2010 After Dark Horrorfest: Zombies of Mass Destruction (2009)
So far I’ve seen seven of the eight new After Dark 4 offerings (I’m watching the last one tonight). I’ll be honest folks; I’ve been less than impressed with this year’s offerings (with the exception of Dread). So when I sat down to watch Zombies of Mass Destruction (ZMD) I admit I was really scared. The zombie genre is my favorite and I could only imagine how badly an After Dark flick could fuck it up. Thankfully I was wrong!! This isn’t a perfect movie by any means, but ZMD delivers a solid zombie romp with good, well-placed humor and well-done gore. But most refreshing are the characters and the dialogue.
The story takes place in the small island town of Port Gamble. Port Gamble is the epitome of “small town life” where everything seems simpler and most of the town’s folk are god-fearing. As the story begins we meet Frida Abbas (played by the very cute Janette Armand). Frida is returning home from Princeton University where she’s gonna take some time off from school. Although she was born and raised in America people in town still think of her as “Iraqi” (even though her ancestors came from Iran). The first thing you’ll notice in this movie is the fantastic dialogue. Frida runs into some neighbors, the Millers, and the conversation they have is both hilarious and realistic. Writer Ramon Isao and writer-director Kevin Hamedani do a great job introducing the characters and developing them through the dialogue and of showing how ignorant the people in Port Gamble are without reducing the townies to general, stereo-typical racist douch-bags. These are simple small town folks who, for the most part, wouldn’t harm anyone. They just have very limited “world experience”.
The other two main characters are Tom and Lance (well played by Doug Fahl and Cooper Hopkins respectively). Tom and Lance are a gay couple and Tom is coming home to come out of the closet to his mom. The dinner scene with Tom, Lance, and mom is classic. The dialogue is fresh and quick and it sounds like dialogue you would actually hear in real life.
But what sounds like a TV Movie of the Week with a gay couple and a girl experiencing small town racism never sinks into melo-drama. The dialogue is sharp and all the actors do a great job (there is a scene or two where Frida panders to the camera a little but nothing that damages her overall performance).
So what about the zombies? Glad you asked. It seems that there is some kind of virus sweeping through the town. Some believe it to be the result of pollution from the local factory while others think it’s a terrorist attack. Whatever the cause (which is left unclear) it seems Tom’s mom was bitten and is slowly turning into a zombie. By the end of her son’s “coming out” dinner you’ll be laughing your ass off and be completely disgusted. The scenes with mom will remind you of the luncheon scene in Dead Alive with Lionel Cosgrove and his Mum; funny and disgusting. Later in the movie Tom and Lance get themselves involved in some small town ignorance as well. They take shelter in the town’s church and when the people there find out they’re gay they put them through “gay rehabilitation”. This is yet another hilarious and scary scene.
And just when you think it’s taking too long for the zombie mayhem to start, BAM director Hamedani kicks it into high gear. And once the violence and flesh eating starts it doesn’t let up.
Hamedani is obviously well versed in the zombie and horror genres. He knows how to create a scare as well as deliver the zombie violence all us hardcore zombie fans love. But what’s surprising is the humor here. We get enough humor for this to be considered a “zomcom” (zombie-comedy). Sure not all of it works; there’s a few places where the humor took away from the horror, but overall the writers did an excellent job of creating a nice balance of humor and horror. It’s also apparent that Hamedani studied his Romero zombie flicks. We get some solid social commentary about a post-9/11 America that never becomes preachy. The movie itself never takes itself too seriously. Frida at one point finds herself seeking refuge with her neighbors the Millers’.
As they are watching the news to find out what the hell is happening there’s a report that experts think the cause is a terrorist attack. And before Frida can say “Guantánamo Bay” she finds herself tied up and being interrogated by the father, Joe Miller (played excellently by Russell Hodgkinson). This is a great example of a scene where the humor and horror are in perfect balance. As Joe is getting ready to “interrogate” Frida the son, Brian, is trying to tell his dad that their mom was bitten by a zombie. The father blows it off and Brian says, “Dad, haven’t you ever seen a zombie film before?” And dad responds, “Now Brian, you know I’m a vampire man.” Great line!!
We get loads of well done gore that will satisfy anyone looking for a “gore fix” (and let’s face, who isn’t??) and enough surprises to keep you on your feet (just wait for the scene where Frida is helping a little girl across the street). Because of the humor this has been compared too and called “the American Shaun of the Dead.” I wouldn’t go that far. Shaun was a stronger flick all around but I will say I enjoyed this one a lot better than Zombieland. This is a solid zombie flick with good acting, a great story, excellent dialogue and humor, and plenty of gore. Definitely check this one out.
Director: Kevin Hamedani
Plot: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Gore: 6.5 out of 10 skulls
Zombie Mayhem: 4 out of 5 brains
Reviewed by Scott Shoyer