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FESTIVAL OF THE LIVING DEAD

Written By:

Martin Unsworth
festival-of-the-living-dead

The latest film from The Twisted Twins, Jen and Sylvia Soska, is a Tubi exclusive and a far cry from their previous, boundary-pushing movie, On the Edge.

For her birthday, Ash (Ashley Moore, from the small screen version of I Know What You Did Last Summer) is hanging with her friend, Iris (Camren Biscondova, Gotham’s Selina Kyle), while babysitting her brother, Luke (Gage Marsh). However, her boyfriend and some other ‘cooler’ buddies come around, offering to take her to the Festival of the Living Dead, a Burning Man-style music event to commemorate the 55th anniversary of the zombie uprising of ’68 (as seen in George A. Romero’s classic Night of the Living Dead). Knowing how much it’d mean to her, Iris offers to look after Luke (Shiloh O’Reilly) so Ash can go. Unfortunately, they crash their car on the way to the festival, but worse is yet to come as a recent meteor strike has once again caused the dead to rise, and the event becomes a blood bath…

Taking Romero’s seminal black-and-white classic as its basis, Miriam Lyapin and Helen Marsh’s script posits Ash and Luke as the grandkids of Duane Jones’ character – it’s a longshot, sure, but we’re ok with that piece of new canon. However, other than outsider Iris, her resourceful friend Blaze (Christian Rose), and the precocious, diabetic Luke, the main characters are in no way likeable. They range from over-confident jocks to bitchy, self-obsessed valley girls (one enters Ash’s home stating, “Where’s the party? There’ literally no one here” when Iris is sat right in front of her). Ash is moving on from her friendship with Iris, which is clearly one-sided now since she doesn’t pause to consider her offer of babysitting for her. Fitting in and being popular is more important to her now. And making ridiculous decisions, it would seem.

The festival itself appears to be a little on the lacklustre side. Security is non-existent in the performance area (and where the large effigy will be burned), and the headline act is happy to go on playing to a very small audience. We can only assume the undead has already chomped on the rest, and the message hasn’t reached the stage yet.

That all said, as with the other films from The Soska Sisters, there’s still plenty to enjoy in Festival of the Living Dead. This is despite the lower budget becoming plainly obvious and the already-mentioned issues. With such limitations, playing for laughs would have made more sense. There are a few moments that raise a smile, particularly when focused on the TikTok-style self-obsessed nature of the ‘youth’, though. The cast excels – particularly Biscondova and Moore – and there are some decent practical effects (with a few CGI embellishments). The movie works best as a perverse look at Ash and Iris’ fractured friendship. Keep lower expectations, and you should have a good time.

stars

FESTIVAL OF THE LIVING DEAD is available exclusively in the US on Tubi.

Martin Unsworth

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