Zombie Movie Review: Alien Undead

AKA The Dark Lurking

Alien Undead Poster

Well well well. Alien Undead. A young woman awakes in what appears to be a stasis pod in the laboratory of a distant space colony. After a quick shower she starts to take a look around her surroundings to find that all hell is breaking loose around her. A load of crazy zombie/alien hybrids are roaming the place and a group of space marine-types have been sent to this colony so sort this mess out. She hooks up with a combination of survivors and marines and try to find safety from this outbreak.

There are many films that are truly hard to review for a variety of reasons: Some are the curious combination of being obviously brilliant yet completely and utterly boring meaning they’re impossible to recommend, others are spectacular heaps of trash that are so thoroughly enjoyable that when the movie finishes there is an urge to flip back to the beginning and re watch it again immediately. And then there are films like ‘Alien Undead’ – an unprescidented combination of blatant rip-off and unexpected originality.

Lets start with the blatant rip-off aspect: It has ‘Alien’ in the title, it features a ragtag bunch of mercenaries with big – yet wimpy sounding – guns and incredibly manly moustaches hired to go into a colony that has been unexpectedly cut off from communication, it has scenes featuring humans and aliens crawling through vents, rooms full of dangling chains and dripping water, some bizarre religious overtones, and a female lead who opens the film awaking from some form of stasis pod.

Yes, never has a film ripped off ‘Muppets from Space’ as much as Alien Undead. Not only does it steal from the Muppets but also – rather unusual for a sci-fi horror movie – from all the Alien movies combined. (All that was lacking here was a ships cat.) Instead of just leaving it there, why not throw in some Event Horizon and even ‘Doom’ for good measure too? Yes, admittedly it’s difficult to create a unique sci-fi horror movie these days, but if you’re going to steal from the classics (not including Doom there, obviously) try to be a little less blatant about it, eh?

However it’s not as straightforward as that. Alien rip-offs can be tolerated provided they are interesting, but the whole first half of this movie is so unbelievably below-par in so many ways that it’s a challenge to get through. The pacing is all over the place, the action scenes are so frantically shot that most of what happens occurs in a long drawn-out blur, and it takes a certain mind-set to truly appreciate films with acting of this calibre (and we’ve seen some severe cases in some of the Zombie movies reviewed here, that’s for sure). But then it’s not often that you want the worst actresses (and actors) to survive just so you get to experience their appalling acting for a bit longer because it takes some of the annoyance away from watching the actual movie.

OK, this is all a bit unfair. Yes, it’s incredibly badly acted in places. Yes, the first half of the movie is cribbed from the first four Alien movies combined (among others). And yes, the director seems obsessed with filming from no further that one metre away from his subject . But once the first half of this movie is over it transforms into something rather unexpected – an original, interesting story that is actually rather engrossing and causes you to forget the entire pain of the first 45 minutes. Once all the terrible actors have been killed off and the actual plot starts to unveil itself you get sucked in.

Some incredibly dastardly villains, an ancient, near-biblical scope and a Sylvester Stallone look-a-like all make for a movie that starts to become enjoyable for the right reasons. This was really unexpected; trying to get through the first half of the film was almost painful at times – but when you get into the right state-of-mind and just start enjoying the ludicrousness of the film, laugh at the terrible acting (and terrible really is the word) and start playing the guessing-game of ‘which sci-fi film did they rip this scene off from’ you’ll find the first half of the movie goes by pretty harmlessly and you’ll find yourself in the second half, surprisingly engrossed in what is actually happening. It’s actually possible that you’ll come out the end of the movie impressed that it turned out to be an interesting film.

OK, it’s rather lacking in the zombie stakes here. Sure, the creatures ‘could’ be classed a zombies – they do seem to be reanimated humans after all – but the tone of the film is far more sci-fi than walking dead. Also the gore scenes mostly involve gallons of blood being sprayed around, but there are some impressive special effects in the mutilation front.

If you can forgive the opening of this horror film with a shower scene that doesn’t include any nudity, the story is – eventually – quite interesting and the characters are enjoyable for a whole host of reasons – the comically bad acting being one of them. Is it one to recommend? Well that depends on your opinion of low-budget Alien rip offs. There’s plenty to enjoy here though – although a lot of it is probably not as the film makers intended.

Gore Score C+
Norks Score F
Originality Score D
Overall Score C-

DVD is available now from Left Films

Zombie Movie Review: Walking The Dead

Walking The Dead Poster

Well, now that season two of The Walking Dead has started why not review a film that shares the same title (albeit slightly re-arranged) but is a completely different beast altogether?

