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: Kris Holden-Ried, Emily Hampshire, Shawn Doyle, and Claudia Bassols
Rated: NR (Adult language, partial nudity, mild drug use) From Filmax International:
Kate (Emily Hampshire) works at the hospital in the Return Unit, helping those who have been infected by the virus that turns people into zombies. Kate’s dedication to her work is absolute, but few people realize that for her it is also a personal matter; Kate’s own husband, Alex (Kris Holden-Ried), has been returned.
After various brutal and prolific attacks at the hands of Anti-Return groups and rumours that the “Protein” stock is running dangerously low, Kate fears for Alex´s safety. Suspicious of the government’s order that all the returned should report to a secure medical facility ‘for their own safety’, the couple decides to flee, taking with them all the doses of “Return Protein” they have. At no point does the couple imagine that the real threat is a lot closer than they think…
The Returned came from the same house as the [Rec] series, and the quality shows. I went into the film expecting one of the random, low-budget films that are usually slid under my cell door. Boy was I in for a surprise. While The Returned isn’t a blockbuster, it’s not something to snub at a glance.
Let’s get down to it. The film starts with what feels like a random, bouncy flashback scene. It isn’t entirely clear why we’re seeing this scene until the final minutes where it becomes clear this is a pivotal moment in Kate’s life, one that shapes how she deals with the fallout of so many harsh decisions from those around her. The importance could’ve been made clearer. Possibly by cutting some of the post-production additions—all the “noise” added to make the footage feel old—and pushing the credits until the following scene set in the present time.
As for the characters, I’ve found a rare film in that none of them are, as I call it, Too Stupid To Live. Every decision made throughout the movie is thought out, or when done impulsively there’s decent character-driven reasons, as is the case for Jacob and Amber when they ultimately are forced to make a hard decision that may put them at odds with their friends, Alex and Kate.
There’s not a lot of zombie action on screen. The film instead focuses on society’s inability to adapt to change and accept a new species of people. Because, that’s what the Returned are, something new and unpredictable. Forced to rely on a daily dosage of drugs, the Returned are given the same treatment as homosexual AIDS patients by the media. What happens when they stop taking their treatments? What will they do to others without treatment? How fast will this disease spread if the government doesn’t step in and micromanage their lives? Wouldn’t it be better if they were all just killed—gunned down while idiots seek to coddle the monsters? We recoil at the truth of it—anything new and uncertain is automatically handed a death sentence. That’s the way humanity is hard-wired. Kill the unknown to spare the larger population. Never mind who is traumatized in the process.
The Returned is a slow-burner. The plot pushes steadily forward, forced along by the characters, their decisions and reactions, and not the evil undead waiting to tear them limb from limb. This is not an action film. It’s a statement on a society that cannot change without first destroying itself. If you want hack-and-slash, keep moving. However, if you’d like to think about the implications of how zombies would change everyday life, give The Returned a chance. I’m giving it 3.5 bloody scalps out of five.
A. Zombie Reviews . . . Cockneys vs Zombies (2013) By A. Zombie
Rating: NR (Adult language, violence, gore)
Starring: Rasmus Hardiker, Harry Treadaway, Michelle Ryan, Jack Doolan, and Georgia King
COCKNEY: A native of the East End of London, born within hearing of the ringing of the Bow Bells
ZOMBIE: A supernatural power or spell that according to voodoo belief can enter into and reanimate a corpse
SYNOPSIS: The Bow Bells Care Home is under threat and the McGuire’s – Andy, Terry, and Katy – need to find some way to keep their grandfather and his friends in the East End, where they belong. But, when you’re robbing a bank, zombie invasions makes things a lot harder. And let’s face it, they need all the help they can get when their bank-robbing experts turn out to be Mental Mickey and Davey Tuppance. As contractors to an East London building site unlock a 350-year old vault full of seriously hungry zombies, the East End has suddenly gone to hell and the Cockney way of life is under threat. Equipped with all the guns and ammo they can carry, it’s up to the gang to save the hostages, their grandfather, and East London from zombie Armageddon.
