Imagine a remake of Escape to New York with none of the imagination, humour, iconography and character that made the original so memorable. Then add zombies, while subtracting a lion’s share of the budget. What you’re left with is a film that isn’t so much bad as it is rather dull.
“AJ” Prescott’s first mission as a Navy SEAL is as part of a five-man team dropped into Baton Rouge to rescue the Vice President, caught in the middle of a zombie attack while on secret business concerning biological warfare. Once there the team’s mission parameters are altered, and AJ finds himself separated from the others, while babysitting a couple of reporters and trying to make the evacuation rendezvous before the city is sealed off.
Matthew Carpenter’s script hits most of the beats you would expect from a behind enemy lines military zombie movie, but does so in a robotic fashion that fails to add enough depth to any of the characters or situations meaning that you don’t actually care what happens. That AJ is expecting his first child gives him every reason to want to get home, but we learn so little about his or his partner’s emotional lives that when he appears to have been irreversibly infected the shock value is negligible. This same lack of attention to detail is apparent throughout the rest of the genre clichés Carpenter incorporates, the ultimate result being a screenplay that knows where it’s going but doesn’t bother giving the audience particular reason to want to tag along.
The direction somewhat makes up for the shortfalls in the script. Most of director Stanton Barrett’s practical effects budget seems to have been blown on a single scene involving a car (that we get to see lovingly filmed from every conceivable angle using every camera he could muster), while his CG effects are rather hit and miss. But he does the best his meagre resources will allow, and fans of the genre get to see plenty of empty streets and a reasonable number of marauding undead, even if some of the attack sequences are rather tame and stagey. Much of the final third of the film is set inside a medical facility in a reminder of the debt it owes to Resident Evil, and sadly this is where the lack of characterisation allows the tension to disperse.
The acting is passably good, if lacking in charisma, and the music and photography manage to lift the film beyond its natural altitude, making Navy SEALs Vs Zombies a passably exciting 90 minutes that nevertheless does little beyond its initial premise to establish itself in an already crowded field. If your expectations are low, then they will be rewarded.
NAVY SEALS VS ZOMBIES / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR: STANTON BARRETT / SCREENPLAY: MATTHEW CARPENTER / STARRING: ED QUINN, DAMON LIPARI, STEPHANIE HONORÉ, MASSIMO DOBROVIC, MOLLY HAGAN, MICHAEL DUDIKOFF / RELEASE DATE: 15TH FEBRUARY