Zombies of Mass Destruction
October 21, 2010
What’s the deal with zombie movies and social commentary? A lot of the better known walking dead flicks seem to have something to say that runs a bit deeper than the carnage and cannibalism that they celebrate. Night of the Living Dead, George A. Romero’s first in a series of zombie movies, explored the issues of cold war politics and race. The follow up, Dawn of the Dead, was a scathing critique on rampant consumerism whilst having a sly dig at religion while it was at it. Day of the Dead had a pop at the notion of masculinity and the military. The Resident Evil series illustrates what happens when multinational companies get to wield too much power, and the subtext of Shaun of the Dead is about the general isolation and self centeredness that characterises modern life.
Zombies of Mass Destruction joins the ranks of horror films with a message, but this time it’s terrrrr-rists!
The plot follows the fortunes of gay couple Tom (Doug Fahl) and Lance (Cooper Hopkins), and Iranian-American cutie Frida (Janette Armand); Tom has returned to his home of Port Gamble with the intention of coming out to his mother, but is deeply uncomfortable about breaking the news to her. Frida is back in town after dropping out of Princeton University to live with her over-protective father, restaurant owner Ali (Ali Abbas). In the meantime, Mayor Burton (James Mesher) is running against his crazy haired ex-wife Cheryl (Cornelia Moore) for office, and the splendidly named resident bible-thumper Reverend Haggis (Bill Johns) busies himself denouncing gays, single mothers and those of loose morals to his flock.
“I’ve got tomes. Well, Wikipedia.”
The carnage starts when Frida and her flaky boyfriend Derek (Ryan Barret) are attacked whilst out on a date at the old horror movie staple, the town make-out point. Whilst Frida is barely escaping with her life, Tom and Lance are having an awkward dinner with Tom’s mother. Tom’s admission of his sexuality hits a snag when his mother turns into a ghoul, and the two escape to the local church, where the town’s homophobic congregation have holed up. Frida, however, is taken captive by the town racist Joe Miller (Russell Hodgkinson, looking like a redneck Bill Bailey) after he sees a news bulletin blaming the zombie outbreak on a terrorist, and predictably tars her with the same brush.
Gore, grue and hilarity ensue as our heroes try to escape the clutches of the murderous undead and the insane living.
“Dad, haven’t you ever seen a zombie film?”
“Brian, you know I’m a vampire man…”
It took me a good half hour to warm up to this film. As befits any B movie, some of the acting is a little hammy, and there’s the odd scene that runs aground on the jagged rocks just off the Coast of Cringe Island, but it hits its stride when Frida tangles with Joe. Director Kevin Hamedani lays on the political messages (homophobes are bad or misguided, Americans are ig’nant about Muslims) a little thickly, but this is where it gets most of its laughs. Joe’s interrogation of Frida whilst his mind gradually unravels is a hoot, and Tom and Lance get the lion’s share of the best lines.
This isn’t to say that ZMD plays it for laughs. It has it’s moments of horror, and the special effects are gut-wrenching enough with a reliance on old-school practical effects reminiscent of early Peter Jackson films such as Braindead.
“We have the most famous zombie in history on our side: Jesus!”
Zombies of Mass Destruction has some weaknesses. For a start, the editing and pacing of the film could be much improved upon, and there are several missed opportunities to foreshadow key events (see Shaun of the Dead for a masterclass on this). There’s an underexplored third subtext to the film: that of how principles can be abandoned when given the opportunity of power, and this would have sat far better with the terrorism/xenophobia theme.
The films flaws are annoying, as it could be so much more than what it is – it just whets this reviewer’s appetite for Brad Pitt’s adaptation of seminal zombie novel World War Z. However, there are still a couple of shocks to be had, along with some genuine laughs. Recommended.