You have to love a movie which starts, not with a zombie attack, but with a fart joke and foul-mouthed construction workers. Cockneys vs Zombies takes a while to hit the undead action after the bumbling construction guys accidentally unleash the zombies lurking in a 17th century catacomb hidden under London’s East End. First, we’re introduced to Andy and Terry. The boys are obviously up to something nefarious, but the depth of their desperation isn’t completely clear until they finish delivering meals to the old folks home and set off to collect their intrepid band of misfit bank robbers. How the guys thought they could pull off the heist implies a strand of the DNA in the McGuire lineage is pure crazy with a pinch of delusion. For heaven’s sake, their disguises included fake mustaches giving me flashbacks to Magnum, P.I.
The true highlight of the film isn’t the zombies or the action (a whole five seconds of it) during the extremely successful bank heist. C vs Z’s golden goose lays in the cast of characters residing in the old folks home. They’re a laugh riot. Don’t balk in the face of shambling evil. And, amazingly, even with their replacement hips, bad hearts, and various ailments, they’re still capable of out running a zombie. Or blowing a hole in one’s head.
This isn’t a shoot-em-up zombie flick. It’s a comedy surrounding a family trying to make the best of a bad situation. There just happens to be zombies wandering around to make the situation that much more difficult. The film is also pretty truthful when it comes to showing how normal people would react and fight the undead. For instance, Emma—one of the hostages from the bank heist—attacks her first zombie with limp-wristed swings of a shovel, a load of determination, and some choice phrases to voice her frustration when the zombie doesn’t instantly keel over. Then there’s a few characters who transform into sharp-shooters, laying waste to every shambling corpse coming their way, covering both sides of the fighting coin.
Makeup FX for the general zombies are basic, but well done. No cheesy Halloween night makeup jobs where someone forgot to cover their ears. The main FX gags are amazing in their detail. At one point, Mickey ends up with a portion of a zombie hanging from his arm for several scenes. Not once did the makeup and prosthetics look rubbery or fake—as often happens in zombie films. The same goes for the few disemboweling scenes, intestines looking like actual intestines instead of rubber hoses slathered in colored Karo syrup.
Cockneys vs Zombies is a slow-moving, but hilarious addition to the genre. It may not be everyone’s cup of tea—some prefer much more tension with their undead viewing—but I believe many of you will enjoy watching this with friends. I’m giving it four punctured stomachs out of five.
Rating: PG-13 (intense frightening zombie sequences, violence and disturbing images) Starring: Brad Pitt, Mireille Enos, and Daniella Kertesz
First thing’s first, this reviewer is fully aware that World War Z is based on the novel by Max Brooks. However, seeing as they don’t give me any books—just stacks of movies to shuffle through—I haven’t read it. This review will focus solely on the merits of what was on the screen during the film. Nothing else. Now that the business portion is out of the way . . . have I mentioned how much of a pain it is to not only sneak into a theater without freaking out the humans, but also get a pair of 3D glasses to stay on when one of your ears fell off fifteen years ago in New Mexico? Let’s just say there was liberal application of duct tape in the moments before the lights dimmed and the film began.
World War Z starts off with disturbing news reports of a rabies-like virus sweeping over the globe. America is seemingly unharmed by this virus. Our hero, Gerry is happy to be at home with his family and not with his old bosses at the United Nations dealing with the mess. Then everything flips on its head. Gerry and family are caught in the middle of a sudden outbreak of the zombie virus. In seconds, Philadelphia is overrun with the undead. The family escape and Gerry is called in to help the UN figure out how to deal with the zombies. He’s sent to every corner of the earth searching for answers in unlikely places. In the end, it seems the world’s only hope stems from utter devastation.
The opening is slow, designed to lull you into a false sense of security while simultaneously feeding viewers information through numerous television news clips—the tried, true, and vastly overused method of plot progression available to the zombie film genre. This is of course after viewers suffer horrendous vertigo and nausea from the title sequence, which is designed to make maximum use of the 3D format. Essentially, you can get stuck in line for popcorn during the first seven minutes and not miss anything vital to the film’s plot. A zombie movie is a zombie movie, is a zombie movie. Anyone hoping World War Z would prove to be ground breaking and different in this aspect is fooling themselves.
