Review: Ultimate Zombie Feast / Cert: 18 / Director: Various / Screenplay: Various / Release Date: Out Now
This unusual 2-disc boxset gathers together over five hours of independent zombie movies from around the world, some only a few minutes long, a few of them near feature length. It's a brave venture, but it inevitably raises the question – just how many explosive head-shots and messy gut-munchings can you sit through before you start to get bored? Answer: a LOT.
Of the shorter films, the most successful are those which embrace their smallness. In other words, they don't try to do everything, and instead home in on some specific aspect of the zombie apocalypse. Not Even Death is a good example of this, the tale of a devoted husband who keeps his zombified wife chained up in the basement in hopes that she might someday snap out of it. The Skin of Your Teeth shows a group of survivors enjoying a brief idyll on an isolated farm, but you know it can't last and pretty soon those walkers will come shuffling over the horizon. Meanwhile, Dead Hungry gives us a cabin in the woods siege from the point of a mostly 'armless zombie called Jed.
Turning to the longer films, the undoubted standout is The Book of Zombie, in which a bickering couple find themselves under attack from a rabble of zombie Mormons (very much like ordinary zombies except for their intolerance to caffeine). It's very funny, and boasts an excellent cast. Also very impressive is Zomblies, a slick, pacy Dog Soldiers-style actioner shot on Dartmoor.
From Spain comes the accomplished and touching Zombies and Cigarettes, in which an outbreak in a shopping mall provides an opportunity for the meek protagonist to blossom into a hero. The all-action Paris by the Night of the Living Dead is about two young French coolsters who know exactly what to do when their wedding is interrupted by flesh-eating ghouls. How not to tackle a zombie (get him in a headlock and tickle him with sticks) is perfectly illustrated by Savages, an Indian film which benefits from stunning locations only to be let down by histrionic performances. Best of all, though, is the Danish It Came from the West, a hilarious zombie Western with puppets.
Not all of the films are winners. With the ones that don't work, the special effects are usually good, but poor sound and wooden acting take their toll, as do scripts which, uh, bite off more than they can chew. Despite this, Ultimate Zombie Feast has a cumulative impact which is more than the sum of its gory parts, providing as it does a vivid demonstration of just how deeply the living dead have entered into modern folklore. And you've gotta love all those head-shots and all that gut-munching.