Zombie Massacre (aka Apocalypse Z) Blu-ray Review
Written by Elizabeth Katheryn Gray
Blu-ray released by eOne Films
Written and directed by Marco Ristori and Luca Boni
2013, Region A, 90 minutes, Rated R
Blu-ray released on August 6th, 2013
Christian Boeving as Jack Stone
Mike Mitchell as Joh 'Mad Dog' McKellen
Ivy Corbin as Sam Neumann
Tara Cardinal as Eden Shizuka
Carl Wharton as General Carter
Jon Campling as Doug Mulligan
For personal reasons, I am researching the British Video Nasty list of the 1980s. Many Italian zombie films made the list, so I'm currently familiar with the sub-genre. I am delighted that HorrorTalk gave me a modern Italian zombie film for review in all its rubbishy glory. This is far from quality filmmaking, but I still find it entertaining. I don't mind when horror films are bad; only when they're boring. There is not a drop of originality, but if it aired on SyFy, I would watch it in a heartbeat.
A bacterial mutagen that was created to make super soldiers goes awry, creating zombies. The U.S. Army sends in an elite squad of mercenaries to plant a bomb at ground zero. There is a double-cross and the squad has to race zombies and the clock to get out. (Minor spoilers ahead.)
Zombie Massacre kind of reminds me of the films of gore legend Bruno Mattei, just without the quality exploitation. It also suffers from the same problems as a Mattei film being a hodge-podge of genres and styles, never quite finding its own voice, having no idea what tone it's trying to set. It does lean towards horror-comedy but cannot quite maintain the tongue-in-cheek long enough to be truly successful.
Being a total hot mess is part of the reason I enjoyed Zombie Massacre. This is an English-language film aimed at an American audience. However it only has two American actors and one of them has no lines! Of the few actors that do speak fluent English, one plays an American army officer with a heavy Oxford accent and one plays a wise-cracking Scotsman. This leads to a lot of incoherent ramblings with hysterical mispronunciations and phony accents. The most nonsensical moment of all is when producer Uwe Boll plays the President of the United States, who was somehow born in Bavaria. Depending on who watches, it could be the best cameo of the year or the most self-serving. I thought it was funny, but I have an odd fascination with Uwe Boll after Postal, even if I don't like most of his movies. He has huge German cojones.
This film was shot on location at a nuclear power plant in Italy, which makes a very nice backdrop. But this film does not take advantage of the locale and prefers to disjointedly wander its way through the set pieces. The cinematography and editing doesn't support the action sequences or highlight the nice zombie makeup created by Italian artist David Bracci. In fact, there are really no zombie action or plot until thirty minutes in and gore is very low. I know that some of the stars of Zombie Massacre are better at sword play than what is on display, but these sequences often lose momentum and resort to cheap CGI explosions to get out of badly written scenarios.
On top of the bad technical aspects, inconsistent action and dialog, the script feels like an afterthought or created by someone very inexperienced with narrative. In the third act, the filmmakers inexplicably chucks the developing chemistry of the main cast and replaces a couple of them with new people who we have no reason to care about. A zombie film is only as interesting as the human characters. These new characters are not part of the main narrative, but are literally tourists. It's one of those movies that looks a lot more fun to make than to actually watch. But I find this trashy disregard for superior movie making adds to the overall train wreck charm.
I would never have paid for this in the theaters. But if you're an Italian zombie enthusiast, you may want to check it out, preferably with a good bottle of grappa. You will need it to get through some of the long-winded unintelligible moments. Maybe the more inebriated you get, the easier it will be to understand the cast. Don't expect it be anywhere as good as Zombi. And despite all the similarities mentioned, don't expect it to be even as good as Zombie Creeping Flesh. It's mindless and messy as a zombie after a full course meal of entrails, but amusing while it lasts.
Video and Audio:
The picture and sound is as good as expected for direct-to-Blu-ray / shot-on-Red-cameras.
Extras include pointless storyboard comparisons, two trailers and a behind the scenes documentary that is half as long as the film. It just rambles on and would have worked better as smaller ten minute featurettes.