly. Red Hand members grab a Blend guard, Bowden, from the power station and toss zombies in the water to jam the turbine. Hopper uses Bowden, covered in blood and guts, to fish for the other guards at the front gate. Roberta enters Murphy’s compound without a hitch.
Outside, it’s a whole ‘nother story. What any of them failed to take into consideration is Murphy’s connection to the Blends, not just the zombies. Naturally, these civilians duck and cover when the Red Hand opens fire. It’s up to Murphy to provide them with courage to return fire. Courage he has in spades, by the way. Murphy comes across a world-class coward, but a coward wouldn’t have fought to retain autonomy of his body after countless attempts to turn him into a lab specimen. A coward would have sighed and given in after the Zona crew pulled the wool over his eyes by dangling Dr. Merch in his path like a quick fix to all his problems. A coward certainly wouldn’t stand in the middle of an invasion to direct his people, then remain in the building. The old Murphy may have run and let his people perish. This Murphy, looking rather dapper with is white hair, actually has morals and they say he must find a way to help everyone live. Even if that means they no longer live as humans.
The physical fighting is pretty boilerplate for an apocalypse show. We say goodbye, and good riddance, to Hopper and several background Red Hands, a few Blends as well—though only one of note dies. Roberta kills Hope Chaffin, but it’s Murphy who lies to her family about her demise. Not a good way to keep your lieutenant’s trust, man.
A mental fight for dominance takes place throughout the episode in several high-tension diplomatic discussions between Roberta and Murphy. The pair spend the entire time one-upping each other. Roberta snags 10k and attempts to break Murphy’s hold. Murphy uses the kid to track her location and offers to turn her into one of his kind. She demands his blood. He shoots off a barb about not being able to trust humans anymore, when she was the only one he trusted back at the Grand Canyon to see how distraught he was after the mass zombie murder. It’s a lot of similar tit for tat emotional battle maneuvers until the final face-off in Lucy’s nursery. In a brilliant move, Roberta uses Murphy’s brain-lust to distract and control him. Great. Awesome. Oh, wait. He’s got a ton of people around him he can summon with just a thought. Roberta goes from on top of the apocalyptic world to sitting at Murphy’s feet in a heartbeat.
Just as quickly, they all forget the war to chase a random airplane.
It’s about damn time Citizen Z and Roberta meet face to face. Propelled by the knowledge that they may never make contact through the remaining NSA resources, he flew off with Kaya’s uncle to Spokane. Their landing is perfectly timed, dropping them into the end of the battle with news about something far more pressing than who gets to control Murphy’s future—Lucy’s abduction by The Man. Suddenly it’s all hand on deck. Murphy’s first instinct isn’t to rush off with his people. He asks Roberta to get his girl—it may have something to do with Hope’s final words stating that Murphy loves Roberta—and she agrees to help. With a caveat; they have to work out a deal to make the cure before going to the coordinates Citizen Z has for Lucy’s destination.
No Doc in this episode, sadly. Addy is on The Man’s trail, locating several abandoned vehicles and the zombie road signs Lucy leaves along their route. Kaya is pregnant, so expect her to become even crazier about Simon and Addy’s not-a-thing-ever. Red and 5k aren’t actually dead, or hallucinations, and pop up to save 10k’s sanity once the serum Roberta gave him kicks in. We wrap things up with Murphy and Roberta, plus their assault team, loading into vehicles, ready to fetch Lucy. It’s going to be one heck of a fight when we finally have the four most powerful people in this universe in the same room together.
