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Friday, 21 December 2012

DECEMBER 20, 2012

GENRE: BRITISH, ZOMBIE
SOURCE: DVD (STORE RENTAL)

According to the IMDb, which has never been wrong about anything, ever, Gangsters, Guns, and Zombies only cost 1,200 pounds (just under 2,000 in American dollars), which I wish I could believe. It's clearly a low budget movie, but unless the entire cast and crew worked for free, the equipment was all owned (or stolen), and every single location was secured guerrilla style, the movie would have to cost several times that (and that would STILL be assuming a lot of favors and volunteer work was in play). But, if it DID cost that much, I could more or less forgive it for being such a bland, by the numbers zombie movie.

There's actually only one sort of new idea in the entire movie - the first 50 minutes pretty much take place entirely in a van, as our bank robber heroes are making their way to a safehouse. They stop every now and then (each time losing another member of their group), but otherwise they're always on the go, with the camera staying in the van as they bicker and make plans, every now and then showing some random zombie attack outside (or just holding endlessly after the van passes by to show a zombie run into a tree - I guess it's supposed to be funny?). It's sort of like that sequence in between the dock and the mall in Dawn of the Dead, where they're flying the chopper and observing stuff, stopping for gas when they need to, just 3x as long and not nearly as compelling.

Ironically it only improves once they stop for good, holing up with a foul-mouthed old woman and her granddaughter. For the next 20 minutes we're faced with the usual house-bound zombie movie stuff (i.e. one of the humans turns on the others), but at least the zombie situation has finally become an actual threat to our primary characters. The entire time they are driving, it's like they're in a bubble, no different than your involvement when you drive past a car accident on the other side of the highway and peek at some of the damage through the divider. So the filmmakers trade a sort of new idea that didn't work for one we've seen a million times that does; not sure if that's actually a good thing, but at least, nearly an hour into the movie, I finally felt some sense of fear for the characters. Even when they stopped in places, there wouldn't be much of a threat, and those who died along the way usually did because of their own idiocy, not from being outnumbered or whatever. To be fair, the ending was actually pretty good, with a surprisingly high number of survivors (with the exception of slashers, I actually like endings with more than 1 or 2 people left standing), but it was too little too late, and the "action" portion ended abruptly and unsatisfyingly anyway.

It also lacks any real visual style, which again I can forgive if the budget would barely cover my month's rent, but even if that was the case (and again, I don't think it was) they should have worked within their limitations and came up with a scenario that was fresh enough to forgive the shoddiness. I mean, don't get me wrong, it's competently made, and the "go go go" plotting keeps any locations (except the van) from wearing out their welcome, but I am hard-pressed to think of one really cool shot or kill. And it's especially problematic when this is the umpteenth movie that seems to be the result of someone wondering what a Guy Ritchie horror movie would look like (see: Dead Cert, or the far more successful Cockneys vs. Zombies), which means everyone swears worse than I do, the bulk of the characters are criminals that we're supposed to like, and - of course! - everyone is introduced via black & white freeze-frame shots in a rapid fire montage, something that hasn't been interesting or "cool" since, oh let's be generous - 2002?

AND ENOUGH WITH THE FUCKING CGI BLOOD. In this case I can't even chalk it up to the budget - I don't care if the movie cost 12 cents, you can't tell me for a single second that it costs more money to just throw some strawberry syrup mixed with thickener than it does to have some guy who clearly hates the horror genre render out a blood geyser with a bunch of 1s and 0s. Especially when it's just in a field or some backroad - you can't use the "we weren't allowed to make a mess" excuse that unfortunately results in so many red pixels floating around. And I do mean floating - as bad as it looks to begin with, they for some reason make it worse by having the spray act more like the tail end of a dying firework, just sort of fading as it awkwardly drifts into the air (you can see one such shot on the trailer, which is misleading since it barely shows the van where at least 1/3 of the film is set). Just knock it the fuck off. Use real fake blood or have a damn good excuse for doing it the wrong way.

It bums me out to see such anonymous filler when I only have 100 movies or so to go. That recommendation thread is loaded with films that I'll probably never get to review (if I see at all), but because of time constraints, what seems like an increasingly slowed rollout of "library" titles to Netflix Instant, and general availability, I have to "waste" remaining entries on stuff like this. At least in this case someone I know seemed to enjoy it, so I had some sense of familiarity with it and a "good enough" reason to watch (as opposed to say, a movie off the Decrepit Crypt pack), but still - I'd rather avoid such half-assed offerings like this for the remainder of HMAD's run. Low budget or not, new ideas and interesting characters are free.

And don't quote Dawn of the Dead (or Ghostbusters, for that matter) in the middle of your zombie movie! I'd rather forget that there are vastly superior movies I could be watching instead.

What say you?

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