Running this website I get too watch and read a lot of projects … both good and bad. Take for example ZOMBIE CHRONICLES: THE INFECTED, written, directed, produced, and edited by Marvin Suarez (who also did the casting, production design, operated the camera, served as the key grip, and played the role of the guy holding the news reporter’s camera). I first got in touch with Marvin in early Spring through Twitter (@InfectedZombies). At that point he was in the early-to-mid stages of putting together ZOMBIE CHRONICLES and I could feel his excitement through our email correspondences. Well this is one of those times where a filmmakers passion comes through in aces!! Suarez made a tight, fast-paced 25 minute zombie short that delivers in it’s story telling, characters, and zombie mayhem.
Let me take a second and get something off my chest — for the record. I get a lot of screeners from indie horror filmmakers. A lot. When I originally make contact with a filmmaker who’s looking to get their project reviewed and subsequently promoted I always let them know that just because they’re sending me a free copy of their film in no way guarantees they will get a favorable review. Sometimes I never hear back from them. But for the most part I’ve been lucky; most of the films I get from indie filmmakers have been really fun and enjoyable. There are times though when I have gotten some absolute pretentious suck-fests (see my review of BURNING INSIDE; blech!!). But the bottom line is that I approach every film I watch, regardless of whether I get it through Netflix or directly from the filmmakers, the same way; every film gets an unbiased review.
Ok; thanks for sticking with me while I got that off my chest!! With that being said I was really hoping that Suarez’s ZOMBIE CHRONICLES: THE INFECTED wasn’t gonna disappoint, and thankfully it doesn’t. The short begins with the zombie apocalypse having already begun. We don’t really know what caused it, but its obviously being caused by some kind of virus. There’s rioting in the streets as the survivors run for their lives from the infected as they are trying to comprehend what’s going on. At the center or it all are two paramedics, Sarah (Celeste Santoya) and Josh (Lavrenti Lopes), who quickly realize that the dead are coming back to “life” and attacking the living. Once they realize that things are out of control and that they’re doing nothing but endangering themselves by being on the streets, Sarah wants to get back home to check on her daughter. Once back at her apartment things go from really bad to fucked.
Suarez isn’t trying to re-invent the zombie genre with his ZOMBIE CHRONICLES: THE INFECTED. You aren’t going to see anything really original, BUT you are going to see things done right. The zombies, while not covered in elaborate make-up, are scary as they slowly take over the city and infect anyone who is “normal.” But whereas the story may not be groundbreaking, the zombies Suarez gives us are refreshing. They’re the “fast” kind of zombies, and they also seem to retain some level of intelligence and consciousness about what they are and what they’re doing. In a particular creepy scene a zombie explains to Sarah what he’s planning on doing to her. It’s a nice creepy, effective scene.
Suarez also doesn’t rely solely on excessive gore to make his film scary. There is some well done (albeit tame) gore, but the real scares comes from Suarez’a use of shadows, the way scenes are filmed, and the good old fashioned “fear of the unknown.” Every corner Josh and Sarah turn and every doorway they walk through you can feel the tension the characters feel and the danger they are in. He accomplishes this by using the Brian De Palma technique of splitting the screen into two to four screens whereby the viewer gets to see the same scene unfold from up to four different perspectives. Suarez doesn’t use this as a gimmick; it’s an essential tool he uses to tell his story. It’s a really well-filmed short that fully develops the tension in every scene.
Like all films, whether they’re big budget epics or small indie’s, this film isn’t perfect. At times lead actress Santoya over acts a bit and takes the viewer out of “the moment,” but overall she does a good job (as does the entire cast). There are also times where the sound and dialogue are hard to hear, but these are minor complaints. ZOMBIE CHRONICLES: THE INFECTED ends with the on-screen words:
Infected Case # 1938
This implies there will be more to come, right? Absolutely. Suarez envisions his ZOMBIE CHRONICLES as a three part series. The next part, titled INFECTED SURVIVORS, is due out in 2011. I’m really looking forward to seeing what Suarez does with and where he takes his “intelligent zombies.” My other main complaint, and this is directed right at you Suarez, is to stop teasing me with 25 minute shorts and give me a full length feature!! I was really engrossed in the story and characters (especially Sarah’s character) and wanted to see more (Suarez is actually planning on a feature length film down the road).
There’s one last thing I wanted to mention: I don’t know what Suarez’s budget was on this short, but I can tell you that he put every single penny of his (I assume) modest budget up on the screen. There are 45 people listed in the cast!! This is good for the viewer because he doesn’t skimp on the attacking zombies at all. Most scenes of full of rampaging zombies looking for uninfected humans. Over half the cast is listed as a “zombie” in the credits; there’s more zombies in this short than I’ve seen in some full length feature zombie flicks!!
This short isn’t gonna re-invent the zombie genre, and it’s not trying too. But if you’re looking for a kick ass zombie flick that has all the best ingredients of the zombie genre and does them right, then you’re gonna have a really fun time. I encourage you to contact Suarez at [email protected] to find out how you can see ZOMBIE CHRONICLES: THE INFECTED. It’s worth your time!!
Director: Marvin Suarez (and writer)
Plot: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Gore: 3 out of 10 skulls
Zombie Mayhem: 4 out of 5 brains
Reviewed by Scott Shoyer