Second Coming: Review for Ash vs Evil Dead 210 by A. Zombie
Henrietta doesn’t get the satisfaction of killing her idiot, Sumerian-reading husband. After he bolts with the Necronomicon, he’s stopped dead in his tracks in his VW Bug. The Prima Donna isn’t alone on her stage anymore. Enter Ruby. Again. This one is blonde. And very angry. It takes her no time to secure the book. Since it’s a short-format show, they waste no time jumping into the temporal-paradox thing by having Ruby meet herself. Past!Ruby is aghast she’d eventually team with El Jefe, seeing it as a betrayal. Now!Ruby speaks her heart, warning herself about her fall from immortality. But all Ruby has wanted is a family, turning her back on her children when she’s moments from bringing them into the world is impossible. Plus, she’s super evil. Ruby kills Ruby. Before she’s too weak, Now!Ruby does a little magic with the Necronomicon one last time to hurt her past self, then hands the burden off to Kelly. They really did try to send the kinder Ruby off with something resembling grace and compassion, giving her and Ash time to say goodbye in their own, bizarre way.
Her sacrifice is worth it the minute Ash’s hand reappears and Kelly announces they’ve actually changed the timeline. But wait, if he has a hand then . . . . Yes! Pablo lives. Kidding. Kinda. TheirPablo is in the demon realm. The Pablo in the trunk? Baal. Dude pulled a Skywalker and buried himself in the nearest warm body to survive. Ash’s vision wasn’t grief or drugs, it was Baal putting the whammy on him so he could find a new Ruby to manipulate. This time, Daddy is present for his spawns’ births. The birthing scene isn’t nearly as traumatic when the book vomits them instead of Pablo.
There is, of course, only one way to settle this beef between El Jefe and Baal—a fist fight. No powers. Man against man, without all that mumbo jumbo. The stakes? The demonic duo and their progeny scoot back south-side if Ash wins. If he loses? Hell on earth. And the spawn get to eat Kelly. The guys fight each other from one end of the cabin to the other. It takes about two or three destroyed rooms for Baal to use his powers. Ash faces off with Chet, who’s amazingly sober, and the fight is as funny as expected. The second ghost of the night appears not as a huge man living in the now, but as Ash’s sister Cheryl. She’s in and out of the scene so quickly, it’s easy to miss it. The Ghost of Christmas Past is Brock. There’s an agonizing moment where it’s impossible to tell if this is a demon trick or if Brock was brought back to life to screw with Ash’s head—I’m still not clear on it. Somehow we go from mourning Brock again to a chainsaw fight. Ultimately, all the fighting is there for the sight gags and cameos. The real fight is one of wits just when it looks like Baal will win. Ash disarms Ball with his crude humor and uses the demon’s own claw to kill him.
Ruby uses the downtime before her lover’s death to seduce Ruby to the darkside. It doesn’t work, of course. Not even after Ruby tries to beat optimism and loyalty to Ash out of her. Their scenes break up the fight, feeling more like an excuse to hit Kelly or have the demon spawn fondle her than anything which adds to the story.
The Necronomicon has a fit. It summons a portal to hell and in go the baddies. Luckily for us, portals are a two-way street. Like the beautiful phoenix he is, Pablo crawls from the ashes of the cabin. Is it really our little buddy? Ash hits him to make sure. Poor Pablo can’t catch a break. What a way to welcome back a hero.
Speaking of, Ash’s longtime service to humanity has finally been recognized. Once they return to the present, the town sets up a day just for Ash. Really, it’s a platform for Ash to finally tell the populace how awful they’ve been to him. They don’t mind the blunt outburst. They will probably mind that he’s moving back to town, since he’ll likely be up to his drunken, drugged-out ways sooner rather than later. Ash isn’t the only new person in town, Past!Ruby took her own time stroll. She didn’t perish in the hellfire which destroyed the cabin, and she wants revenge. It’ll be easier than she thinks, seeing as a bunch of kids just stumbled across the Necronomicon at the cabin’s ruins. Here we go again.
