ZMD: Zombies of Mass Destruction

Bring me the flesh of Daniel Schorr!!

 

Zombie movies are more often than not an exercise in remaking Dawn of the Dead.  The zombies show up, the survivors barricade themselves up and eventually cause their own destruction.  To make a good zombie movie you need to add in a few surprises or put a new spin on it in a fun and creative way.  When Dan O’Bannon remade Dawn, he remade it as a zombie comedy.  He also had Linnea Quigley dance naked on a tombstone and called it Return of the Living Dead.  That all worked for me.  Later, Danny Boyle remade Dawn of the Dead, calling it 28 Days Later.  His version of Dawn was set in England and had running zombies who are not dead.   Awesome.  Zack Snyder’s Dawn remake was actually called Dawn of the Dead and most of it took place in a shopping mall just like the original.  He had different characters, running zombies and a zombie birth scene.  Wow!  Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg’s version of Dawn of the Dead was a romantic comedy called Shaun of the Dead.  It had traditional limping zombies, striking a nostalgic chord with fanboys like me.

Bad zombie movies on the other hand just mindlessly stagger through the stations like a zombie waiting to be dropped with a headshot.  Most zombie movies fall somewhere in the middle – enter ZMD: Zombies of Mass Destruction

 

Frida Abbas (Janette Armand) has returned home to Port Gamble, Washington from Princeton University.  Her father Ali Abbas (Ali Hamedani) only wants her to finish school and marry a nice boy from a good Iranian family.  That last bit would be a little strange if it were not for the fact that Frida’s family is from Iran, and not Iraq, as most everyone she meets tends to think and make into an issue.   Frida just thinks of herself as an average American girl.  All she wants to do is settle back into her normal life in her hometown.

While Frida is having awkward moments with her father and the neighbors,  Tom Hunt and his boyfriend Lance have come to Port Gamble to have an awkward moment of their own.  Tom, like Frida, is a native of Port Gamble, but instead of coming home from college, he’s planning on coming out of the closet to his domineering mother.

There is also an amusing subplot involving the mayor and the minister.

Yes, this movie makes a political statement, but not in a dreary, preachy way like you’d get from big, fat radio clown  Rush Limbaugh or in the uncomfortably confrontational way like you get sometimes from big, fat Michael Moore.  No, the politics are played for laughs with sophomoric tone, in the vein of Dead Alive meets Revenge of the Nerds.  There will be those who are going to whinge about having, “Some political message rammed down their throats, when all I want to see is a zombie movie.”  Get over it, Glenda.  Nobody is ramming any thing down anyone’s throat here.  And if you don’t like it there are many other zombie movies.  Or you can go watch Top Gun while fondling yourself.  I don’t care.

Moving on. . .

Much of the humor derived from the mocking American cultural ignorance, paranoia, and homophobia.  To that end there are several characters that by word or deed embody these elements.  To filmmaker Kevin Hamedani’s credit these characters, though necessarily one dimensional, are never treated with contempt.  Though ZMD: Zombies of Mass Destruction bills itself as a “political zomedy” it sensibilities are more expansive.  There is a bit of dark slapstick humor.    It worked for George Romero and Peter Jackson.  It works here too.

Not only does the humor work, but so do the zombie and gore effects.  I’ve been saying that a lot lately.  So much so that I’ve begun to wonder if my standards for zombie effects are set too low.  You see, back in the day, there weren’t that many zombie movies.  If we were lucky maybe ten or so a year.  Of that ten or so zombie movies, there was maybe one or two that was watchable.  Now there are between forty and fifty zombie movies every year, and at least a fourth of them are going to be quality productions with two or three really excellent films standing atop the zombie hill. The baseline is much higher now than it was even ten years ago, so much so that even the weaker entries now have fairly good effects.  ZMD: Zombies of Mass Destruction certainly follows the upward spiral with its zombie effects.  It also has something gore-wise that I’ve never seen in a zombie movie before: a zombie peeling a guy’s face off and eating it like a people flavored fruit roll-up.  It’s gross, a bit campy, and happens quickly.  The violence and action through the whole movie is reminiscent of 1980’s horror films.  I like good practical effects.

ZMD: Zombies of Mass Destruction is paced like a comedy rather than a horror film.  There is no ratcheting up of tension over the course of the movie, instead there are scenes of horror scattered throughout the movie, and though a little camp, these bits are quite effective. Comedy and horror are two the more difficult assignments an actor can get.  Both are,  in large, a matter of timing.  Kevin Hamedani takes his cast back and forth between the two fairly well.  I would discuss specific scenes to illustrate what I’m talking about, but that would spoil it.

The film certainly had some wonderful horror and comedy moments but it didn’t seem to flow very well as a larger story.  We don’t get the tension of horror and there weren’t enough jokes to keep it going as a comedy.

Starring:
Janette Armand
Doug Fahl
Cooper Hopkins
Bill Johns
Russell Hodgkinson
James Mesher

Screenplay:
Kevin Hamedani
Ramon Isao

Director:
Kevin Hamedani

Two and a half out of five Vincents

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