That’s not to say once the action kicks in, the film isn’t interesting. The mechanics of the zombies alone cause a lot of heart-stopping, breath-holding moments, and even a handful of really well thought out scares. The zombies are fast. Obscenely fast. They have no physical limitations, easily leaping over two cars to take down their prey. Any reservations the person held alive are gone after death, allowing the undead to climb over each other, sacrifice each other in the name of sinking their teeth into something alive, or even bash their skull repeatedly into a car’s windshield in order to get to the gooey yummy treat inside. The makeup ranges from normal looking people covered in blood, to the hero zombies who were desiccated, rotting as they wait for fresh food sources. Two of the hero zombies in the final act of the film were by far some of the best zombies character-wise I’ve seen in any genre film. They were wild, uninhibited in their ferocity and sheer weirdness of undead traits.
Brad Pitt, despite reservations about an A-list actor stepping into a genre film, delivers a wonderful performance with the script he’s given. He brings to screen the only compassion seen from any character, really. Some of the supporting cast shine—most of the good ones don’t get nearly enough screen time. Other members of the cast failed to give a performance capable of making viewers want to see them survive. Isn’t that the point of being one of the main characters? We want to see you live, not listen to you whine, garble lines, and have little to no facial expressions. When a zombie has more facial expressions than the wife of the main character, a main character who’s in mortal danger, there’s something wrong.
What can be learned from World War Z? Duct tape is your best friend. Armor can be made from fashion magazines. The police are indeed people and cannot be relied on after the undead invade your city. And most importantly, if you’re not careful, a can of Mountain Dew could very well lead to your demise.
I’m going to give World War Z four severed hands, out of five. The epic scale of the film was hard to ignore—something genre fans haven’t seen since Romero’s Land of the Dead. Bypass the 3D experience, though. The foot chase scenes in 3D format induce headaches. Chewing on aching brains isn’t good eats. Think of the zombies waiting outside for a snack when you head to the theater.
Rating: PG-13 (Zombie violence and some adult language)
Starring: Nicholas Hoult, Teresa Palmer, John Malkovich, Rob Corddry
Another zombie film has hit the theaters, which means a day pass for yours truly to get out of the Zombie Survival Crew command center’s detention room for a couple hours. What is the latest zombie flick to hit the big screen? An adaptation of Isaac Marion’s novel Warm Bodies.
Boy meets girl. Boy eats girl’s boyfriend’s brain and absorbs his memories. Boy falls in love with girl and saves her from having her entrails spread over the ground. Girl begs her hard-ass father not to kill her undead love. Sounds romantic, huh? Not if you care about a little thing called necrophilia.
I had a hard time with the premise of Warm Bodies from the start. Not just because of my standing as one of the shambling undead. Zombies are, and have been for decades, soulless reanimated corpses who only want one thing—to feast on the flesh of the living. Going into the theater (hidden under a large Hello Kitty blanket), I knew I wasn’t the target audience for the film. The previews and trailers showed fresh-faced kids traversing the zombie apocalypse and surviving on the strength of their love. Call me jaded, but a gun goes a lot further to keep one safe from being eaten than doe-eyed heroic zombies.
The saving grace for the film is the smart, witty performance from Nicholas Hoult. He took what could have been dead (no pun intended) jokes and made them work with a well-timed glance or shrug. His counterpart, Teresa Palmer, started out the film strong-willed and capable of defending herself, however, as the movie progressed she became whiny, cried more than should be allowed in a zombie movie—even one billed as a teenage chick-flick—and could not keep up with the performance of her co-star. The production company did their best to make Palmer into a blonde Kristin Stewart—which is no surprise since the distributor for the film is responsible for releasing Twilight. Is it too much to ask for a young actress to thrive on her own merits? In a time when Hollywood is all about chasing trends and beating them over the head until their brains ooze across the floor . . . no. The film’s producers wanted a young woman with looks similar to someone who has been proven popular and shoved her in a role written to be dependent on a boy. And when things get too rough for her, she breaks down, cries, and then does some of the stupidest things ever witnessed in a post-apocalyptic film.
Congratulations, you replaced sparkly vampires with shambling corpses. Or did they?
The undead in Warm Bodies are vastly different from traditional zombies. The corpses, as they’re called, retain more of their humanity and are capable of minimal speech. They also move far too fluidly to be truly dead. The minimalistic effects makeup on the corpses made it difficult to tell who was dead and who was alive. I’m not saying they needed to have huge chunks of flesh falling off, but something more than pale skin and visible veins would have been nice. Again, the corpses were awfully similar to vampires.