Even trying to research this film is difficult because Google ‘helpfully’ rearranges your search term because it think you’ve spelt ‘The Walking Dead’ incorrectly. No, ‘Walking the Dead’ is what we wanted to search for, thank-you very much. As lovely as an Andrew Lincoln biography is he’s not what we’re looking for. So, if it’s ‘Walking the Dead‘ that you’re after to find out about, here is your opportunity.

Walking the Dead is an unusual premise for a zombie movie, and quite old-school it is too. And this is old-school meaning the early style voodoo zombies, and not the shuffling Romero-esque versions. (The fact that old-school zombies could be interpreted as the slow walkers is rather a depressing thought).

Set in China, a washed-up alcoholic journalist who is apparently on a ‘sabbatical’ receives a distressing tip that a young girl has gone missing out in a mysterious Chinese village, and has received permission from his editor to investigate this case as a way back into real life. He ends up in a desolate town (well, aside from all the mostly-dead zombie-like creatures) and bumps into possibly the only live human; a young lass who wants to help him with his quest. And, oh yes, there’s a blind psycho with an axe hunting them both down.

What is an interesting premise, set in a beautiful location with superb cinematography turns out to be a rather dull and incredibly slow movie where nothing really happens for the majority of the running time. It really should have been good though. There are some genuinely creepy characters, some great suspense (blind killers do tend to excel in the chills factor) but it’s just pointless and totally uninteresting. Rather like the old Playstation game ‘Forbidden Siren’; the premise is interesting and spooky but when you sit down to actually try to get involved in it you’re utterly bored. Walking around in empty villages in the fog doesn’t make for enjoyment.

Gore score C-
Norks Score F
Originality Score B
Overall Score D

Zombie Movie Review: DeadHeads

Deadheads zombie movie poster

Deadheads zombie movie poster

Well, it’s been a while since the last review here. But hey-ho, lets just crack on ignore that brief patch of unabashed laziness with a review of a brand-new movie: DeadHeads.

Showing at the 2011 FrightFest film festival in London (the UK Premiere no less with cast and crew in attendance) DeadHeads was one of the last movies to be shown over the whole five-day festival. Due to having watched around 25 movies in the four days preceding this showing – and several vats of wine having been drunk over this period – there may have been a slight incident of ‘snooze’ involving your reviewer here for about 10 minutes half-way into the film. This was particularly annoying as this was the only zombie movie of the whole festival (unless you count the special live director-commentary showing of the fantastic The Dead – a film that was originally at FrightFest last year).

However, the momentary lapse in consciousness shouldn’t be attributed to the film itself; more of that to come (this is a review, after all). It’s much more likely that it’s down to staying out too late the previous night drinking too much red-wine – which may have been an influencing factor for  drunkenly babbling at directors Ti West and Joe Lynch who had frequented the FrightFest-approved bar that night (no idea what was involved in this drunken babbling; hopefully it was all complementary though as both guys have made some truly great movies – West’s INNKEEPERS from the same festival being a particular highlight, despite being mostly un-zombie in nature).

Anyway, back to the matter in hand. The lost 10 minutes aside, DeadHeads was a genuinely fun and enjoyable zombie comedy that truly had the audience laughing out loud; something that has been particularly hard to achieve in recent years (Wasting Away, we’re looking at you!).

Starting out with a young chap waking up to find he’s a sentient (and none-to-happy about it) zombie, DeadHeads follows this dude as he sets out across the country to find – and declare his everlasting love – to his would-be fiancée. Yup, it’s basically a road movie. Luckily he meets up with a similar revenant early-on and the pair set off on their way (after accidentally-on-purpose adopting a pet zombie they name “Cheese”). This trio has various encounters with civilians along the way, all the while being hunted by some hired goons (one of whom fantastically appears to be channeling the spirit of Jesse ‘The Body’ Ventura from Predator).

Will the pair get to meet up with the young lady? Will they find out why they are the only smart zombies out there? How did they end up dead anyway? Will anyone have better facial hair than ‘Jesse’? Well, possibly. (Apart from the facial hair point obviously; nothing is going to beat the spectacular face-rack on display here).

OK, it’s getting a bit of a waffly review now so we’ll get down to the nitty-gritty here. What was so enjoyable about this film? Well the vast majority of the fun comes from the relationship between the two lead zombies. Some great dialog scenes really give the impression that these two are genuinely good mates: They help each other out while equally pissing each other off royally! We’ve all had friends who both love and hate each other in just this equal measure, so it’s great to see such a dynamic on-screen.