Doc’s Angels: Review for Z Nation 311 by A. Zombie
To speak the word, one must first follow it. Sounds really deep, huh? Really, it just means Doc uses a busted old radio to follow the signal coming from this absolutely stunning little mini-castle smack-dab in the middle of nowhere. The woman on-air spends her days reading poetry and old stories. Before we see her, we know she’s an odd duck. Foretelling goes a long way on this show. Even knowing Doc’s walking into danger, it’s still fun to tag along to watch him become horribly uncomfortable with the situation he’s bumbled into.
Because, let’s face it, everything that’s happened to Doc since the Zs rose has been a case of him stumbling into the wrong place at the worst possible time. Yet he’s only gotten blown up once, so we’ll just say Fate is on his side. For now.
The impassioned poet doesn’t live alone. Camilla bunks with Linda and Sara, the latter of whom has a keen eye for style and an industrial Bedazzler. I’ll tell you what, the bedecked zombies are some of the oddest I’ve seen onscreen to date, and I’ve seen the Return of the Living Dead series more times than I care to admit. A few zombies escape Sara’s glittery wrath, but for the most part these Zs have every inch of exposed flesh covered in rhinestones. They look like some weird wraith tasked with protecting a pharaoh’s afterlife treasures.
The zombies aren’t the oddest thing at the ladies’ castle.
But we can’t let ourselves get distracted by bejeweled dead guys and gorgeous, yet odd women. Oh, no. There’s a mission to complete, and complete it Doc will before he tends to his . . . uh . . . basic needs. The homemade radio station is Camilla’s haven, powered by the same solar panels keeping the women comfortable despite the dead taking over the world. The minute Doc fails to connect to Citizen Z, we know he’s found yet another trap. And this time he’s all alone. No Addy to save the day or Roberta to snag him from death’s door.
Cheers to whichever sicko in the writer’s room gave the women an Ed Gein twist to their self-sustaining lifestyle. The truth lingers at Doc’s periphery during the in-between scenes where Linda, or Camilla, or Sara, attempt to seduce him. They never give him enough time to focus on what’s really in the house, and he doesn’t much care at first. He’s just glad for warm meals, a bed, and time not spent hiking across the countryside chasing what probably feels like a hopeless endeavor by this point.
The consent lines are awfully blurred in this episode. No one would be okay with this story line if Addy were the one trapped in a house of killers, plied with booze and weed, and found three aggressive people in her bed looking for sex after she clearly secured her safety for the night. But because it’s Doc, and because he’s our clown, this story is supposed to come across funny. It honestly stops being funny the minute the women are in his bed and he’s resigned to sleeping with them. Someone, somewhere along the line should have thrown a flag on this play and called for writing to tweak it. Make it less rapey—something I thought I’d never have to say about this show.
Aside from the clear failure to understand that consent doesn’t require a gender, the episode works in conjunction with the previous as a pallet cleanser. Killing two leading men in just as many minutes was a huge leap for a show which, until now, has protected the main cast with an iron fist. Each death has been carefully calculated and spread apart enough to not bring down the zany antics. Losing Hector and Vasquez, then prepping for war against Murphy and possibly The Man? There’s some tense action on the horizon. This stuff, Doc’s misadventures and the campy conception fairy tale they told Lucy in ep. 310, is vital to keeping the show’s tone as-is. Otherwise it becomes that other show, where everyone is always miserable and downtrodden. There’s no joy in watching abused people get kicked repeatedly. And what everyone needs right now is a little joy in their life, given the state of the news, not endless reminders of how bad things can get.
Bright side, Doc does get a message to Citizen Z and Kaya. He also escapes with his skin intact, scoring a bonus fluffy pink robe on his way out and liberating a bicycle from a zombie who obviously won’t need it anymore. With Doc’s message in-hand, Kaya makes quick work tracking The Man. Looks like the plan is back on track just in time to start a war.
