Tag Archives: apocalypse

Another Zombie Apocalypse

I like the zombie apocalypse film genre. When it comes to quality of story, the proverbial bar is as low as it can go. I’ve been surprised by the quality of the story more than once. In the Flesh, a BBC miniseries, for instance, features a wonderful twist on the genre – such a twist that it’s no longer an apocalyptic outcome.
There are far worse zombie movies than Rise of the Zombies, a direct-to-cable gore-fest featuring Mariel Hemingway, Danny Trejo, and Ethan Suplee. Even French Stewart and LaVar Burton make relatively brief appearances.
Two things make Zombies worth talking about: the complete lack of characterization, and the lack of story. For the most part, characters in genre films are, at best, two-dimensional. In Nick Lyon’s Rise of the Zombies, the characters aspire to achieve a second dimension.
Ethan Suplee (My Name is Earl? is a talented actor. Watching him in Zombies was as painful as watching the cop who scratches his face with his handgun in Plan Nine From Outer Space. Suplee reads his lines with an undertone of, “Do I have to,” which also seems to be the only facial expression he can muster, even as a horde of zombies turns his left forearm into an hors d’oeuvre.
Zombies is an 89 minute long vignette. The plot is so thin, if it were an oil spill it wouldn’t have enough substance to leave an oily film on the water. The main characters have found refuge on Alcatraz. At the beginning of the movie, we learn that the former prison is a known sanctuary, just before an idiot driver attempts to maneuver his SUV down a switchback road at straightaway speeds, supplying the onrushing zombie horde with a delightful meal of two humans on the hoof and a third, freshly dead. In the real world the idiot driver walks away, leaving behind the dead and injured victims of his lunatic driving. In Zombies, however, the driver dies at the wheel. It’s a small justice.
Of the four people in the SUV, the sole survivor is a very pregnant woman waddles to safety. The zombies in this movie can run, so I found myself asking out loud, “How come they haven’t eaten her yet?’ And then I started singing the chorus to “The Duck Song” out loud, because the poor woman looked like a running duck.
Meanwhile, the zombie horde has somehow navigated a mile-and-a-half of water to savage the survivors at Alcatraz, and then managed to breach the prison’s external security to enter the prison proper. This seems to be routine, as the survivors have a protocol in place: they hurry to their cells and lock themselves in. Perhaps this scenario defies logic, but it fits the theme of the movie: Mass destruction of human life. Compared to the amount of violence, the gore quotient is relatively low. Even the more gruesome bits are nothing like the milder gore in The Walking Dead.
Somehow, all but one of the Alcatraz survivors see fit to leave their sanctuary on a rubber raft to search for a quack with a cure, played by French Stewart.
About one-third of the way into the movie, one of the characters, an older woman, is confronted with a turned Captain Caspian (Danny Trejo), and a beautiful, contortionist zombie who feels like a cg animation. The elderly woman can’t bring herself to shoot Caspian, so, as he closes his zombie maw on her aging alabaster neck, she shoots herself. I wonder if she ad libbed her end in order to escape the movie.
Perhaps the most distressing aspect of Rise of the Zombies is its utter lack of hope for humanity. I suppose I should be feeling the indomitable spirit of human hope, but I don’t. Whether by design, or by poor writing, the only ending I see fitting this movie is Marshall (Suplee), piloting the helicopter into one of the Golden Gate Bridge’s towers, as an act of euthanasia, not cowardice.
There’s more. But ultimately, who cares? It’s a real cheese movie. It aspires to sincerity, making it the good kind of bad. It will probably become a cult hit, in the same way Plan Nine From Outer Space has.