The tagline for Zombies of Mass Destruction is “A Political Zomedy” and that pretty much tells you everything you need to know about it. There are zombies. It is political, and a comedy. And it isn’t subtle — it telegraphs every one of its punches. But this is zombie film we’re talking here; subtlety is strictly optional.
The film is set in a small island town where an unfortunate zombie outbreak occurs. Caught up in this small-scale apocalypse are a young Iranian-American woman who’s abandoned her heritage to hang out with a cute rocker boy, her traditional father, her redneck neighbors, a gay couple trying to come out to a conservative parent, a fundamentalist preacher, the ultraconservative mayor and his liberal challenger. Do these sound a little stereotypical? They are, but again, it doesn’t matter all that much.
As the outbreak unfolds, things get worse and worse for the main characters as they face the prejudice and half-buried hostility of the small town stereotypes around them. Oh, and there are the zombies to deal with. And it’s mostly presented in that order — sociopolitical commentary first, zombie mayhem second. None of the political or social jabs are quiet or refined — this movie wears its politics on its sleeve and wields its commentary like a ten-pound hammer.
Arguably, this limits the audience. The degree to which you enjoy it is probably largely dependent on how much you agree with its positions. On the other hand, there’s plenty of splatter and broad phsyical comedy between the political jabs at post-9/11 America, so even a die-hard conservative could probably find something to enjoy here — supposing they didn’t walk out before they got to it.
Those points might sound like complaints, but really they are just observations. Ham-fisted sociopolitical commentary is endemic to the zombie genre and the stereotyped characters don’t really hurt the movie that much.Â More of an issue is the generally weak acting. None of it is terrible, but it’s all a little dodgy. Add to that the fact that there’s very little chemistry between any of the actors and the results weigh the movie down a bit and keeps it from being as funny as it could be. It’s nothing terrible, but it is worth noting.
Apart from that the only real problem is that it all feels a little dated. If it had come in in 2003, this film’s political jabs would likely feel rapier sharp. In 2009, it’s a little out of step with the world. Not to say that the issues raised are not legitimate or aren’t still issues — it’s just that today, they’ve taken on different nuances that simply aren’t addressed here.
But make no mistake: there is plenty to enjoy. The zombies look good. There are some fine jokes and visual gags (weedwhacker vs. zombie, anyone?). The direction is good, things move along at a decent clip and the movie is well shot. It’s not amazing, but it’s a solid, well-executed movie. It may offer slight returns, but it’s still got enough to offer to put it in the top third of the genre’s offerings.
Zombies of Mass Destruction is showing as part of the Denver Film Festival. You can see it tonight, November 20 at 11:30 p.m. and tomorrow, November 21 at 10:30 p.m.
Zombies of Mass Destruction/US/2009