Home Again: Review for Ash vs Evil Dead 209 by A. Zombie
How on earth did they go from mourning Pablo to hopping back to the past? A lot of booze, grief, and a joyride, all topped off with an angeldust-laced joint. With that magical mixture, Ash summons Pablo’s smartass spirit—or has a hell of a hallucination—and they work out another plan which is sure to fail, but the gang will try anything to save their fallen buddy. After Ash scares Ruby into compliance by driving erratically, they use the spell on Pablo’s chest to play the time warp again. Ash didn’t travel back to days of old this time. Well, unless you consider 1982 ancient history.
Yeah, about that reading off Pablo thing—he’s riding shotgun on this mission. They lovingly duct taped plastic bags around his body to keep his insides in . . . side. But to make him easier to transport, they have his feet above his head, and it’s really hard to watch any scene featuring Pablo’s bisected corpse. It’s just gross and absurdly sad. Leaving Ash as the catalyst to get Pablo back is plain mean to fans. The odds of him succeeding are slim. This story arc is probably a reset button to really play with the powers in the Necronomicon, and maybe turn Pablo into a real boy again. They destroyed the book, our main antagonist, only two seasons into a show with no projected end, then its replacement fell to pieces from the pressure before fully transforming. There’s no one to fight on the show unless they allow Ash to do his time travel thing. With Ash tinkering in the past to stop the book before it ruins their lives, he’s bound to fudge up their lives in horrific, yet comedic ways. I’ll take it if we get Pablo back. The balance with this cast is vital to the show’s success. Drop just one of the main group and it’ll never have the same vibe again.
Episode 209 is also the prequel to Evil Dead that everyone has badgered Raimi about for years. We’re dropped into the story not that long before Ash and his sister are supposed to visit the cursed cabin in the woods. Ray Knowby, the man who recovered the Necronomicon in an excavation, is at home with his wife, and a student who’s there to assist translating the book. Seems like a peaceful afternoon at a bookworm’s house. That’s until you see that Henrietta Knowby is leashed to a basement support beam like a rabid Doberman and creeptastic Ray needs more than just translating from his student, Tanya.
Meanwhile, the gang drops off their car and tucks Pablo into the trunk—with a helpful note should he resurrect like Jesus on a random Sunday in the Spring. They barely make it five feet when Evil swoops in, chasing them through the dense forest. The gang splits, Ash finding the Knowby’s cabin and the women end up deeper in the wild portion of forest. For the most part, Ruby and Kelly are there to demonstrate more nods to the films. They bitch about Ash, then are attacked by demonic trees. Teamwork saves the day. If Kelly needs a gig after Ash fixes the timeline (ha!), she could totally open a private eye firm where she hunts demons. Maybe Ruby could help, since she’s without that whole immortal thing now.
We take a beat for another infamous Ash Hits Himself fight scene—this is a nod to AoD when Ash is infected by evil and attacked by miniature duplicates of himself, one of which he ingests, boils, and eventually it becomes the leader of the Deadite army. There’s no doppelganger action in the episode, but the creature Ash vomits sure does have a foul mouth. I think I found my new best friend in that little lump of what-the-hell-is-that. Too bad Ash kills it.
Remember Henrietta from the original film? That makeup stuck with fans for a long time—worn by franchise regular Ted Raimi. Fast-forward to now. In order to bring a classic monster like Henrietta to life, it requires an army, and there’s two of her to really drive home the transformation between human and deadite. Now that doesn’t mean they actually attempted to mask Ted’s identity once the swap happened. Nope. Not that anyone would want to hide Ted. He set the tone for the creatures in the franchise, seeing him don Henrietta’s skinsuit again is oddly satisfying and something I didn’t know I needed from the show until the minute I realized they had indeed swapped the “living” actress for the man who created the role for the big fight—which isn’t even done. There’s more to look forward to in the finale!
Christmas came early, that’s for sure. It’ll be a merry one if we get Pablo back, too. First, Ash has to defeat the hag—again—and snatch the Necronomicon from a man who’s got nothing left to lose, since his wife’s possessed and all. Piece of cake. Cue nervous laughter.