The marketplace has been full of so many appreciable Zombie films for the last decade or so that I think it’s only fitting that a few Zombie ‘laughers’ have come out on television or in general release. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with poking fun at the obvious conventions of the traditional Zombie story … but I think comedies work best when there’s one overriding comedic slant. Pick a lane and stay in it. Bobbing and weaving between styles gets frustrating, and it may have audiences running for the exits much earlier than expected. When you drift between mainstream comedy to satire to farce to all-out Three Stooges-style lunacy, you’re really only asking for trouble as the only man who has ever pulled that off successfully (and lived to talk about it) remains the incomparable Mel Brooks.
Despite some unevenness in Zombieworld, I still managed to have some fun with it. You might, too.
(NOTE: The following review will contain minor spoilers necessary solely for the discussion of plot and/or characters. If you’re the type of reader who prefers a review entirely spoiler-free, then I’d encourage you to skip down to the last three paragraphs for my final assessment. If, however, you’re accepting of a few modest hints at ‘things to come,’ then read on …)
From the product packaging:
“There is nowhere to hide … nowhere to run … the Zombie Apocalypse has come, and our world now belongs to the dead! From Ireland, Canada, Australia, Europe and all over the U.S., the bone-chilling news reports tell the same gruesome tale – walking corpses terrorize and devour the living. Only a few desperate humans find the courage to stand and fight for their last chance at survival. But the hordes of undead keep coming, and there’s only one thing on the menu – us.”
Pay attention, folks, or else I figure a great many of you diehard Horror enthusiasts are likely to be really peeved: Zombieworld is not a Horror film.
I’m gonna repeat that: Zombieworld is not a Horror film.
Yes, like any Zombie movie, it has elements of Horror. The workable DNA is clearly in place, but it isn’t meant to send shudders up your spine. Make no mistake: this Zombieworld – much like Ruben Fleischer’s Zombieland (2009) with Woody Harrelson and Jesse Eisenberg – is meant to satirize the traditional Zombie genre. Nothing in here is presented with the intent for you to keep a straight face … so as much as I’m doing my job making you aware of the above synopsis I’m also going to tell you to swallow it with a few grains of salt. Yes, those far off lands of Ireland and Australia and the like do factor in the greater story – but the main idea behind all of this is that Zombieworld is best considered a series of interconnected short stories all linked together by a central newscast … and it’s that newscast that remains the film’s most predictable and least satisfying piece.
But the problems don’t quite stop there.
See, Zombieland – much like its smaller stories – are all over the map. As a feature, it’s arguably directionless, save for the whole concept of poking fun at … well … zombies. For example, one story might make it look like the Apocalypse has arrived … and imagine your confusion when you arrive at the next story, which features a regular ol’ mailman going about his daily task of – you guessed it – delivering the mail. During the Apocalypse? Well, it hasn’t quite happened in this story, if you follow. It’s this kind of overall disconnect that causes more than a few narrative burps to folks like me – people who insist on watching even bad films closely.
Still, Zombieworld isn’t a bad film. It is, nevertheless, wildly uneven.
The comic approach is used much in the same way it was tried previously in the cult flick, Amazon Women On The Moon (1987). In that feature, audiences were treated to a narrator constant “switching channels,” and this basically delivered up a handful of shorter, less cohesive stories served up in stylized vignettes. Zombieworld uses a similar construct – the film’s main character (if there is one) is a newscaster struggling to keep his humanity while slowly succumbing to the obvious bite on his neck as these stories progress. But the script (as the way it’s built here) would have you believe that there was a news team present back in the days when Christ first raised the dead, and – while that may be a funny idea – it falls flat as a storytelling gimmick.
What does Zombieworld do well?
It keeps switching gears, all for comedic effect, which can be as invigorating as it is mildly frustrating. It keeps rushing forward even when one short sequence misses the mark. And it dishes up some of the coolest, hippest, yet most laughable practical in-camera special effects since the days of Sam Raimi’s The Evil Dead (1981), Evil Dead II (1987), and Army Of Darkness (1992). It gushes with buckets of blood when it wants to, and – on that front – Zombieworld has ‘cult’ written all over it … for better or for worse.
Zombieworld (2015) is produced by Dread Central Media and Ruthless Pictures. DVD distribution is being coordinated by the reliable Image Entertainment and RLJ Entertainment. As for the technical specifications? The sound quality remained quite good throughout most of the run-time (100 minutes), and the picture maintained a relatively smart bit of cinematography despite the fact that its individual segments were handled by different directors. Lastly, if you’re looking for special features, there’s a short film – “Marathon Apocalypse” – that basically includes some of the flick’s footage along with bits truncated, but it’s only a few minutes in length and it really wasn’t anything all that ‘special.’
Recommended, but …
If you like Zombie films, then there’s definitely something to love in Zombieworld. In fact, if you like Zombie-comedies (of which there have been more than a few as of late), then you’re probably in store for a few good natured chuckles. Unfortunately, the feature never quite settles comfortably into any single comedic tone, and it vacillates too strongly between farce and sheer lunacy to fit into any comfortable niche for my tastes. Still, it’s an affable job performed by an array of affable characters.
In the interests of fairness, I’m pleased to disclose that the fine folks at Image Entertainment and RLJ Entertainment provided me with a DVD copy of Zombieworld by request for the expressed purposes of completing this review; and their contribution to me in no way, shape, or form influenced my opinion of it.