Zombie Movie Review: Cowboys and Zombies

AKA: The Dead & the Damned

cowboys and zombies movie poster

The search for a great cowboy-zombie-western continues. Following the abject failure of The Quick and the Undead and Undead or Alive comes Cowboys and Zombies (also know as The Dead & The Damned); possibly an even cheaper entry into the genre.

Cowboys and Zombies starts off with a big shoot-out in a traditional Western town (complete with the first of many uses of dodgy-CGI blood-splatters) where we find an effeminate-sounding-Tom-Cruise-look-a-like-cowboy-bounty-hunter as he cleans up the town before heading off to collect his spoils. Although already the owner of a tasty-sized cash pile he’s still on the look-out for more, and is directed to a nearby village where a local woman has allegedly been kidnapped by a nasty Indian. Off trots ‘Cruise’ to try to re-capture the lady and claim his reward. However, unbeknownst to him this village also happens to be the location of a pair of redneck yokels that are celebrating their latest find – a mysterious glowing rock in a wheelbarrow. Hmm, what could this mean?

As is the way of things it turns out this rock is actually a magical zombie-egg of sorts that causes anyone who comes into contact with it becomes a member of undead hungry for human flesh! Will Tom Cruise manage to rescue the girl before falling foul of the zombies? Is the story of the kidnapped girl all it was made out to be? Is the Indian in question spectacularly stereo-typed complete with leather waistcoat, long-hair and tomahawk? Well who’s to say.

Featuring some of the best scenes of gratuitous norkage we’ve had the pleasure of witnessing for some time, Cowboys and Zombies is a mixed bag of a movie. The acting for the most part is atrocious (although to-be-honest it’s debatable whether this actually harms or possibly improves the movie) but the zombies creatures are superb (in particular a blind and skinless revenant who stalks her prey by sound alone). The plot is mostly garbage too, and the direction isn’t much better – although if you’re a fan of watching a guy sat in a tree doing nothing for 10 minutes, or wandering through the trees doing nothing for similar periods of time then you’re in luck. However overall there is enough nonsense going on that gives C&Z a certain charm. For example one thing we learnt from this film is that the wild west must have had some great laundrettes; these chaps were spotless all the way from start to finish, regardless of the amount of blood, dirt and zombie vomit they encounter.

Cowboys and Zombies is one of those films you’re most likely to watch with your mates in the ‘you’ll never believe the amount of norkage in this dodgy zombie-movie I saw the other day’ type category. It’s not a great movie – in fact it’s not even a good one – but if you’re a fan of women in corsets stripping off in the woods for no reason whatsoever then you’ll get some enjoyment out of this.

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

Cowboys and Zombies is available now from Left Films

Zombie Movie Review: Stag Night of the Dead

Stag Night Of The Dead PosterUsually the policy here at Devouring the Zombie Films of the Living is to only review movies that are either available to buy / watch right now or at least in the very near future, but in the case of SNotD this has been a challenging policy to uphold. Your reviewer here was invited to the premiere of this movie back in August 2009, and 28 months later (hmm, 28 months later; there’s an idea for a film in there somewhere) we can now put pen-to-paper as this movie is finally getting released on DVD – 9th January 2012 to be precise!

Following a group of stags on a rather ill-conceived (in more ways than one) bachelor party, SNotD ticks all the boxes required of a low-budget zombie movie. Norks, gore and comedy; what more do you need? Well if it’s your sort of thing there is a bit of a story going on here too. In-fact it could be said that there’s almost too much story that it gets in the way of these important priorities.

The characters involved are your standard bloke-y horror fare: There’s the sensitive hero chap, the Neanderthal ‘Alpha-male’ in charge of everything, their stoner mates, the well-meaning if rather boring hanger-on and a wise older dude. Not forgetting the stripper in a red PVC one-piece of course. This group of mates head off to play some traditional stag-do paintball out in the middle of nowhere, although this isn’t traditional paintball; it’s Stags vs. Zombies! Each of the chaps is equipped with a bizarre lightening-firing electric rifle that needs regular charging and they’re sent out on their way to battle the undead, in a controlled and supervised manner of course – well, until the inevitable zombie escape when everything goes to pot.

It’s not a bad little zombie movie overall. In particular it’s actually quite original, something that’s hard to say about most zombie movies these days. The characters are also likeable and interesting enough that you want to find out what happens to each of them, and it’s a pleasant change to find a zombie film with some real villains and not just the zombies themselves. On top of this the makeup effects of the undead creatures themselves is pleasingly gruesome. Sadly, the choice to equip the heroes with electric cattle-prod type weapons means there’s very little in the way of proper gore. No bullets to the head, no gushing flesh-wounds, just a flash of lightning, some shaking and a collapsed zombie on the floor. There are a few real guns involved later in the film but not nearly enough get the blood really flowing.

However the main criticism here is that there really isn’t enough of a film to span out into the full 85 minutes. As a short 45 minute episode it would really pack a decent punch, but as it is it’s spread out over far too long a running time for the material available. This is a slight shame as the premise is a nice idea, and some of the effects are really well done (the zombie-fist-through-the-mouth in particular got a satisfying whoop of applause from here!) it’s just that there were too many slow conversation scenes and not really enough grunt. Still, it’s an admirable film that’s trying to do something different with the genre, and that’s always going to be welcome, plus it has some great set-pieces and when the comedy hits the right notes you find yourself really getting into the spirit of this Zomball experience.

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

Stag Night of the Dead is available on DVD from Amazon and from iTunes from 9th January 2012 from Left Films.

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+