Secondly, the makeup effects are phenomenal, particularly for the two lead zombies. Perhaps it was the hangover talking, but those dudes looked genuinely infected. To be honest, provided a movie shies-away from just ‘black contact-lenses and green face paint’ it’s usually a good thing, but this movie really went all-out making the stars look like they’re actually rotting. Fair play there, that was impressive.

OK, it’s not perfect. Just the idea of a pair of sentient zombies trekking across the country to propose to a still-alive human lass is, frankly, ludicrous. The whole plot of the movie is too daft to truly get behind which was a shame. Not only is the plot annoying, but the ending of the film just leaves you thinking: ‘Really, that’s actually how they ended this movie?’. Still, complaining that the plot of a Zombie movie isn’t particularly realistic is rather a obsurd statement to make, and anyway we all know that it’s the journey that matters in these films. (Well, that and the death scenes).

Gore Score B
Norks Score F (Unless they occured during the accidental nap-time!)
Originality Score A-
Overall Score B+

Zombie Movie Review: Zombie Dearest

Zombie Dearest movie poster

Time to delve into the murky world of the late-night Horror Channel for this little number: Zombie Dearest (2009). Low expectations are needed when undertaking such a mission; low expectations and a resolve of steel to make it to the end of a film that promises so little. Well, we’re happy to report that our expectations were not misplaced; Zombie Dearest is one of the worse breeds of low-budget horror – slow, boring and unfunny.

So what is the film actually all about? Well the basic plot revolves around a young couple trying to repair their relationship. (It appears that getting naked in front of your sister-in-law with a finger-puppet on your ‘unmentionables’ doesn’t do your relationship much good). They go about this marriage guidance in a curious manner; the wife decides to get a job with her ex-boyfriend and the husband decides to excavate the septic-tank at the back of their house. While doing so he excavates a dead body that he accidentally brings back to life by grabbing its ‘jolly wobbler’ while coincidentally wishing he had some help with this excavation malarkey. (Apparently ones desires can be granted by holding onto a dead persons wanger and making a wish – who knew?). This zombie then comes to life and takes over the digging duties while the husband decides to hone his stand-up comedy routine.

Now, usually the final sentence of the above paragraph would be “…with hilarious results!” but not this time. Neither the plot itself nor the stand up comedy (which seems to consist entirely of Caveman jokes) provoke a smile or even a groan of embarrassment. It’s actually hard to tell whether this stand-up comedy is intentionally unfunny or if the script of the movie is the failure.

Whether the jokes are meant to be funny or not is not the only confusing thing about this film. Sometimes the characters act as if they’re terrified by the rampaging zombie day-worker, sometimes they treat the movie as if it’s a comedy and aren’t bothered by the walking corpse at all. There’s no method to the madness here, you’ve genuinely no idea when a scene starts whether the characters will play for laughs or for horror. Not that this matters really; neither genre works to any extent – the comedy is never funny and the horror is never scary. There’s no gore, no jokes, no fun, and it’s unbearably slow to even get going. It’s a shame really, because the plot has some originality in there – creating a zombie by mistake and forcing them to act as a slave while the couple try to live out their dreams isn’t something that has been done before (well, Fido had zombie slaves as pets, so I guess it’s not that original after-all).

This movie also has to be marked down for committing two cardinal sins of horror movies – showing a sex scene where the characters stay in their clothes, and including such as ridiculously cop-out ending. Seriously, even a tacked on Hollywood style happy ‘Coda’ ending would have been better than the garbage route they went with.

Gore Score F
Norks Score F
Originality Score C+
Overall Score D-

Feature: Is 28 Days Later a Zombie Movie?

Poster for 28 Days Later

Right, lets start this off straight off the bat: 28 Days Later is a zombie movie. You’ll get no detailed review here, we’ve all seen this movie. (Great film, but the sequel is better). What you’ll get is a breakdown of why this is a zombie movie.

But they’re caused by RAGE, not by being bitten!” “They run fast and chase people, they don’t just shuffle!” or even “They’re not even DEAD, so it can’t be a zombie movie!” All true, but so what?

Zombies have been created by many means over the years, such as:

This tells us that there is no single ’cause’ for zombies; they can come around in more ways than you can imagine (if we’ve missed any causes off the list do let us know).

If zombies can be caused by anything, how about how the zombies ACT? Do they do anything specific that classify them as zombies?

  • Eating people? – Nope, this didn’t start happening until Night of the Living Dead. There were hundreds of zombie movies before this.
  • Slowly shuffling around? – Nope, there have been fast zombies back in the 1980′s with Return of the Living Dead
  • They speak only in moans? – Nope, films such as I, Zombie or Wasting Away show you can still have a zombie movie where the creatures chat away quite easily.
  • Being Dead? – Nope, sometimes you can just become a zombie when you reach a certain age – such as in Stacy, or through Hypnosis as was the case of many pre-Romero era movies (King of the Zombies).

