December 4, 2010

Zombies of Mass Destruction (REVIEW)


Zombies of Mass Destruction (2009)

Director: Kevin Hamedani

4 / 5 zedheads

I'm quite fond of the zombie's capacity for social commentary. George A. Romero (Night of the Living Dead) has always used zombies to comment on the generational and timeless flaws of humanity, but he's not alone. Zombies of Mass Destruction (ZMD) is one of several recent zombie comedies that has latched onto the idea of using zombies for direct political satire. Poking fun at post-9/11 American intolerance and fear mongering, ZMD is a highly entertaining farce even if it goes to some surprisingly dark and cynical places where the humour runs thin.
Until you stop drooling, young man, you'll sleep out in the garden.
Year: 2003. Location: the island community of Port Gamble, Washington. In this all-American town, we meet Frida (Janette Armand), a lovely young woman rebelling against the labels and expectations put on her by others. Her Iranian father wants her to embrace her Iranian heritage and the family business. Others in Port Gamble deny her American heritage by repeatedly mistaking her for an Iraqi and foisting upon her their ignorant expectations about the Middle East and the War on Terrorism. While Frida struggles to find her own identity, we meet Tom (Doug Fahl) and Lance (Cooper Hopkins). Tom has come back to his childhood home with his boyfriend Lance so Tom can, reluctantly, come out to his mother. Bad timing! A virus is spreading throughout the community turning people into shambling, flesh-eating zombies. Through a series of absurd encounters, things quickly turn apocalyptic on Port Gamble. Frida gets caught up with ignorant Joe Miller (Russell Hodgkinson) and his family, who label her a terrorist responsible for the virus. Meanwhile, Tom and Lance seek refuge in a church where petty local politics play out and the couple becomes targeted by the pastor for heterosexual conversion. Between it all, a horde of zombies go on a gory rampage and are dispatched by equally gory and inventive means.

You've got red on you. Wait, sorry -- wrong zomedy
More than horror, comedy is a subjective experience. I can't tell you that you'll find ZMD funny. All I can say is that I found Zombies of Mass Destruction quite amusing because it doesn't aim for constant laugh-out-loud moments. The humor comes from the farcical situations, broad characters, and even broader thrusts and jabs at American culture, post 9/11. While broadly painted, ZMD is not without wit and focus. In fact, the film manages to lob several sharp one-liners that skewer the general intolerance and ignorant xenophobia proliferating in America. Lest you think all zombie comedies are the same, be aware that ZMD is not like Shaun of the Dead. It's also not like Zombieland. It has a sense of humor all its own that will appeal more to those who like laughing at the absurdity of American culture and less to those expecting slapstick yucks. And yes, the film does approach its satire from a fairly Liberal viewpoint. If you're a card-carrying member of the Tea Party, this movie is not for you. Then again, you're probably a zombie already.
American culture's not the only thing skewered in ZMD
ZMD does lose its political and satirical focus from time to time. While the film's satire is very broad and generally quite tame, the film often detours into some very specific and very dark territory. In particular, there's a scene of torture halfway through the film that is seriously bloody and without an hint of humour although it is perpetrated by a character that was previously established as overwhelmingly buffoonish. It's an odd and drawn-out moment that approaches true horror rather than the exaggerated and cartoonish violence that dominates the rest of the film.

Speaking of violence, there's plenty of zombie gore in ZMD. Although shot on a budget smaller than most features, ZMD offers up some very accomplished gore effects and a combination of practical / CGI wizardry to show zombies being sliced, diced, blasted, and impaled. If political satire is not your thing, ZMD is still worth checking out for the impressive and fun zombie kills.

Gays with guns: Competent homosexual heroes.
I think ZMD is going to be a movie that grows on me with repeated viewings. Except for some tonal hiccups, I really can't complain about this movie. I like the characters, as broad as they are, and I like the farcical premise and the observations it makes about xenophobia and homophobia. If the film were any more satirical, it would be preachy. If it were any more violent, it would be less endearing. For the most part, Zombies of Mass Destruction walks a fine line between horror and comedy. It also makes impressive use of its extras, budget, and production design.  

Zombies of Mass Destruction was released on DVD as one of the 8 Films to Die For. I'd say giving up your life for Zombies of Mass Destruction is a bit extreme, but it's definitely a worthy purchase for those of you who like your zombie carnage with an equal dose of broad political comedy. It's a zombie film for the Jon Stewart generation.