Judge Gordon Sullivan has a few zombie eXs, too.
Breaking up just got harder to do.
The world of zombies has expanded considerably in the decades since Night of the Living Dead, turning the shambling hordes into pop culture icons that have migrated out of their original horror ghetto. Now they're the stuff of comedy, and romantic comedy at that. Witness Zombie eXs, a zom-rom-com that joins a host of post-Shaun of the Dead films that put zombies into other genres. Though it strives mightily to provide laughs and thrills in equal measure, it's way too uneven to be enjoyed by most viewers.
Zach has just been thrown out by his girlfriend, and it appears that she's only one of many crazy ex-girlfriends he has. When his friends arrange for him to go on a dating show, they don't suspect that the show's producers will stock the show with his exes to boost ratings. That's bad enough, but a new drink aimed at female consumers is sponsoring the show, and this drink turns those who drink it into zombies. Zach must defeat his undead exes while trying to find a cure for the ailment.
It's emblazoned right there on the cover: "Equal parts Shaun of the Dead, The Hangover and a soupçon of Scott Pilgrim." Sure it's from a review and not directly out of the mouths of the filmmakers, but it's an endorsement that seems to have been proudly place on the cover art. Obviously even the most eager indie flick can't hope to live up to these predecessors, given that either the budget or the talent for any one of these films is simply out of reach, let alone all three. Still, let's tackle the comparisons anyone, just for fun.
The soupçon of Scott Pilgrim to which the blurb gestures is revealed to be contained in the "eXs" of the film's title. Much like Mr. Pilgrim, Zach must "defeat" a set of eXs, this time his own rather than those of his lady love. The fact that they're zombies means we root for Zach, and each of the ladies is dispatched with her own unique title-card, cleverly incorporating a visual representation of whatever trait earned them the "psycho" in front of their "ex-girlfriend." For instance, one young woman wants to add another baby to her six-strong brood. When she's dispatched, her title card includes a fairground style set of targets that whirl as if they've been shot. The numerous videogame references probably also borrow a bit from Scott Pilgrim, but they're also found in Shaun of the Dead as well.
The reference to The Hangover is sustained by the fact that Zach's companion is an overweight and drunken slob (who, it must be said, looks a bit like Zach Galifianakis). Combine that with the fact that, much like the heroes of The Hangover, Zach and his companion have to run around their small town piecing together the solution to a problem, and you've got a tenuous connection to the famous franchise. Of course, nothing in Zombie eXs comes anywhere near to being as funny or outrageous as The Hangover, but that's not terribly surprising.
Finally, Shaun of the Dead, which looms the largest over Zombie eXs. We have the skinny geek combined with the overweight (and crude) friend facing the zombie apocalypse with romance in the air. The buddy rom-zom-com isn't a particularly prolific genre, so comparisons to Shaun are inevitable. It's this comparison that finds eXs looking the best. Much like Shaun, eXs nails a comedic tone that's obsessed with pop culture and video games. More importantly, it demonstrates an obvious love for the genre, one that will allow many viewers to give the film the benefit of the doubt despite its shortcomings.
Given the comparisons, I wanted to like Zombie eXs a lot more than I did, but it's simply too uneven to fully enjoy it. The first 30 minutes are abysmal, filled with the kind of stiff exposition and wooden acting that turns most viewers off low-budget filmmaking entirely. It's not until the 30-minute mark that we get a real taste of zombie action. Sure, there are the odd flashes here and there, but mayhem is unleashed only at the end of the first act, and that's far too long to wait. If those 30 minutes had been cut in half, it would be much, much easier to recommend Zombie eXs. Of course, once those first 30 minutes are up, it's all uphill. Even as the film improves, there is still a mishmash of scenes, some inspired and some insipid. For every moment of visual inspiration (like the title cards announcing the death of the eXs), there's a tedious scene that could have been cut to make the running time (already an hour and forty minutes) much leaner.
At least it gets a decent DVD release. The film is presented in a slightly windowboxed 2.40:1 anamorphic transfer (so there's a bit of black on the sides of the frame as well as the top and bottom). It looks about as good as you can expect a low-budget zombie flick to look, with a shiny, digital quality to the image. No significant artefacts crop up, and the film's often-interesting visuals are given a decent enough presentation. The stereo audio does a fine job with the dialogue and numerous musical cues.
Extras include a pair of so-so commentaries that do much to illuminate the spirit of the film, though their congenial qualities sometimes get in the way of the information. We also get a featurette that look at the film's effects and chats with the cast. The film's trailer is also included.
Zombie eXs will likely find an audience among those with a taste for low-budget zombie flicks. Though it doesn't have the chops to rise into the mainstream, it does show a lot of promise for the filmmaking team behind it. It's worth a rental to those who like indie zom-com efforts.
Not great, but not guilty.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Bloody Earth Films
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