Warm Bodies was fun to watch for the humor—most of it from R, the main corpse character. There are some cringe-worthy performances; a lot of repeated and unnecessary lines, and John Malkovich’s normal brilliance is buried under teen angst and daddy issues. As one of my undead companions said, it is a chick-flick worthy of a night-in with friends and your beverage of choice.
Overall, I’m going to give Warm Bodies three and a half gnawed-off fingers out of five. It had potential, but fell flat under the pressure to fit the current the teen movie trend of cute and heart-warming monsters instead of standing on its own merits.
I’d like to give a shout out to the Fresno Zombie Society for inviting me out to hang with them for the film’s screening. You guys sure know how to make sure a dead guy has a fun night out.
Rating: Unrated (intense violence, disturbing images, and adult language)
Even zombies get the holidays off, apparently. I even received some gifts from the fat guy in a red suit. Unfortunately most of what he gave me consisted of more movies to review. Nice going, Santa. You’re on their side, I know it. Once the holidays were over, I picked a flick at random and ended up watching Colin.
In the early days of the Zombiepocalypse, Colin is attacked and infected. After his death and revival, he ventures out into a city both generous in meals yet dangerous for the undead. Humans—zombie slayers—do their best to keep Colin and his kind down for the final count, his sister amongst them. Will she save him or join him?
Sounds awesome, right? It would have been had the plot not taken until an hour into the movie to actually manifest. Most of the footage ended up being random shots designed to show off special FX makeup skills. While I admit the gore was fun to watch, it would have been even more enjoyable if I could make sense of what was happening. Hardly any of the characters talked. Not just because they’re zombies. The few humans in the film uttered all of two lines each. By forty-five minutes in I realized all the thought and prep work went into the zombie attacks and makeup, with little thought left for an actual script.
There were a few bits that were enjoyable. Colin’s first fight sequence proves that not everyone has a knack for fighting. He must have tried to jab a pairing knife into that zombie’s skull about fifteen times before finally accidentally hitting a spot soft enough to do any damage to the thing’s brain. Why can’t more zombie slayers be this bumbling? I wouldn’t be locked up watching these movies, then.
I know that the filmmakers were trying to make the zombies sympathetic. It only worked in the case of Colin, and even then not very well. The humans in contrast with the undead were too stupid to survive. There wasn’t a challenge for them until towards the end. Even then the zombies took out half the humans that attacked them. Next time these folks want to make a movie, I’d suggest more time on the plot, less time playing with blood. You would have had something here with more thought put in.
I give Colin two-and-a-half diseased brains out of five.
There comes a point where you judge a movie by its cover… and fail miserably—complete with flailing arms and desperate cries of agony. No, the cries weren’t from victims of a zombie attack on the screen. It was me. Crying and beating against the door of my cell. Lets just get this review of DIE-ner over with, shall we?
Here’s the story we were promised: A serial killer hitches a ride to a failing diner in the middle of nowhere. Realizing the opportunity handed him when the place is nearly deserted, he kills the minimal staff and sets up his own sort of murderer’s paradise. That is, until his victims start coming back to life with a hunger for flesh.
What came across felt, for the most part, like a string of bad auditions. There was even the bad audio where one actor could be heard clearly while the other’s performance sounded muffled as they stood behind the camera. Top that off with plain ol’ bad acting and five minutes in I wished for someone to come put me out of my misery. Only one actor, the guy playing the witless sheriff, seemed to be trying to do his part with any believability.
Normally I’d say, well… if the acting sucks and the script isn’t worth a damn, lets see how the makeup effects hold up. These too were disappointing. Protip for wannabe filmmakers: fake blood from the Halloween store looks awful on screen. Opt for a higher quality “Stage Blood” or make your own. A gallon of homemade blood is cheap and doesn’t look like you dipped your actors in red food coloring, then left them to dry in the sun.
This is one of those movies where everyone, even the zombies are Too Stupid To Live. That does not make for entertaining viewing. And where I’d normally try to find something nice to say, I can’t in this case. Oh wait; there was lots of duct tape. Everyone likes duct tape, right?
DIE-ner is bad heaped on bad, topped with bad. I give it one-and-a-half severed feet out of five. Save yourself the misery and avoid this film.