Starring: Ving Rhames, Taryn Manning, and Leslie-Ann Brandt
Written by: Brooks Peck and Craig Engler
Directed by: Nick Lyon
Despite an outpouring of social media support for this SyFy Channel original movie, it does not live up to the hype. However, it is a vast improvement from the likes of Sharktopus, Mega Python vs. Gatoroid, and other titles whose names alone make me want to go blind. We can also view it as a gesture from the management of the SyFy channel that indicates they still care about original genre programming that isn’t wrestling or reality television. All that said, Zombie Apocalypse stands as a wholly average and slightly bland zombie movie.
Though the plot is of the basic, “Get from here, where there are zombies, to there, where there are no zombies” variety, it started out rather strong. A group of moron survivors in Southern California draw the attention of a shambling zombie horde. Therein some people who have actually read a Max Brooks book rescue the moron survivors, and they all set out for Catalina – a supposed safe zone. ZA got my hopes up with early outpours of emotion and the recognition that killing a zombie is still killing a person. Indeed, I was quite interested until the introductory plot repeated itself half way through the movie. By the end, there were so many plot holes and so little tension that I just didn’t care. The one absolute rule of zombie story telling is that the audience MUST care about the survivors; even if that care manifests itself in a viewer hating a character to the point that they want the zombies to eat them, it’s still a win.
Visually, the movie is a toss-up. The makeup and prosthetics on the zombies are fantastic – not Walking Dead fantastic but still pretty damn good. However, the special effects and fight choreography are awful. Omnipresent CG blood splatters look like a bad impression of something out of a Tarantino picture. Countless cut aways and odd camera angles mute any of the expected intensity that would come with hand to hand combat. It’s also pretty evident that nobody in the crew knew anything about the mechanics of sword play or else there wouldn’t have been a cute girl twirling a katana and decapitating zombies like she had a lightsaber.
That gives me an idea for a movie pitch: Jedi vs Zombies. The rest writes itself.
While the acting is decent enough, Ving Rhames offers a performance that I would rate as quite convincing, I could almost see the cast wincing as they elucidated and acted upon the various and sundry plot holes. Case in point: the US government creates a series of EMPs with high altitude nuclear explosions. Sure it cuts down on the cost of the movie if there are no working cars (pay no attention to the still working boats) but it also makes no sense since grounding air travel and imposing martial law are more efficient means of restricting travel and thus limiting the spread of the virus. NB: evidently these are special nukes that don’t make fallout. Then there’s the machine gun that can fire forever on what looked like fifteen bullets – that was fun. Let’s not forget about the stealth zombies. In playing with zombie mutation/evolution as a plot device, the shambling hordes are really good at conveniently sneaking up on people in vast numbers. I don’t have a problem with exploring smart zombies but consistency is word one if that’s the way a story is going to go.
In the end, the flaws of Zombie Apocalypse really come down to a marked lack of consistency. I get that this movie was made on a budget. But if there’s no money for decent SFX/VFX, then make sure the story is a little more seaworthy. Further extending the previous metaphor, once he hull is sound, pick a course and stay with it. This movie could have been so much better if it wasn’t an amalgam of numerous zombie movie tropes. Trying to be a movie that simultaneously explores survivor guilt, zombie evolution and basic survival doesn’t work. Zombie Apocalypse might be a step in the right direction for SyFy Channel original movies, but at best it is a step that lands firmly in the realm of mediocrity.
Overall Score: 0