As Greek myth would have it, Hercules, the half mortal son of Zeus, was driven mad by the queen of the gods, Hera, and murdered his wife and children. Upon regaining his sanity, Hercules was understandably distraught and in penance for his crime undertook 12 labours for the King Eurystheus. These labours included fighting and defeating immense, dangerous creatures and completing impossible tasks. We mention this because we think Hercules would probably still have chosen any of those tasks, even capturing Cerberus, the three-headed hound of Hades guarding the gates of the underworld, than try and find something positive to say about Cowboy Zombies. But if our mother told us anything growing up, it was “Son, you’re a better man than that Hercules”, so here goes...
The history of cinema is full with tales of enterprising filmmakers, light on resources and funds, turning out movies that run the whole gamut from the offensive to the inept to miraculously good and even game changing (Roger Corman being an industry covering all of those himself). Cowboy Zombies is not game changing. It’s not miraculously good. In fairness, it’s not offensive (for reasons we’ll mention later). It is inept. We appreciate the context this movie was probably made in, family and friends getting together to make a zombie-western flick on the weekends, having a great time acting out their fantasies of wild west and horror movie clichés. Still, when a film is released to the wider world it becomes open to a critical assessment that need only really consider the finished product.
The acting is, charitably, game but often toe-curling and no one’s going to be troubling Mark Rylance for the lead in Spielberg’s next movie any time soon. Clunky writing abounds. It’s a walking dead film but the gore-free make-up here is more like the ‘zombies’ lost a flour and ketchup fight. It’s cumbersome, unwieldy, poorly paced. The editing is off, sometimes by seconds that drag by like hours. It’s an over-scored, messy, incoherent shambling corpse of a film. To part with money for it, perhaps hoping for an entertaining evening of scares and thrills, would be cruel disappointment.
Nobody likes to be cruel though (well, Simon Cowell does, and Sir Alan Sugar, Katie Hopkins… actually plenty of people enjoying being cruel come to think of it) so let’s discuss why, despite everything, Cowboy Zombies isn’t offensive. It’s awkward and ungainly, but often absolutely hilariously so. We LOL’d (as the kids would have it these days) more during this film than we do during something that’s meant to be funny. We don’t think anyone involved in this film is taking it or themselves too seriously, at least we hope not. They probably had a cracking time making it, and that’s great for them. For you? Not so much. Unless this sort of so-bad-it’s-good thing is your bag, in which case, have at it.
COWBOY ZOMBIES / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR: PAUL WINTERS / SCREENPLAY: GAHAN WILSON, PAUL WINTERS / STARRING: JAROD ANDERSON, GREG BRONSON, KIERA CROUCH, MATT E. DERDIVANIS, ERFAIN ESCUDERO / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW