RISE OF THE ZOMBIES (2012)
“Captain, zombie movie detected, dead ahead!”
“Slow to one half impulse. What do our sensors read?”
“Captain, sensors read it’s a SyFy movie called RISE OF THE ZOMBIES.”
“SyFy, huh? We’ve had trouble with them in the past, but sometimes they’ve managed to surprise us, even if they do skimp on the boobs. Any idea about the cast?”
“I’m detecting Danny Trejo, LeVar Burton, Ethan Suplee-“
“He played the fat idiot Randy on MY NAME IS EARL. There’s also French Stewart, and Chad Lindberg, who appeared in the I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE remake. And Captain, I’m also detecting Mariel Hemingway, who starred in that seminal lesbian film from the 80s, PERSONAL BEST. You know the one.”
“You wore our your Betamax copy replaying the same scenes over and over-“
“Yes, yes. Well, this might be interesting. I wouldn’t mind having a reunion with Mariel, heh heh. Any idea of the director?”
“Nick Lyon. He’s directed SPECIES: THE AWAKENING, and ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE, another TV movie with Ving Rhames that Captain Scott had reviewed here.”
“Well, this might not be too bad. Helm, ahead full, steady as she goes-“
“Captain! Scanners have just picked up two words… ‘The Asylum’!”
“Shields up, Red Alert! All hands, Battle Stations!”
Okay, okay, we all know about The Asylum, and that like ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE, they produced this TV movie, so you know not to set the bar high. This is low-hanging crapfruit, folks, designed to cash in on the success of THE WALKING DEAD.
It opens with a Viewer Discretion warning, one which you can take on a number of levels. Although, once the title flashes by, we get immediately into the zombie action in San Francisco. No voiceovers, no fake news footage, just guys in pancake makeup attacking screaming extras. I’ll give them this much, they don’t waste time, they know what we want. A couple of people help a woman out of a window while surrounded by the dead, one guy hammers a zombie in the face in grisly, lovely detail, a car drives up to rescue them, and they drive off. No introductions, no exposition, nothing. I feel like it’s a truncated version of a movie and the first half hour’s been cut out of it. We get a shot of the Golden Gate Bridge to let the goobers in the audience know it’s San Francisco as the driver spots Alcatraz Island, which historians will know as the site of the final battle between Magneto’s army and the X-Men.
The driver makes a comment at not having been so glad to see a prison before, and drives them down Lombard Street, the famous zigzag street seen in movies such as VERTIGO, WHAT’S UP DOC? and MAGNUM FORCE. But the driver is driving too fast and recklessly, and in an unintentionally hilarious sequence, the car overturns and becomes crap CGI, tumbling down along the zigzag road like it was in a Japanese pinball machine, ending up at the bottom, completely and utterly wrecked. And one of the people inside, a pregnant woman, gets out – and in her close-ups of this, the car is undamaged.
The rest of the people in the car are ravaged by zombies – I’m gonna miss each and every one of you – and Pregnant Woman waddles down the road, zombies in tow. Now, it’s obvious that some sort of zombie apocalypse has occurred, but like Scott pointed out in ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE, the city looks fairly clean and well-kept after such a disaster.
Then The Asylum logo pops up like a genital wart, saying to the world, “Mea culpa.”
Then we cut to Alcatrraz island, which appears to have been turned into some sort of refugee centre or medical facility to deal with survivors and whatnot. It appears to be thinly-run to say the least. Then Mariel Hemingway (Yay! Must find me PERSONAL BEST again!) pops up as a doctor, watching a video of another doctor played by French Stewart giving us some exposition about the inevitable virus being water-born and there being a possible cure, and I have to ask if anyone told Stewart that he was supposed to play the role straight and not like he was back on THIRD ROCK FROM THE SUN?
PERSONAL BEST Chick is working with another doctor, Geordi LaForge (hey, they’re not bothering to give the characters names, I have to go with what I know) who’s complaining that the security forces have destroyed all their undead test subjects. PBC goes to confront their leader, Danny Trejo – yes! Machete! Even if he is phoning it in this time! Mariel and Danny argue, and at one point Mariel threatens Danny with a switchblade, and I have to say at this point, that in a movie about the undead, seeing the PERSONAL BEST Chick threaten Machete with a switchblade proves to be the most unbelievable sight I’ve seen this year. Danny Trejo deserves a little baby Emmy for not pissing himself laughing.
Suddenly this clash of the titans is interrupted as the dead wash ashore (apparently they come in on the tide, making the decision to move the city’s survivors there seem less sensible). Everyone rushes into the prison. You know why? Because apparently their contingency plan involves… locking themselves into cells. Not locking the dead outside the building. Locking themselves into individuals. I shit you not, they specifically say this. Talk about a Paint Yourself into a Corner strategy. Eventually they do manage to regain control, though not before some tragic losses. Sorry, did I say tragic? I meant the other word: forgettable. Eventually, Machete and PBC and the others decide to leave, partly because they’re running out of food, water and fuel, partly because PBC wants to find Dr Third Rock in the city, to find his cure.
Everyone leaves on a raft except for Dr Kunta Kinte, who’s staying because his daughter, or sister, or lover (I’m not sure which) was bitten and has become zombified inside one of the cells, and his storyline will run parallel to the others’. Now, I have to stop snarking for a moment and give LeVar Burton some credit here, because he’s a decent actor, and he convincingly sells this to the best of his ability. His exposition also provides some diversion, in describing the hive mentality of the virus reanimating the flesh, and how electricity might inhibit it and possibly even restore the victims’ former minds to some degree.
The rest of the movie proceeds as you would expect: there’s a split in the group, houses are searched, people do stupid things, the dead jump up in surprise like Peekaboo was some sort of genetic instinct, and the survivors’ number dwindle despite having an unlimited number of bullets and moments of awkward sentimentality and shallow philosophy. Nothing you haven’t seen a hundred times before, really.
However, there are moments when RISE OF THE ZOMBIES rises above the generic and becomes memorable. There’s a zombie in one house that looks like it had been stuffed in a crate for a hundred years, because she can’t get her arms untwisted from behind her neck. The dead are seen climbing up the Golden Gate Bridge like they were stunt doubles for the RISE OF THE APES, and in what is the highlight of the movie, we do return to that Pregnant Woman and find out what happens to her, and her unborn…
The makeup and gore is mostly practical and mostly effective, and if you don’t mind the repetitive slow-motion scenes and all the same things you’ve seen before in other movies, it’s as watchable as anything else. The trailer is here. You could do worse than catching it, at least up to the point where the Pregnant Woman exits the movie. Just don’t be eating nachos and cheese while doing it.
Director: Nick Lyon
Plot: 2 out of 5 stars
Gore: 8 out of 10 skulls
Zombie Mayhem: 5 out of 5 brains
Reviewed by Derek “Deggsy” O’Brien