Zombieworld DVD Review
Written and directed by various
2014, Region 1, 100 minutes, Not Rated
DVD released on February 24th 2015
There are a lot of cool short films made every year and you can find them at assorted festivals and floating around the internet. Sadly, many of these works do not go anywhere further unless the creators are lucky enough to make a larger movie and include their earlier efforts as a DVD supplement. Not all of these micro-features are knockouts, but there are quite a few that make the most of their limited resources and reward viewers with an excellent tale that does not overstay its welcome. In 2014, Dread Central teamed with Ruthless Pictures to produce Zombieworld, a feature-length anthology assembled from a dozen short subjects that share the theme of zombie apocalypse.
From the plot synopsis:
There is nowhere to hide…nowhere to run…the Zombie Apocalypse has come, and our world now belongs to the dead! From Ireland, Canada, Australia, Europe and all over the U.S., the bone-chilling news reports tell the same gruesome tale – walking corpses terrorize and devour the living. Only a few desperate humans find the courage to stand and fight for their last chance at survival. But the hordes of undead keep coming, and there’s only one thing on the menu – us.
Nowhere in the marketing campaign or even on the War of the Worlds (2005)-inspired DVD cover art is it mentioned that this is an anthology culled from other people's works that had previously appeared in festivals from 2010 – 2011. The print-ad credit block does feature names for all the writers and directors, but the general appearance is misleading. While the presentation is entertaining, it is a bit off-putting that the individual filmmakers do not receive onscreen credit until the very end of the feature; and even then, they are presented in a rapidly scrolling list of super-tiny letters that streak past at a comical rate.
Not all of the material here is borrowed, as the producers have created an original framework of a newsroom environment starring rising genre favorite Bill Oberst Jr. (Abraham Lincoln VS. Zombies) as anchorman Marvin Gloatt to bridge the selection of titles. He doesn't actually introduce them as short films created by so-and-so, but rather plays the material straight, as though these are actual news pieces. The producers may be comfortable raiding festivals for content, but I would like to take a moment to credit the individuals who provided the majority of the work:
Starting things off is Dark Times (directed by Peter Horn & Jared Marshall), an energetic short that throws audiences into a first person action-set-piece involving a group of people outrunning a growing zombie horde. The selling point is the excellent POV camerawork that raises the tension levels immediately, but sadly the story is nonexistent, as this feels like a precursor to something larger, a fund-raising trailer perhaps for a feature that has yet to arrive.
Fist of Jesus (directed by David Muñoz & Adrian Cardona) is up next, and is a fun look at the first zombie, in which Jesus Christ resurrects Lazarus with terrible consequences. The blasphemous comedy hits all the right notes, and the over-the-top gore sustains the piece despite a slightly bloated running time.
How to Survive a Zombie Apocalypse (directed by Vedran Marjanovic Wekster) is a collection of short promos that serve as Public Service Announcements split into multiple installments. The piece uses graphics similar to those found in the movie Zombieland to comedic effect, but a little goes a long way.
An unfortunate misfire from Ireland, I Am Lonely (directed by Phil Haine) contains little more than an endless monologue with an average punchline. I am sure there are plenty of other selections more satisfying than this, but at least it is over relatively quickly.
Dead Stop (directed by Tommy Woodard) is more style over substance, as there is not much of a plot going on, rather an isolated scene presented through a series of security cameras at a gas station. The piece is well-edited, but relatively pointless.
The Australian production Home (directed by Cameron McCulloch) involving a bride in mourning, is a quiet reflection on the grieving process and features beautiful cinematography.
Dead Rush (directed by Zach Ramelan) is another first person POV segment that is well-shot and decently paced, but following the earlier Dark Times, feels a bit redundant.
A gamer gets sucked into his own video game system with almost immediate consequences in Teleportal (directed by Paul Shrimpton). The piece doesn't stick around long enough to explore the concept and misses a nice opportunity to play with the environment.
Certified (directed by Luke Asa Guidici) is about a mailman and an imaginative little girl who weaves a tall tale about the walking dead. Not so much a zombie movie, but as I said, the kid mentions it, so the film is included here. This is a really nice looking and accomplished piece that is consequently out of place with everything else in this collection.
Marathon Apocalypse (directed by Adam O'Brien) offers more of the How to Survive a Zombie Apocalypse content and ties the segments together with a hero character armed with a unique weapon, on a quest for true love. These shorts contain nice energy and are a welcome addition to the anthology.
Brutal Relax (directed by David Muñoz & Adrian Cardona) is easily the best film in the collection and is really deserving of a wider audience. From the makers of Fist of Jesus comes an even more over-the-top action/ comedy that stars the most unlikely hero I have seen in years. Seriously entertaining and batshit bonkers with the gory antics. Somebody needs to give these guys a pile of cash to make a feature, now.
The linking device Zombie News (directed by Jesse Baget) offers the only original content for Zombieworld. It is a one-joke premise of a newscaster trying to do his job while fighting off infection. Oberst is given a chance to show off his comedy skills and it is nice to see him ham it up for once.
I am glad the folks at Dread Central made the effort to rescue a dozen short films from obscurity, but I wish they had been a bit more straight with their audience in terms of marketing the piece. Had they simply included a listing of what titles were on this disc as opposed to making it appear like an all new madcap zombie free-for-all, I would have no problem gladly recommending this disc. As it stands, it is hard to critique Zombieworld as little more than a collection of material cherry-picked from assorted festivals. Some are better than others, and overall the experience is more entertaining than not.
Edit: An article now appears on the Dread Central website clarifying the issue of what exactly Zombieworld is.
Video and Audio:
Zombieworld is presented in the original 1.85:1 aspect ratio and features a respectable transfer. Picture quality varies from one segment to the next as source material varies from. Overall video elements are in fine shape with well-balanced color and contrast levels.
A decent 5.1 surround mix is not necessarily the most robust audio you are likely to find, but it is still fairly respectable. Foreign language films (Fist of Jesus and Brutal Relax) come equipped with English subtitles.
Zombie Apocalypse (2 minutes) is a gorgeous ad for a website promoting a zombie-themed marathon. The piece mirrors the style of Dark Times, the short that starts the feature Zombieworld.