Sunday, March 24, 2013

American Zombie

Description from Netflix:
Part mockumentary, part unabashed gore-fest, this film follows two documentarians as they infiltrate a Los Angeles zombie community.

My thoughts:
First of all, the “unabashed gore-fest” is completely misleading.  There was very little blood in this movie.  And, what little blood there was (mostly at the end) could not be considered a “gore-fest”.
And I’m pretty sure a mockumentary is supposed to be interesting.  Or funny.  Or show the genre in a different light. 
This movie had none of that.

This film had 3 classifications of zombies:
Feral – Your common, everyday zombies.  They roam and bite.  That’s the assumption, anyway.  We don’t see much of them.
Low-functioning – A step above feral, but not capable of thought.  They don’t roam and bite, and are actually able to join the workforce.  The ones we see are working on an assembly line.  Think the zombies putting away shopping carts in Shaun of the Dead or the collared zombies in Fido.
High-functioning – Pretty much like humans.  But undead.  They can pass on the zombie virus, but most choose not to.

 This movie focuses almost entirely on the high-functioning zombies (and when I say “almost entirely” I mean “we see maybe 30 seconds of the other 2 classifications”).  And that’s a shame.  Had they included the other classes a bit more, perhaps this movie would’ve been interesting.  But they didn’t, and it wasn’t.

Through the eyes of our two main documentarians (Grace & John), we meet a handful of these zombies.  To me, the most interesting of these was Joel, a zombie rights activist who headed up the group Z.A.G. (Zombie Advocacy Group).  Through him, I thought I could see where this film was going.  Heading back to Romero (especially Dawn of the Dead), zombie movies have been closely tied to holding the mirror up to society.  With all the talk in this movie about equal rights, I thought they would be making a statement about same-sex marriage or something along those lines.
Sadly, I was very much mistaken, and gave this movie entirely too much credit. 

At the end of this movie, we find out that even the high-functioning zombies are, indeed, still zombies, and their end goal is to take over.  Even Joel becomes violent and screams things like, “Your day is done!  We will rise!” 
So, unless the message was “homosexuals are evil and will try to take over the world as soon as they are able to marry” – and I really hope it wasn’t – there was no message to this movie.  Which means it was pointless.

About halfway through the movie, we find that all the zombies are planning on attending an event called “Live Dead”.  Basically, it’s a place for zombies to gather, talk about zombie things, buy zombie things, do zombie drugs, make sweet zombie love (as best as they can, anyway), and listen to zombie music.  Like Burning Man, but with zombies.  John was convinced that terrible things happened there (he kept asking all the zombies if they ate human flesh), so he had Grace work hard to try to get them in.
Which she did.
Of course, once it looked like stuff was starting to head towards the crazy zombie stuff, our documentary crew was kicked out.  And, even though they were able to film some of the events, they were far away and didn’t get a very clear picture of what happened.

And that’s pretty much it.

I had a number of problems with this film.
The biggest problem I had was that it was amazingly boring.  As I mentioned, we spend pretty much all of our time with 4 high-functioning zombies.  The make-up wasn’t great, to say the least.  Most of these zombies were nothing more but normal looking people with a little bit of grey painted on their necks.  They showed a bit more of the wounds in a few scenes, but not very much, and it didn’t look great when they did show it.
What we were left with was a group of documentarians talking to people who looked and acted almost exactly like normal people.  And most of them were pretty boring.  They would talk about their zombie experiences, but they weren’t very interesting.

Much like Mimesis, this was a great concept, but terrible execution.  It could’ve been really good, but it wasn’t even mildly interesting.  A boring, pointless movie.  No wonder I never had anyone recommend it to me.
Also, John (one of our main documentarians) was an entirely unlikable person.

Rating: 1/5

Zombie Talk:
As I mentioned earlier, there were three classifications of zombies in this film.  I spelled out the specifics on them at that point, so I don’t feel the need to go over them again.
I would assume they could be killed by a blow to the head, but it wasn’t really discussed.  There was a scene where they interview a PI.  After tracking down some family members, he was then asked to “take care of them” if they had been turned into zombies.  He then demonstrated how he did this, by hacking up various mannequins in a parking lot.  While he did seem to focus on the head (beating it in with a baseball bat, driving it over it with a car, severing the head with a shovel, etc.), he also spent some time bashing in the stomach and severing various appendages.  Still, I was left with the impression that destroying the brain would kill the zombie.

I would also like to talk about the life-span of a zombie.  According to the Zombie Survival Guide, the average life-span of a zombie is 3-5 years [pg.10].  That seems a little long to me, but I’ll defer to Brooks on this matter.  Since we’re discussing intelligent zombies, there’s a chance they would have found something that would allow them to extend this period.  They didn’t say anything about it in the movie, so I doubt anything like that had been developed.
Even so, over the years, each zombie would be steadily decomposing.  Month-to-month, they would begin to look noticeably worse.  By the end of your first zombified year, you would start to look pretty bad.  Towards the end, there wouldn’t be much left of your body.  Just a crawling, chomping skeleton (and not even much crawling or chomping, as most of the muscles would be gone).
Yet, in this movie, you would never know most of these people were zombies.  Some of them have been dead for several years, yet, aside from a slightly grey neck and some yellowing teeth, there’s no real evidence of being dead.  At one point, we meet the founder/emcee of Live Dead, who tells us that he has been a zombie for 7 years.  And yet he looked like a normal person. 
I know zombie movies are not founded in reality, but at least try to make a little bit of sense.

Last but not least, I’d like to talk about the origin of the zombie outbreak.  In this film, people were turned into zombies if they died “a violent death”.  Like a gunshot wound or something like that.  They could also be turned if bitten by a zombie, but, apparently, the outbreak started by violent deaths.  Like ghosts.
Looking past the rampant stupidity of that method, and I was still left with one main question: why now?  People have been dying violent deaths since the beginning of time.  Why is it that people are just now being turned into zombies?  What changed?  Why did Abel not become a zombie when killed by Cain? 
I don’t demand that an origin be given.  But, if you are going to give the virus an origin, at least give it one that makes some kind of sense.

1 comment:

Fosterface said...

Your Cain / Abel note makes my mind race with fun zombie story ideas.