You’re on holiday. You go to the beautiful tropical paradise of Goa in India, and on your first day there you meet a beautiful woman who invites you to an underground rave on a nearby mysterious island. You hit the tent it’s being held in, and the deep-vein bass is throbbing and the glowsticks are fireflying and the obscuring, squirting mist is thick and the strobes are spraying and the place is thumping and the bikini-top tits are bouncing and the water bottles are being drunk and the tight asses are shaking and your eyes are popping and the sweat is dripping and your core is vibrating with the sound and all celebratory hands are raised high to the darkening sky and the sunglasses are reflecting and the dancing is growing wilder and the whole ecstasy-vibrating tableau is climaxing…and somebody comes through the crowd and hands out expensive new glow-in-the-dark pills that kill everybody and turns them into flesh-chomping zombies!
Then you and your friends have to fight your way off the island, with scant resources and maybe—just maybe—the help of a weird Russian mafia zombie-buster and his monosyllabic cohort when they suddenly and unexpectedly appear out of the jungle…
Let’s face it, we’ve all had dazed holidays like that, eh? Go Goa Gone is apparently India’s first successful zombie movie, from what I have read on the ‘net. Apparently Flesheating Gandhi’s Revenge (“He’s tired of eating curries and being nonviolent!”) didn’t do much box office. How much of an achievement you think this success is depends on what you think of the subgenre in general, and, more particularly, zombie comedies (or the risible truncation, “Zom-Coms”), which this is.
I normally hate that sort of stuff, but have to say I enjoyed this film for what it is, which means basically a fawning riff on Shaun of the Dead (the irony of a zombie comedy film being influenced by a zombie comedy film influenced by a zombie film gets a bit too Escher-like for me) and, stylistically, the Dawn of the Dead ”reimagining.” I have absolutely no frame of reference whatsoever for any potential Indian horror scene, but will say that this movie is absolutely up-to-date, both in style and (non-) substance.
There is extreme gore, fastchopshakegrindcut editing and camerawork, wry cynicism, somewhat tiresome self-reflexive Kevin Williamson-like dialogue, bemused musings on pop-cultural globalization…and no real depth at all. Pretty much par for the course, movie-wise, these days, so that’s no problem. As eye candy the film makes good use of its vibrant neon-color locations, and you can practically feel the beating heat and buzzing insects and smell the steaming jungle vegetation. Just a pity they were was no nudity from the gorgeous females in the running (around) time, but, well, c’est la vie.
Go Goa Gone (a title I would assume is a clumsy riff on the expression “going, going, gone”) at points morphs into pretty much every other zombie movie ever made (with a side salad of Alex Garland and Danny Boyle’s THE BEACH), but once again we (somewhat sadly) expect nothing more than endless past-pop culture references (endless years of unoriginality has trained the contemporary movie fan to just hope for a few good moments, and anything else beyond that is a bonus) and go with the blood flow.
I confess I got excited during the climactic zombie attacks for the same reason I got excited during the Dawn remake—it brings back memories of the real Dawn of the Dead from my youth, when I saw it in 1981 at age 11. So I know I am just getting a pale echo of that brain-wrecking epochal experience, but can deal with that, and this movie had some damned good FX, laughs, and fun ideas.
I confess what I found most interesting and culture-clashy about the film was its moralistic tone. Before it came on in the local AMC multiplex, they had one of the actors from the film come on and talk about how he had nearly had a heart attack at age 32 through smoking and, when the audience sees people in the film smoking (and there was a lot of pot consumed in it) that they shouldn’t think it was cool.
A somewhat mocking title card saying that smoking and drugs are bad came up. Then the expletives in the English language subtitles were censored (looking like, for example, “f****r”) and when somebody lit up a joint or cigarette onscreen, a wee note came up at the bottom right of the screen that informed you that “Cigarette smoking is injurious to your health.” There was no nudity in the film, unfortunately, and no onscreen sex. Characters would cry out mocking God then repent of their atheistic screaming a scant few moments later when things started to go right again. It was like they were hedging their bets in the blasphemy stakes.
The cumulative effect of this oddly chaste extreme violence and drug-naysaying was like a contemporary version of Reefer Madness or something, with India showing its cultural lag behind the Western world (though not the American South, it has to be sadly said) in the depiction of violence and sex and chaos onscreen.
I read a couple Indian reviews saying the film was worth watching because it was quite unlike anything the audience had ever seen, but that only counts for an Indian audience. Everybody else has seen this sort of thing a thousand times, and whether or not you want to see it again will be entirely up to you. I enjoyed it for what it was, and have had way worse experiences in a theater. Like the time when my younger brother threw up on the floor during a screening of the 1986 Eddie Murphy vehicle The Golden Child. But that’s a whole different story for a different time…
(This review has been reprinted from the excellent magazine Weng’s Chop, published by the irrepressible genre-writing factory Tim Paxton. Do yourself a favour and buy a copy. You won’t regret it.)