Zombie Movie Review: REC3: Génesis

REC3 Poster

REC3:Génesis takes place on the same day as the previous films in the series, but this time in a far more open and daylit space – at a wedding in a luxury stately home in Spain. Things kick off in traditional REC style: shot in a camera POV style following the build up to and immediate aftershow of this big wedding between Clara and Koldo. Ah, and what a ceremony it is! They’ve done alright for themselves, able to have a big wedding bash in such an enormous house – seemingly bereft of any staff of owners but with a bitchin’ sound system that you can hear from anywhere in (and even under) the building. The perfect place for a good old knees-up. It does happen to be right next a graveyard where some mysterious people dressed in hazmat suits are ‘spraying for bugs’, but that can’t mean anything bad, can it?

Well as is often the case with zombie movies one of the attendees has turned up with a bandaged up wound on his hand. We didn’t see exactly how he got this, but he mentions that he is a vet who was bitten by a dog earlier in the day. (Surely just a coincidence that the little girl resident from REC1 had said that her dog had gone to the vet for being ill just as the zombie outbreak occurred in her apartment?)

Somewhat surprisingly this vet dude gets progressively more crazy as the party goes on, possibly due to alcohol, possibly not… Finally his illness starts to take over and he goes a little bit too crazy and starts attacking people and spitting blood all over the place. Damn, that dog he’d been treating must’ve been infected with a fast acting rabies or something?

All the while this is being recorded on video cameras by the guests, but this doesn’t continue for long. In what is one of the greatest (non-gory) moments of the film the torch is metaphorically passed from the REC of old to the REC of the future, and the POV format is ditched (really quite cleverly) and we’re now treated to a far less restricting and traditional approach to a zombie movie.

It’s not only the filming style that is more traditional than the previous films in the series, but the story and style too. The film becomes a good old-fashioned zombie movie, something we haven’t had many of in recent days. So what is a traditional zombie movie then? Well, one that involves running and hiding from the ghouls, some bickering and arguing, many great laughs and more importantly some gruesome zombie deaths – being dispatched in a variety of ingenious (and gory) ways.

The characters here are all superb and really play to the films strengths. There are the typical hero / heroine in Koldo and Clara, some great comic relief guys – (spongebob, sorry, John Sponge and the appropriately named ‘Royalties’ to name a couple) and a few useful exposition types who help further the plot and provide contextual links to the REC mythology.

So, as it’s a more traditional zombie film how does it fit into the REC universe? Well apart from being filmed predominantly away from the POV style, not being set inside a dark apartment and also playing more for laughs than for scares, it fits surprisingly well. They same mythology of the zombies is intact, it links in quite nicely to the previous films and provides a few more clues as to the origin of these creatures. Sure, it’s a totally different beast to 1 and 2 but that’s no bad thing. Sticking with an old formula for a third film in a series would have been a safe and potentially dull route to take, whereas with Génesis the series has been given a good shove into a new direction which should help make the final (and apparently very dark and serious) part 4 stand out just as well.

Gore Score B
Norks Score F
originality Score C+
Overall Score B+

Zombie Movie Review: REC2

REC2 zombie movie poster

Following on directly from REC; not just by being a sequel but actually following on directly from REC, REC2 covers a small group of armed police who go into the apartment block immediately as the closing credits of the first film would be running under the impression that they are there to check for survivors. However, what with this being a horror movie things are not as they seem.

After meeting up with an appointed government representative the team are filled in on the real purpose of this mission and the group of chaps have to race around the apartment building in the dark from floor-to-floor with their helmet mounted cameras (yes, this is how they keep the handheld camera theme going) in a similar vein to the first film for another 90 minutes trying to get to the bottom of the situation.

However, as much as it may sound, the movie is not really a retread of the first. The is a side stories going on here involving a group of kids breaking into the apartment to see what’s going on which provides a nice change of scenery (well, a change of characters at least – they’re still all stuck in the same apartment as everyone else from this film and the previous). There is also a change with the direction that the zombies take: No longer are they the mysterious infected, this time we know why – and it is an altogether more daemonic situation that we expected.

OK sure, there were hints in the first film as to what was going on, but they were really just there for effect – we had no idea what was really going on in that small apartment block until this movie (and even here it’s not completely answered – we’ll have to wait for the next two films for that).

So, as a movie how well does it do? Well it’s not as scary as the first one – possible because we’ve seen a lot of this already done in the first one, although it does have it’s moments – more so than most zombie films these days. Is it gory? Well again, nowhere near as much as the first. However what about as a story? Well this movie actually has a story, so it beats its predecessor in that respect. (All REC was about was just some woman running up and down stairs being chased for 90 minutes). But is it better than the original? No, probably not, although it’s a darn sight close. REC took a claustrophobic formula, ramped up the action and gave it all a fresh approach. REC2 is very similar, and where it improves over the original is with the story and the characters. However it does all take place in the same setting and probably isn’t different enough to be superior.

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

Zombie Movie Review: The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living And Became Mixed-Up Zombies

The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies Poster

Well, we’re going to be needing copy-and-paste quite a bit for this review, ‘The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies‘ isn’t the sort of title you want to be typing over-and-over again. In fact there is a lot about this film that doesn’t really warrant repetition; re-watching being a primary case-in-point.

So with repetition apparently being the order of the day this is a good opportunity to discuss the main feature of this film: Dancing ladies. No, not the exciting of the zombie stripper variety, but the 1960’s burlesque style shenanigans. Sometimes these dancers are individual ladies, sometimes it’s a chorus line, and occasionally it’s the drunken ballroom dancing variety. So, why is a film with such a unique title so obsessed with numerous long dance numbers? Well, who knows.

The movie is predominantly set in a carnival following a pair of ‘youngsters’ and a lady-friend who, having ridden the big dipper for quite a while decide to visit a warty Elizabeth Taylor lookalike mystic (and her hairy, beak-faced mutant companion) to be told their future. Following a nonsense reading for one of them then head over to the burlesque show. The young lady decides this isn’t for her and leaves her boyfriend behind, who seems to have become transfixed with a mysterious gypsy dancer promoting the show and takes it upon himself to head on in for a quick perv over this woman, not caring about his lady companion.

Well, this dance show then proceeds to take up the bulk of this movie, so you better enjoy your slow and dreary dance / musical numbers if you want to get much out of this film. And don’t think that the brief hint of burlesque makes this any more exciting; it’s very tame and infrequent in the grand scale of the whole show.

So where are these ‘mixed-up zombies’ referred to in the title? Well, there aren’t any. There was one chap at the beginning of the film who gets acid poured over his face by Elizabeth Taylor, and he has some pals who have also been given this special beauty treatment, but they are neither ‘strange creatures’ nor do they ‘stop living’ either – but this is pre-Romero here so zombies were a lot more broad in their description. Their appearance is rather limited to a brief 5 minute rampage towards the end of the film, long after you will have given up any interest in the paper-thin plot.

This is the sort of film that would work best showing on a TV in the background inside some trendy bar where you don’t have to bother about listening to the dialog, following the plot or bothering about the dodgy audio-transfer from this 45 year old movie. In fact it would actually work really well there. You could sit back with some friends and some beers, occasionally glance up at whatever dance scene is currently going down and make up your own plot. Hey, it would probably make some sense.

Well, what do you know, there was no need for the Ctrl-C after all; the movie title was only actually mentioned once in this review anyway. Oh well, The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies gets the following ratings:

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

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: 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)