Okay. Zombie films. Sigh. What’s there to say about zombie films that hasn’t been said already? Not much, really. Though I suppose that I should find something, or this will be a really short review. Scratch head, roll eyes towards the unhelpful ceiling and ponder the undead…
Anyway. As we all know, the first ever zombie film was 1932’s White Zombie, which the talentless Rob Zombie named his crap band after. Well, we know it now, because I just looked it up. See that? Ten seconds of research and our filmic IQs are raised! This is turning out better than expected already, it’s educational! Stick with me, gentle reader, I’ll see you right. As we probably genuinely all do know, the undead film received its contemporary shot in the arm (and head) with Night of the Living Dead in 1968, and Romero’s zombie films (well, his four Dead efforts, not so much the rubbishy other peripheral ones that’re best left undiscussed) have been the gold gloopy bloody visceral standard for flesheating cinema for nigh on a half century now. Romero took vicious gutsplatty societal satire and grand guignol to levels from which it has never come down and will never be beaten, laying down, in some ways, the template for practically every zombie film since 1968. So where do you go from there?
The answer, as many have found out, is often nowhere but down and out. And this includes the writer-director of this Australian effort, Declan Schrubb. He’s definitely seen the Dead films, and decided to try and (re)make his own (per)version of them. If you want a frame of reference for this film, think of all four Romero films compressed into one single waste of celluloid, sprinkled over with a flyblown heaping helping of risible, cringe-worthy, juvenile Kevin Smith dialogue, and left on the barbie too long until it’s burned and charred and inedible. Because that’s exactly what you get with this film. And if you think that sounds risible…you’re absolutely fucking right.
Now. I watched this film for exactly one reason: it has the Australian comedian Jim Jefferies in it, or I probably wouldn’t even have bothered. Though I confess to being a big Pete Jackson fan, and his horror comedy films from that area of the world (I know, not the same country) are still amongst my own favourites. I recently watched Deathgasm (2015; kind of a mix between early Pete Jackson, The Karate Kid, and the 1986 heavy metal horror flick Trick or Treat), and it was a much more fun splatter comedy, and definitely worth a watch. Maybe the Kiwis just do this stuff better. Anything’s possible. Schrubb clearly decided he wanted to do his own fawning Romero homage (a la Shaun of the Dead, a film which I wasn’t too hot on, but which is still miles ahead of this effort) and the result is, eh…this. Unfortunately.
I used to be a huge Jim Jefferies fan, and wrote a few pieces about his work that he loved a few years ago. But I feel he has slipped in recent years, moving to America has pulled the comedic rug out from him, and now this once-excellent adult comedian has to try and make material out of (yawn!) taking his kid for vaccinations, whilst doing vile rape jokes to try and prove he still has an ‘edge’ he sadly lost a few years ago. Which is what interested me about this film. Was this some sort of misguided attempt to get back to his Antipodean roots, appearing in a piece of low-budget excrement to show he’s still faux-edgy and still cares about Australia? It’s more likely that Schrubb offered him a decent sum for a few days’ work and Jefferies took it, with the director thinking that, if anybody could do justice to his sleazy, stupid, boring dialogue it was a man who has been sleazy, but never boring or stupid, in the past. Odd.
What about the film? Oh aye, nearly forgot, sorry, easy thing to do. When is starts off whatever has happened to turn people into zombies has already happened, so we don’t get the real low-down on it, except some talk about fucking…eh…some military-induced disease or something, I watched this film last night and already I can’t even remember! What we are repeatedly told throughout the running time is that these people are not zombies, they’re just sick, which makes a nonsense of the crap jokey blokey have-a-tokey title in the first place, but never mind such niceties or finer mindless details.
Telecom workers Joel (Jefferies) and Darryl (Alex Williamson) take refuge in their workplace to hole up until after the zombie…disease…virus…whatever apocalypse is over. Their boss Roy (Greg Fleet) turns up with his lovely daughter Emma (Adele Vuko), as well as two more refugees soon after, Emma’s boyfriend Lachlan (Andy Trieu) and his pal Ryan (Matthew Popp). Together they await being saved (or murdered) by the army, and various ‘comedic’ adventures and gory setpieces follow in rote tedious boxes-ticking order. Heads blown off, guts ripped out, blabbedyblabbedyblah, the usual pish. The splatter FX range from fairly decent to fairly rubbish, and the fact that there is basically not one single scene in this film that we have not seen in a Romero zombie film renders the dry, boring proceedings hardly worth wasting 80 minutes of your time on. Emma seems to basically be in the film to allow the young male characters to make constant sleazy sex-themed jokes about her, and doesn’t have much of a female character; indeed, very few of the characters in the film have any real, well, character at all.
Of course, we’re not watching this for Laurence Olivier-level boards-treading, so that hardly really matters. Jim Jefferies is fairly good in the film, looking oddly bemused that he has gotten himself caught up in the subpar proceedings. The trouble with him is that he’s basically a storyteller, whose lengthy monologues (like his amazing story about taking his disabled friend to a whorehouse, or his insane-America-angering gun control skit) are basically his trademark. When you take him out of that soliloquy environment, and throw him into a sea of banal, choppy, cliched dialogue (“Fuck me in the arse and throw me down a volcano” – not a Jefferies line, but indicative of the low tone generally on display), he really hasn’t got much room to shine in shite, and wisely gets himself bumped off halfway through (in a fireworks-using riff ripped off from the underrated Land of the Dead) so he can go back to being unhappy, and scared of his armed audiences in America.
I dunno what to say. This is the only film I have ever seen outside of a porno that has a close-up of a man’s scrotum. If that makes you laugh, you will love this. I snort-chortled a couple of times during the film, but that was only when Roy was spouting some crazed Oz-man gibberish. To be honest, the best performance in this film was by Greg Fleet. I loved it. He brought a real comedy, pathos, pain and poignancy to his role, really helping to flesh the film out, and the bit where he couldn’t say goodbye to his daughter was genuinely sad. I would say it’s almost worth watching the film just for him alone, to be honest, though, of course, Schrubb has to throw in a pointless child abuse-themed ‘joke’ (hyuck hyuck!) to do with Roy to compromise his character and make us back off from liking him a bit. Salute to you, Greg, wherever you are, mate. You really helped elevate this film a lot.
So. In closing. I know I am not really the target demographic for this film, being middle aged, relatively intelligent, and a lover of good films. I am chuckling here, though not really maliciously. It’s basically a Fridaynight film for drunk and drugged teenagers and, who knows, maybe they’d like it. I doubt anybody else will. The trailer tries to emphasise the boring gore, though for some reason the zombies/sick people/whatfuckingever can be killed by shooting them on the body with a paint gun! It’s ludicrous, quite frankly, and joins Plan Z (2016), the terrible Scottish zombie film I watched recently, in the just-about-to-be-flushed pan of shit zombie films. Step back, the water’s about to rush and gush and flush, nothing to see here, nothing to see, move along…