Wednesday, January 1

Some quick thoughts on Zombie Night (2013)

To adapt a quote from Alex Cox's Repo Man, ordinary fucking people that you hate fight for survival when zombies arise and begin feasting by night.

There's two predominant camps that will bash John Gulager's Zombie Night, those that cast it off merely for being an Asylum production and those that stupidly expect The Walking Dead. Throwing out those junk opinions, everyone else just won't care for it and that's understandable. After two off-the-rails Feast sequels and the disastrous Piranha 3DD (2012), it's easy to blame Gulager for screwing up this formulaic outing. It might be a mess, but its an interesting one and the director really is the least responsible.

With obvious riffs from Night of the Living Dead (1968), including lethargic zombies, some of the characters in Zombie Night are copied verbatim from the Romero classic. Alan Ruck, who's finally showing some age, is essentially Cooper, a family man swearing by his safe room and stubbornly refusing to help others out of fear for his loved ones. His wife, played by Jennifer Taylor, is Cooper's wife Helen, in contention with her husband's decisions over their bitten son. Shirley Jones of Partridge Family fame embodies an elderly version of the near comatose Barbra. So you'd think lead Antony Michael Hall would be similar to Ben, but a crippling problem arises with not just his character, but also everyone else.

Even if your only exposure to the subgenre is The Walking Dead, you probably get that effective zombie siege fiction tends to need at least one character with a measure of common sense. That individual needn't be a white-bread protagonist or even necessarily right, but someone who endears viewers through sensible actions. We first root for their plans to work and if those collapse hope for the survival of the character. Duane Jones' Ben is that person in the original Night of the Living Dead. On the other hand, Zombie Night lacks such characters as we watch people we never grow to care for running from place-to-place, continually making stupid choices along the way. Literally no one is likable, and although the cast is on auto-pilot, this aspect seems part of the material. There's also some gigantic logic gaps, the biggest being (spoilers, click and drag to highlight) one of the survivors overhearing that all zombies die off at dawn so they just have to survive until then. If this was a first time phenomena, how in the hell would anyone know that would happen?!

Here's a quick example of how unbelievably dumb characters frequently are. We're introduced to a cop who's arresting a looter, and upon returning to his precinct, finds it abandoned and ransacked with phones ringing off the hook. Picking one up he recognizes the voice as one of his old high school teachers, Shirley Jones' character, and promises he'll be right over to assist. It's well apparent zombies have risen as he's forced to leave his squad car after being attacked and witnessing a little girl shot dead and suddenly reanimate (ascribing to the "revised" Romero/Walking Dead rules). So does he have better things to do like finding family and friends in the chaos? Doesn't seem so, when we see him next he's approaching the empty house of his once teacher to investigate. Seriously? 

Ultimately, Zombie Night is more a wasted opportunity than just bad outright. It actually has the chops to be a decent, albeit run-of-the-mill timewaster. Gulager's capable direction guides a film, with solid zombie make-up, that wisely keeps its ambitions within its slim budget. Unlike The Asylum's recent Zombie Apocalypse and Rise of the Zombies that end up straining with how high they aim. Yet dumb, unsympathetic characters paired with an aimless story and paycheck acting make this one a chore. If you're still interested, The Asylum now has three movies of the same ilk and I'll bet we'll see a cheapo three-pack at Wal Mart soon. Also I'm unsure what's new/different in this unrated version compared to Syfy's airing, but the total runtime is 1:28:21.

1 comment:

Famous Mortimer said...

Good review, I disliked it more than you but you were very even handed. you dare tread upon the staircase?

Basement of Ghoulish Decadence, Basement of Ghoulish Archive, and all original material Copyright © 2009-present by Jayson Kennedy. All rights reserved.