Apocalypse Z (a.k.a. Zombie Massacre) (2013)
Say what you like about Uwe Boll. That he’s a talentless hack. That Uwe (pronounced “oovah”, which coincidentally is the same sound a script makes when it’s dropped into a garbage chute) knows less about filmmaking than Copernicus. That he’s a self-made blowhard and bitter idiot with less success at making a good movie than Michael J Fox has at repairing watches. That he sucks in ways that Thai prostitutes would give up their first-born to learn to do.
All of this is unequivocally true. But I will say this about him: he’s as good at producing as he is at directing, acting and writing. To watch a movie produced by him as opposed to directed by him is like getting hepatitis from a reused Band-Aid as opposed to a shared needle. Now, previously Italian directors Luca Boni and Marco Ristori brought us the zombie film EATERS: RISE OF THE DEAD (which I reviewed here). And I enjoyed it, for all its faults.
Their latest, however, APOCALYPSE Z (previously titled ZOMBIE MASSACRE, as Scott warned us about back in October here, and presumably re-titled to capture some of that WORLD WAR Z appeal – if there is any) is a horse of a different colour. A dead horse, rotting in the Mediterranean sun, having died after eating one of the smaller, more syphilitic Osmonds. I didn’t make the connection with their earlier work. But knowing it now elicits the same disappointment as finding out that the only reason you were conceived was because your mother has a gag reflex.
The movie opens with a woman in a nondescript town, leaving a building or something to come home to feed her invalid husband or father or something, before we cut away to some German asshole (Michael Segal) driving along talking on his phone. The woman steps out in time to get some drops of black rain on her hand; she looks back to the nuclear power plant where she presumably works. Could there be a connection? Why the fuck are you asking us, lady?
No wait, she’s not asking, she’s returned to her apartment, sickened by whatever’s touched her, drops behind the table, and emerges looking like an understudy for a Korean ghost movie. And then we cut back to the German asshole, who arrives in the woman’s town and steps out of his car in time to be viciously attacked. And over the credits and the generic heavy metal music, we see slow-motion images of Hazmat-suited and gas mask-clad soldiers setting up barbed wire and firing on the hordes of the, well, whatever the fuck they are. Zombies? Sure, let’s run with that if it means we can get this over with quicker.
After the credits, we meet, uh, some Americans in Washington, one of them the Secretary of Exposition being briefed. Both Americans are played by Germans or Italians, and either make no attempt to disguise their accents, or try for something completely pointless, like British. Get used to it; the attempt at linguistic consistency will have all the success of an alien paedophile trying to lure kids into his van-shaped spaceship with dead puppies.
The Expositionists can’t even exposit quickly; it takes ages to work out that: some town in Romania, the town that we apparently just saw get overrun with zombies, housed some secret experimental research facility, one that the US Government wants to destroy all evidence of it but make it look like an accident, and that for some reason the best way to do it is, not with drones or cruise missiles or sending Justin Bieber, but with a motley crew of foreign mercenaries. Honestly, they could have had a more intelligent choice sending Josie and the Pussycats, but what do I know?
Leading the crew is the imaginatively-named Jack Stone (Christian Boeving), an expert in “crisis missions” who’s built like he swallowed Dwayne Johnson, after Dwayne has swallowed Dolph Lundgren. Jack’s chief personality trait is that he’s got a daughter that he wants to get back to see, and presumably that’s enough for him; anything more complex might reduce the brain power required to keep his 900 pounds of muscle mass moving (I swear to God, at one point he literally got winded rushing into scene. You might be the Boss lifting weights, but you move like a arthritic sumo).
There are others on the team, including a female expert in swords named Eden Shizuka (Tara Cardinal) who at least doesn’t look like she needs saving, except possibly from this movie, and some bearded European soldiers in grubby uniforms. Quickly they’re shipped out with a nuclear device, with orders to plant it in the right place and then leave, with all the assurances that they’ll be paid their two million dollar fees. What? Come on, it’s not as if the government is going to lie to them!
Now, a digression: if you’re of my generation, you’ll remember the early days of videotape, when Betamax was still a strong rival to VHS, and DAWN OF THE DEAD had spawned a pandemic of Italian, Filipino and, well, mostly Italian rip-offs:: ZOMBI, ZOMBI 2, CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD, HELL OF THE LIVING DEAD, ZOMBIE FLESH EATERS, DOCTOR BUTCHER MD, BURIAL GROUND and others. You’ll have probably watched them more than once, if only because they’ll have been re-titled and repackaged. But they had a look: a bunch of bearded dicks in ill-fitting fatigues bought from some Army/Navy surplus store, driving around in rented Army Jeeps and carrying prop guns they can barely hold straight, acting as stupid as they’re dubbed, possessing all the military expertise of The Little Rascals while shooting at extras covered in fake blood and pancake make-up.
Got the idea? Well, all that came back to me while watching this. Only at least those old shitfests didn’t keep me waiting nearly thirty minutes before getting to the action; this movie was starting to have all the pace of time-lapse footage of a decomposing sloth. In the meantime we get to watch the team drive around, occasionally shooting a slow-moving zombie (or a quick one; the consistency is as good here as it is with the accents)
We do cut back to Washington, where we get a cameo from Uwe Boll himself as… the President of the United States! My mouth dropped as he sat there, looking like he always does, a sleazy wannabe-pimp with all the machismo of Liberace, and sounding like Doctor Strangelove auditioning for a part in the remake of HOGAN’S HEROES, and unless he is the President in a parallel world where the German porn market took over America, I’m not buying it for one fucking second.
And really, when your best known actor is Uwe Boll, the rest of your cast should consist of apology letters.
Oh, we also learn that our heroes might not have been told the full truth about what is going on. Still, at least they didn’t have to watch this.
APOCALYPSE Z is not so much a zombie film as a random mashing together of concepts from zombie movies that the makers have heard about without understanding any of them. Dialogue, filled with supposed banter between characters, is tediously long-winded, clichéd and rambling without adding anything to the story or progressing it. THE BRADY BUNCH MOVIE is a better zombie film than APOCALYPSE Z; at least Shelly Long’s movie career counts as a corpse. I should be more merciful – it was obviously put together by people whose mothers didn’t understand the dangers of eating mercury while pregnant – but I can’t summon such mercy.
There’s the odd bit of actual practical FX, but the rest remains CGI and inept (our sword-wielding heroine somehow manages to cut up zombies without her blades getting anywhere near them). Actors have to visibly sidestep cameras as they exit scenes. And when they’re not speaking, they’re not acting, just waiting to do their lines. The zombies, at least some of them, are slightly different in appearance (such as the lady at the beginning) and a Giant Zombie we see at the end, but only because they’ve remembered to try and rip off RESIDENT EVIL as well as other zombie movies. And there’s a nonsensical end credits sequence that seems designed merely to show some topless women (no doubt for those folk too stupid to be able to find such things on the Internet).
Oh Uwe, please buy a nightclub in Hamburg and get out of the business; your history is obviously the result of some Mephistophelean pact, where you sold your soul for a film career, but never specified a good one.
APOCALYPSE Z is out on DVD in the UK, and will be released in the US August 8. You’ve been warned. Watch the trailer below. Go on, I dare you, and you’ll understand why the tagline for this dog is “There is no hope”.
Directors: Luca Boni and Marco Ristori
Plot: 0 out of 5 stars
Gore: 3 out of 10 skulls
Zombie Mayhem: 3 out of 5 brains
Reviewed by Derek “Deggsy” O’Brien. The D is silent. It’s still trying to figure out what CLOUD ATLAS was all about.