Right, so it’s not how the creatures are caused nor how they act that makes a zombie movie. So what about the setting?

There are many more, all with totally different settings. So, is there a single overriding similarity between all of these films? Well here it is, here’s the single constant of zombie movies:

They all deal with beings acting against their natural instincts at the detriment of those not affected.

That’s it. That’s all there is. The films generally aren’t actually about the zombies, they’re just a MacGuffin used to get a bunch of humans together with one common goal to see how they cope with each other and with an unrehersed situation.  Sometimes this is done to make a serious social / political point, sometimes for laughs, sometimes for scares and sometimes even for pure sleazy titillation. However the ghouls themselves are the same whether they’re chasing after you with rage in their eyes or shuffling around slowly in the background for you to simply walk right past. Does it really matter where they came from, what they do or how fast they move?

Gore Score C
Norks Score F
Originality Score A
Overall Score B

(We would have rated it higher than this overall, but only scored 28 weeks later a B and that’s a better film that this original)

Feature: Rob Zombie’s Favourite Zombie Movies, Reviewed

Rob Zombie Movie

Back in October 2010, Rob Zombie – Director of Halloween, House of 1000 Corpses and the stunningly brilliant The Devils Rejects (not forgetting his work in the band White Zombie where he wrote the lyrics and fronted the group) picked out his favourite Zombie Movies for the website The Daily Beast. Well, we at Devouring the Zombie Films of the Living don’t like to be one-upped by celebrities, so have decided to see which of the 10 living-dead films chosen by Mr Zombie have already been reviewed here.

Surprisingly two of the list have yet to be featured here, something that we will look to remedy in the near future. However for those interested here is the list, along with our own brief summary and links to the actual reviews here on DtZFotL.

  • Dawn of the Dead (1978) Certainly a classic, and one that brought make-up master Tom Savini into the big time. However, we’d rate this as #3 in the list of Romero zombie movies, behind Day of the Dead and Night of the Living Dead. (Flyboy is just such a damn idiot). It may be sacrilege to admit, but the Remake is actually more enjoyable to watch. (Send your hate mail to the usual address…)
  • White Zombie (1932) – This is the film that we can never get around to reviewing. It’s always “we’ll review this one next time” but then end up watching some trash like Mulva: Zombie Ass Kicker instead and utterly regretting the decision minutes into it. We’ll review White Zombie next time, that’s a promise!
  • Night of the Living Dead (1968) - What can be said that hasn’t been written before? Seriously, if this hasn’t been watched then you’ve no business reading this website! Go on, get out of here, watch the damn movie and then come back and apologise! It’s OK to hate Barbra, she’s possibly the worst example of a cliche horror movie female. However don’t laugh (as I did) when she gets punched in the face, that’s probably a bit much. (As a side note, the Tom Savini directed remake is actually pretty good. It got hit pretty hard by the censors so much of the gore didn’t make it in there, but the film itself is well worth a watch. As remakes go it’s one of the better ones by quite a long way).
  • Zombie (1979) – OK, I can forgive Rob Zombie for calling it by the inferior name. Zombie Flesh Eaters is such a better title, surely? Anyway, regardless of the name this is hands-down the greatest zombie movie ever made. Take a look in the side-panel of this blog -> Which film is ranked at Number 1 is the list? Not only at the time of writing is it this masterpiece, but can you imagine anything taking its place in the future. Reading this post in the year 2045? Yup, Zombie Flesh Eaters will still be number one. A zombie fights a SHARK for goodness-sake! We wrote a post about this movies greatness over at our friends Blog of the Living Dead about how great this movie is.
  • Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things (1973) – Quite a strange choice by Mr Zombie. This movie must be an influence on the Evil Dead, as well as the 80′s comedy Weekend at Bernie’s. That’s a strange combination of films but it gets the idea across. Hanging out with a dead dude in a cabin in the woods. It’s all fun and games until some ‘bad stuff’ happens and the dead return to wreak some havoc.
  • 28 Days Later… (2002) – It actually came as quite a surprise that we haven’t featured this movie here. Yes, we’ve covered the sequel 28 Weeks Later, which is arguably an even better movie. 28 Days Later gave us the return of the Running Zombie (although this phenomenon isn’t really that new. the ones in Return of the Living Dead had a fair bit of pace in them back in the 1980′s). The atmosphere of ’28 days…’ it what sets it apart from the usual zombie-fare. Total zombie apocalypse, deserted streets, abandoned buildings. Urban horror has never been so well made. It does suffer in the second half where the whole tone switches and it becomes a tribute to Day of the Dead, but that can be forgiven as it’s done really rather well.
  • City of the Living Dead (1980) – Another Fulci movie makes the list, and quite a bizarre zombie movie it is. Teleporting ‘ghost’ zombies, vomited entrails and lots of spectacular gore! Part of the loose ‘Gates of Hell’ trilogy, it is probably our favourite of the series (although The Beyond may just edge it depending on how we’re feeling that day). It’s worth checking out purely for the Drill scene alone.
  • Re-Animator (1985) - Proving that the music from Psycho works perfectly in comedy horror movies too, Re-animator is a work of genius. The greatest Mad Scientist movie ever made, which means it is to blame for spawning the multitude of awful zombie experiment movies too (Serum, i’m talking to you.) Its a near perfect film, and we may even get around to discussing the two sequels here at some point in the future too.
  • Zombie Lake (1981) – A surprise choice by Rob here, but by no means a mistake. Just as Zombie Flesh Eaters sits at the top of our Overall Top 3 list, Zombie Lake is top of the Norks chart too. Any zombie movie with an underwater nude volleyball scene involving a bus load of ladies and a lake full of zombies will take some beating. We very much approve of the choice by Mr Zombie. If you only ever watch one Nazi Zombie movie then it should be this one. Hilarious for all the wrong reasons (makeup, continuity, script and effects) Zombie Lake is a masterpiece of exploitation trash. In fact having thought about it this will probably get a re watch this afternoon, what better way to spend a sunny Sunday?

