One thing with a good reputation: comedy horror movies from New Zealand. One thing with an awful reputation: zombie movies with words like ‘holocaust’ and ‘apocalypse’ in the title. Another bad thing: horror films about people making horror films. The three meet in I Survived a Zombie Holocaust (the alternative title presumably already pinched by BBC3 for their not good gameshow), a battle of supremacy between all things good and bad. Which will win out?
Set on the, um, set of a zombie horror film, I Survived a Zombie Holocaust drops wimpy runner Wesley (Harley Neville) in the midst of a real life undead outbreak, kicking off a zero-to-hero transformation the likes of which would make Braindead’s Lionel proud. Indeed, it couldn’t be more different in terms of story, but the blood-sticky fingerprints of Peter Jackson’s Hobbit-free masterpiece are all over this one.
Like Braindead, Guy Pigden’s debut movie is a good-humoured, upbeat zombie romp that uses its surprising gore in tandem with a cheery tone, likeable stars and rom-com aspirations. As a result, it’s incredibly likeable itself, all good vibrations and jokes which frequently hit the sweet spot. The film’s low budget is noticeable… but then, so was Braindead’s. Utilising its authentic splatter and decent performances well, it papers over many of the inherent cracks, the charming New Zealand accents going some way to endear audiences to the film’s plight also.
In a film full of fun characters and performances, Andrew Laing and Ben Baker stand out as the film-within-the-film’s director and star, respectively. The former is particularly wonderful, giving a scenery-chewing performance up there with the best of zombie movie antagonists, and ensuring that there’s never a dull moment when he’s onscreen. As the possibly closeted action hero, Baker is also a lark, his character even getting a surprisingly layered arc.
That said, there’s never been stronger competition in the Kiwi horror stakes than recently, and I Survived a Zombie Holocaust is nowhere near up to the standard set by the wonderful Deathgasm and What We Do in the Shadows. In a world in which the likes of the Werewolves (not swearwolves) stand as competitors, something as quaint and cheap as this will never stand a chance. See, it’s not the (admittedly incredible) gore or the (hilarious) jokes which make the comedy horror stylings of New Zealand cinema stand out… it’s the originality. And it’s here where I Survived a Zombie Holocaust sadly falls down.
Its characters and the actors behind them do well to prop up the shortcomings though and, taken on its own merits, I Survived a Zombie Holocaust is a lot of fun. As a film, it’s as clunky as its own title, but, ultimately, the good far outweighs the bad.
I SURVIVED A ZOMBIE HOLOCAUST / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR & SCREENPLAY: GUY PIGDEN / STARRING: HARLEY NEVILLE, JOCELYN CHRISTIAN, BEN BAKER, ANDREW LAING / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW