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