So there you have it. Do you agree with Mr Zombie’s choices? Barring 28 Days Later all these movies are pre 1985, reinforcing our opinion that the greatest zombie movie era was the late ’70′s. All we need now is for Mr Zombie to stop just writing lyrics about the undead and actually make a whole movie!

Zombie Movie Review: Re-Cycle

re-cycle movie poster

Here at Devouring the Zombie Films of the Living the occasional film that defies the typical rules of the ‘zombie’ criteria ends up getting reviewed on the site. There’s an easy way to tell if a film is actually a zombie movie or not, and that is to ask: “Has that film been reviewed on this site?” If the answer is Yes then it is a zombie movie, argument over. If the answer is No, then either it’s not a zombie movie (i.e. Evil Dead) or it’s just not been added to the site yet.

Carriers was such a movie recently reviewed, prompting discussions both here and through Twitter as to its validity as a zombie movie. (It is, just accept it). In order to restore balance to the Universe it’s time to go for a non-debatable, straight-up zombie movie! Well, that was the plan anyway but the movie that found its way into the DVD player was the Asian curio RE-CYCLE; a bizarre movie that might as well be a long dream sequence than an actual zombie movie.

Having said that it certainly deserves to be reviewed here, if not for the storyline (which most certainly would not be classed as a zombie movie) but for the dozens of genuinely unsettling undead ghouls roaming around and generally scaring the bejesus out of whoever is watching.

So what do these ghouls have to do with this crazy movie? Well the movie ponders what happens to those abandoned ideas, memories and even people who fall by the wayside as we go about our daily lives. (The long forgotten dead being such a case). The Directors ‘the Pang Brothers‘ do this by throwing the heroine of the film into a world of not only her own, but of the world’s discarded past; filled with lands of unread books, abandoned buildings and forgotten relatives which forces her to face some of the unpleasant abandoned areas of her own past in order to return to her waking life.

It’s more than just a bizarre dream trip on offer though; the opening 45 minutes are pure Asian-horror (definition: creepy in a way that no other culture have mastered) as the young lass – a successful writer struggling to put together her newest novel – sees glimpses of her discarded ideas given life to ‘haunt’ her flat, not only in the apparition way but also to leave creepy answering phone messages and even worse; leaving the taps running in the bath!

It’s a difficult movie to review. It certainly deserves to be seen, if not for the plot but for the beautiful cinematography (real and CGI) that truly adds to the dreamscape style. Is it a zombie movie? Not really. Does it have zombies in it? Most definitely. Is it incredibly scary in parts? Sure. Is it a bit preachy about abortion? Yes, if you want to take it as such. Is it gory? Not even slightly (as far as I remember). But is it good? Yes, without a doubt. It might depend on whether you choose to interpret ‘Abortion Land’ as just an interesting scene or as the entire meaning behind the movie, but there’s a lot more going on here than just being a movie about not abandoning and forgetting your past.

Gore Score E
Norks Score F
Originality Score A
Overall Score B+