DVD Review: Bong of the Dead / Cert: 18 / Director: Thomas Newman / Screenplay: Thomas Newman / Starring: Simone Bailly, Mark Wynn, Jy Harris / Release Date: Out Now
Given that I have never smoked a joint nor indulged in anything more potent than Lemsip in my time, I didn't have high (no pun intended) hopes for Bong of the Dead. Few sentences are more terrifying and indicative of lack of quality than the phrase “stoner horror comedy”. Indeed, Thomas Newman's debut feature is a piece that will play a lot better to the pot-smoking crowd – but is it of use to anyone else?
The plot is like Harold & Kumar Get the Munchies crossed with Zombieland. When a meteor collides with the Earth, an apocalypse descends and the planet becomes overrun with zombies. Amongst the few remaining breathers are Edwin and Tommy, a pair of slackers who find that the most inconvenient thing about post-apocalyptic Earth is the lack of ganja dealers thereupon. Whilst growing their own cannabis plants, they discover that zombie brains make for the best fertiliser. The pair embark upon a quest to score themselves some fresh zombie brains.
It starts off promisingly, with the start of the outbreak depicted in a vivid, amusing and very splattery manner reminiscent of Peter Jackson's Braindead. It's a great opening, allaying any fears for Bong of the Dead's quality. Alas, things take a turn for the worse almost as soon as the film's reefer obsessed protagonists are introduced. It doesn't even make it past the opening credits without a blast of 'comedy' flatulence.
Whilst it is possible to make an enjoyable movie that happens to star a pair of stoners (Pineapple Express being the best example of this), Bong of the Dead has little use for anything that's not weed related. The viewer is supposed to find Edwin and Tommy adorable, but mostly they're a pair of irritating stereotypes who say “dude” a lot. There are some laughs to be had, but most of them come in spite of the characters rather than because of them. A perfunctory hot female is introduced later on, but she quickly becomes as tiresome as the dudes.
Which is a shame, because the special effects are fantastic given the film's low budget. Most cheap zombie films are nigh unwatchable, but the $5,000 budget and 15 day shooting schedule are not obvious in the action or gore scenes. The acting too, is much better than one might expect from such a cheap creation. Chief amongst the impressively directed zombie massacre scenes is the final fight, in which the trio have at their undead enemies with a garden strimmer. A Terminator style flashback sequence further shows what the film could have been. It really puts the 'waste' into wasters. A little more get up and go might have made this a low-budget classic. There's even a promising villain in the form of an unusually loquacious zombie leader. Instead, Bong of the Dead is mostly two Cheech and Chong wannabes sitting around telling one another to shut up and remarking how “smoking hot” their female companion is.
Like its characters, Bong of the Dead is tiresome, annoying and half-baked.