AUGUST 29, 2012
I took an unusually large number of notes during Apocalypse Of The Dead, but unfortunately they're mostly negative in nature. It's a serviceable enough time-killer (at 100 minutes, perhaps too MUCH time) if you're not too discerning for low budget zombie films, but crippled by woeful direction/editing, a not very exciting climax, and some badly placed references to Dawn Of The Dead.
I really don't get that last one. With Ken Foree in the lead role of a zombie movie, of course Dawn will come to mind, but the time to make the overt references is in the first 10 minutes. Get them out of the way, because you almost have to acknowledge his legacy, and then focus on YOUR movie, hoping that the audience follows suit. Instead, 79 minutes into their movie, at a point where the pacing just ground to a halt, a character suggests holing up in a shopping mall, to which Foree says is not a good idea, as "they WILL get in!". And then they twist the knife, having him more or less deliver his "No more room in Hell" speech from that film (and its remake). Sure, remind us of a perfect zombie when you just fucked yours up.
What did they do wrong, you ask? They leave the location where they've been holed up for the past 45 minutes! The movie is sort of like Assault On Precinct 13 with zombies, as Foree and Kristina Klebe are a pair of agents transporting a prisoner when the zombie outbreak begins, so they have to barricade themselves in a building and work with the prisoner to survive, and it more or less works for a while. But with 20 minutes to go they leave, opting to set the finale in an abandoned trainyard, blowing the rising tension that they had built up in the other locale. And it's not a very exciting finale, as a character shows up with a bag of weapons to save the day, no one of note dies, and it feels too tacked on. If they were constantly on the move throughout the movie, it would be fine, but if you're doing Precinct 13, you don't leave the Precinct! Unless you're doing the remake, for some reason.
The direction and editing also leaves much to be desired. I'll forgive the terrible dubbing (the lips match the words, but everyone sounds like they were recorded in a booth), but I can't do the same for a sequence where Foree and the prisoner are shouting for a door to be opened from the other side, and then suddenly they're running down the hall with another guy. Yeah, we can fill in the blanks - this guy heard them, ran over and opened the door, but why build a moment out of him NOT opening it if you're not going to show him hearing them, or explain where he was to not hear them right away? Just cut the "suspense" out, or be competent enough to have a cutaway of the guy opening the door at least. There's also a bit where one guy is on the right side of the screen firing toward the left, and the next shot is of another hero shooting from left to right - making it look like they are actually just shooting at each other instead of zombies. This is basic, first-year film school stuff, and similar things occur far too often to shrug it off.
It was also annoying to see shaki-cam footage haphazardly cut together with awkward, completely still medium shots of the actors, often garishly lit by the DP. The editing was making this thing disjointed enough, but the direction makes it worse by making the movie look like two separate productions jammed together. And I'll never get why you'd want to overlight a horror movie - we WANT it a bit dark! Let's get some shadows up in this bitch! And none of them could bother telling the actors to pronounce "Bottin" correctly, as it's the name of one of the agents (the other is "Savini"), but they pronounce it "Bought-in" instead of "Bow-teen". If you're going to honor a guy by naming a character after him, maybe make sure you're saying it right.
Along the way some good ideas are wasted; things that could have been used in more deserving movies. I particularly liked the idea of a girl being stoned on mushrooms and running right into the zombies assuming it was part of her trip (though I'm sure this has been used elsewhere before), and there's a fun little moment at the end where Klebe says she is out of bullets, which allows the noble prisoner to go free, only for us (but not her partner) to discover she actually wasn't (awww, she likes him). I was also charmed by the nutty religious character, who would rant in "nut with a sandwich board" speak in between blowing zombies away with his huge arsenal - it's a bummer he spends most of the movie on his own instead of joining up with the characters.
I also have to give them props for the FX, which favor practical fake heads and blood over CGI. There's a great bit where a head is sliced in half like lettuce, a couple of decapitations... all good stuff. The zombie makeup is unfortunately very stock (grayish/blue skin, whitened out eyes), but I'll take what they offer over well designed zombies who are consistently dispatched with swirls of pixels instead of anything I can touch. And there are a few zombie children who are mercilessly gunned down, so that's always a plus.
If they had cut the thing down to 80 minutes (there's too much setup, and too many extraneous characters) and had a better editor, this would have been a (very) minor gem in the never-dying landscape of "Of The Dead" movies (of which this covers two titles - it was originally called Zone Of The Dead and retains that moniker in the closing credits). But the sloppiness kept me from ever getting fully engaged; every time I started getting into it, there would be another amateurish moment to take me right back out. Maybe they'll get me on the next one.
What say you?