JUNE 26, 2012
The weirdest thing about Humans Vs. Zombies isn’t that it was bad – I figured as much about 7 minutes into the movie. No, it’s weird that they are trying to sell it as a comedy; it’s the first genre listed on its IMDb page, the back of the box describes it as “Dark comedy and horror unite!” and it even has a blurb from National Lampoon. And given its plot about LARPers ("Humans vs Zombies" is a real game people play on college campuses), I figured it would be like Galaxy Quest or whatever, with goofy people only pretending to be heroes having to step up and do it for real, but it’s not a comedy in the slightest.
I mean, yeah, there are a few laughs here and there, and one guy seems to be in the film as a consolation prize for coming in 3rd in a Jack Black lookalike contest, but it plays out like pretty much every other zombie movie ever, including the far more successful Zombie Apocalypse – it’s just a group of folks making their way from point A to point B. The LARP element is largely forgotten after the first few minutes, replaced by a character who plays video games for a living and thus is considered the expert on zombie killing. In fact if I had anything nice to say about the movie, it’s that for once it’s a serious zombie movie where (at least some) people know how to dispatch zombies.
A shame, then, that it’s a pretty terrible movie for the most part, stocked with lousy actors playing bland or unlikable characters, poorly staged action, and mostly abysmal FX work. The dialogue is particularly cringe-worthy; beware any film where the only good exchange is lifted directly from another film (in this case the great "looks clear" bit from Pitch Black). The pacing is also atrocious; we see the zombie outbreak in the opening sequence and then nothing happens for 20 minutes as we meet our characters and learn about each of their allotted single character traits. The two guys are distinguished by the fact that one wants to bang the blond girl and the other wants to bang the brunette (the aforementioned gamer girl, played by Friday Night Lights' Madison Burge), but other than that I couldn’t really find much difference between them. Then there’s the always (not) welcome conspiracy theory character, who… wait for it… is right this time!
And, come on, really?
It’s harder to tell here, but in the wide shot of everyone in the car we can see it’s clearly a composite shot, possibly shot (correctly) with a greenscreen but maybe not, since incompetency is common here. So I figured that it was just a poor job of keying out the green, but the same glitch is seen on a ceiling light in another scene, so it’s possible that they just didn’t shoot it properly to begin with, or had a blind child do their post. What’s your theory?
Also: fake video games. It’s bad enough that Burge plays the most obnoxious gamer ever, the sort of person you’d mute on Xbox if unfortunately stuck with them on Halo (she even refers to something as “gay” at one point – real nice, movie), but she reviews games with insanely bad titles like “Mythical War Gods 2” and “Burning Death 3”, complete with quickie Photoshop covers. Of course, getting real games would probably be easier if she had anything good to say about them, but she trashes all but one, because she’s just so cool.
Two solid points. One is the score, which often sounds like Friday Night Lights’ melancholy, guitar driven cues. The other is the ending, which offers the best of both worlds – two survivors take off on a note of hope, but then if you stick around through a few credits you’ll see that they end up dead too. Sure, it’s probably stolen from the Dawn of the Dead remake (which also killed its “survivors” during the end credits), but whatever. Oh, and it’s shorter than the IMDB promises, so I guess I can call that a 3rd good point.
The disc has a prequel motion comic that has some nice art but a woefully underdeveloped soundtrack, and it seems nearly half of its runtime is given over the credits. Then there’s a trailer reel for movies of all different genres and presented as one long chapter, so you can’t skip past the nature documentary about turtles to get to the horror entries (including Humans vs. Zombies itself; has to be the first time a DVD had its own trailer at the top of the disc). Then there’s a 5 minute slideshow of stills from the movie, set to nothing. Some would take the extra 12 seconds to put a chunk of the score under such a thing, but not these folks!
And so yet again we have a bad horror movie featuring a cast member from one of the best TV shows ever. I don’t know why they have had such bad luck finding horror projects, but I hope that these talented actors collectively get new agents and find work (horror or not) worthy of their charisma.
What say you?