DVD Review: Zombie Apocalypse / Cert: 15 / Director: Mick Lyon / Screenplay: Brooks Peck, Craig Engler / Starring: Ving Rhames, Taryn Manning, Eddie Steeples, Lesley-Ann Brandt / Release Date: Out Now
Ving Rhames, last seen strapping on his artificial machine-gun leg and giving Hell to fiendish flesh-eating fish in Piranha 3DD is back! This time, fully-legged, he’s a survivor of a zombie apocalypse (hence the title) and he’s leading a nervy bunch of survivors across a desolate, undead-ridden America in the hope of finding safety on Catalina island off the coast of California.
If the words ‘Sy Fy’ Presents’ don’t fill you with enough dread, here comes the killer credit - The Asylum. Yep, Zombie Apocalypse is a product of the house of the humdrum, the studios that ruthlessly, shamelessly churn out cheeky rip-offs off multiplex blockbusters in the hope of coining it from gullible punters who won’t notice the difference between Transmorphers and Transformers or, any day now, Abraham Lincoln vs. Zombies as opposed to the big screen Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.
It’ll come as no surprise then, to find that this is a cheap and cheerful generic zombie movie, one of the B-est of B movies. What will surprise though, is the fact that it’s actually not a bad little flick in its own right; I wouldn’t go as far as to say that The Asylum have pulled out all the stops here but it certainly looks as if they’ve loosened them a bit and actually come up with a film which has a halfway decent script and a few more dollars than usual thrown at it.
An effective opening sequence details the coming of a lethal virus which quickly wipes out most of the world’s population, turning them into raging zombies. A few useful digital effects show a plane plunging into the tower of Big Ben, bridges blowing up in attempts to contain the virus, panic on the streets of Japan. Two groups of survivors - led by big, bluff Henry (Rhames) - join forces to battle their way to a safe haven as yet untouched by the virus. En route they’re attacked - frequently - by hordes of the undead (look closely and you’ll see the same zombie cropping up on more than one occasion… think of it as a sort of zombie drinking game) - whom they routinely shoot, blow up, decapitate and disembowel. A bit later on they meet yet another group who use bows and arrows to dispatch the unliving. Not unnaturally, not all of the survivors make it to the end of the film but, for once, there’s enough character meat on their bones to make some of them more than just zombie fodder and the script’s done enough in its occasional downtime to make some of the deaths matter because the characters are a bit more three-dimensional than the clumsy klutzes who usually wander through cheap zombie films.
Visually the film does a good job in depicting its ravaged post-virus environment with some eerie shots of dark, dead cities and devastated streets but the overuse of digital effects for explosions and during zombie fights gets a little wearing. Lovers of physical gore will be disappointed by the pumping, spraying digital blood gouting from dismembered zombies and some of the zombie make-up probably wouldn’t stand up to close scrutiny.
But Zombie Apocalypse is lively and inventive and there are some good ideas here, such as the concept of the mutating virus slowly making the zombies more intelligent and any film which has the guts to climax with an attack by zombie tigers when it hasn’t got the budget to do it particularly effectively has to be given full marks for at least trying. The story itself is something and nothing and it’s certainly nothing we haven’t seen before but the film’s combination of unusually-strong performances, a knowing script (one character refers to a fallen comrade known as Kirkman, a clear nod in the direction of The Walking Dead’s creator) and some interesting visuals makes Zombie Apocalypse worth eighty-four minutes of any zombie fan’s time.
Special Features: None