ULTIMATE ZOMBIE FEAST: available on DVD 8th October

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★★★★½

AVAILABLE ON DVD: 8th October

RUNNING TIME: 300 mins [2 discs]

REVIEWED BY: Dr Lenera, Official HCF Critic

 

Now here is something that should excite zombie fans.  Ultimate Zombie Feast is a two-disc box set from Monster Pictures that packs together 18 recent zombie pictures from around the word, most of whom have won awards.  Varying in length though mostly very short and with only one that actually runs over an hour, it appears to be a really eclectic collection, from an animated movie to India’s first zombie film.  What you probably want to know though is, are these short films any good, and does each disc work as a solid viewing experience?

 

 

DISC 1

ZOMBEER [2008, Barend de Voogd and Rob van dr Velden, Netherlands, 11 mins]

When the chief of a brewery drunkenly topples into the beer-making vat and dies, he sets off a chain of events that will affect all who come into contact with the contaminated ‘beer with a bite’…..

Well this short certainly gets things off to a good start.  It basically gives us an unusual beginning for a zombie plague with lots of tension and some black humour, usually through effective intercutting, such as having the idiot toppling into the vat intercut with an TV advery extolling the virtues of the beer.  The transformation into the zombie is rather chillingly done, though soon after the film seems to jump ahead as it abruptly changes into a full-blown zombie world-rampage picture, done as Found Footage but still with some dark laughs [Akira Kurosawa’s gag of a dog running off with a hand].  The first two thirds of this are better than the final third though overall it still works.

 

ZOMBIES AND CIGARETTES  [2009, Inaki Sna Roman and Rafa Martinez, Spain, 17 mins]

A virus has been set loose in a Spanish shopping mall and it’s turning everyone into flesh-eating zombies.  Our hero is trying to get out alive and at the same time impress a girl he likes and find a cure…..

The opening of this slightly longer effort almost follows on perfectly from the final third of the previous film, with two people running for safety from what are obviously zombies, though it then flashes back and shows us the beginnings of another zombie plague, though the emphasis here is not on the creation [all we are told about the reason for the zombies is that it’s just a plague] but on our wimpish hero who is more bothered about impressing the object of his affections than anything else, and it’s rather sweet.   The action moves at a terrific pace and the film doesn’t entirely end the way you expect, though the scenes of zombie panic suffer from having the camera being waved about too much.

 

PLAGUE  [2008, Joseph Avery, Matt Simpson, UK, 17 mins]

Focusing on an isolated journey into the unknown, we follow Vilhelm, an illegal immigrant and gun runner, who is trying to make a  new beginning.  When he arrives in London, the dead rise and consume the living.  Can Vilhelm escape the bloodbath…..

In contrast to the first two films, Plague is a very bleak, downbeat film with a feeling of despair that is very powerful.  It’s narrated by its hero, who sits by the sea waiting for something, or planning to do something, or just resting; we don’t know, but the majority of the film focuses on how he got there.  Like the hero of 28 Days Later, Vilhelm wakes up to find the world has changed, and as he tries to survive, the picture has something of an I Am Legend feel, though I mean more the book, which I feel is crying out for a variant where the vampires are zombies. Some jarring quick cuts are annoying, but overall, with effective scoring and some grim power come the end, this is the best film in the set so far, and has the grisliest gore too.

 

BITTEN [2008, Duncan Laing, UK, 6 mins]

A woman who has been bitten, arrives home and faces her terrifying transformstion into one of the undead.  As she tries to hold on to her last breaths of humanity, she is confronted by the horrors of what happened to her family…..

Bitten is an even grimmer exercise than Plague, six minutes of unrelenting intensity.  Claire Wilson acts powerfully her character’s gradual tranformation into a flesh-eating member of the living dead, while a gruesome back story is hinted at without being spelt out.  Constant fades to black followed by slight flash forwards are actually welcome, because you wouldn’t want this gruelling thing to be any longer.  A shame the zombie looks like Heath Ledger’s Joker though.

 

ARISE [2010, Jay Reiter, USA, 18 mins]

Thanatos is a comspiracy theorist living in Savannah.  Goergie, his girlfriend, believes that some day the dead will return to life.  While at work one night, his worst fears are realised. Now he must battle his way through work to get to his girlfried and her daughter on time before they become ghouls themselves…..

Arise, which was created at the same time as a comic with the same title, gets off to a disappointingly poor start with some dreadful acting [yes I know these are not professional actors, but still…] and rather laboured references to “Romero shit”, but nicely takes its time to build to the action along with briefly allowing us to see things from the viewpoint of a zombie, something rarely done.  The ensuring bloody action has a tendency to cut away fustratingly but makes great use of various workshop tools [some especially fine nailgun stuff] and is appropriately accompanied by a death metal soundtrack which may not be my cup of tea as far as music goes but makes good backing for this kind of movie.  Rather muffled sound weakens this one a little.

 

NOT EVEN DEATH [2009, Monica Winter Vigil, USA, 5 mins]

Living among zombies has become commonplace.  With the threat of infection ever-lurking, humans are required to gun down the dead…even if it means killing a loved one.  A few years ago David’s wife Jackie became infected.  Unable to bear her annihilation, he keeps her chained in the basement out of sight of their young daughter and keeps her satisfied with tasty morsels of blood and brains from the local butcher.  A possible cure is nearing completion in Germany.  Will it come in time…..

This is basically one scene, and it’s pretty heart-wrenching.  It shows a deep love that may be a bit misguided but is genuine and believable.  The acting of Joseph Will, especially when David tries to jog his wife’s memory, is quite impressive and his co-star Trave Tegtmeier transmits some pathos even while buried under zombie make-up.  The writer Phil Clarke Jnr set out to make something that those not interested in zombies may enjoy and succeeded in this, though it probably goes without saying that it ends very nastily and sadly indeed.

 

FEAR OF THE LIVING DEAD [2009, Randy Smith, USA, 16 mins]

Have you ever had one of those terrible dreams where you are all alone and everyone that you have ever loved is dead? What if you cannot wake up, because it isn’t a dream at all but reality?…..

Though not the most original of films, this might be one of the most sheerly enjoyable productions in Ultimate Zombie Feast. It’s basically a [very attractive] young woman encountering and killing various zombies, meeting a man who seems to be the only human survivor, and then they go on to encounter and kill more zombies.  Simple but exciting, this has some of the most convincing gore of the films on one disc and finishes with a brilliantly cynical, 70’s-Romero-style, twist, while April Campbell has the looks and acting ability to make it big.

 

KIDZ [2010, Bren Lynne, Canada, 9 mins]

When their parents are killed during  a zombie apocalypse, a group of kids have to face their fears and find resourceful ways to stay alive…..

Another really fun film with a great subversive edge.  The sight of three kids [who by the way call themselves Decapitator, Headshot and Princess]  killing loads of  zombie kids at a playground has to be seen to be believed.  The production values seem lower than normal, with minimal zombie make-up and special effects, but it’s obvious everyone had a blast making it, and it’s such a cool idea that I think it has the potential for a feature film.  Film music fans may notice one piece of music used is a variation on the theme from Beetlejuice.

 

THE BOOK OF ZOMBIE [2007, Scott Kragelund, Paul Cranefield, Erik Van Sant, USA, 64 mins]

A small, sleept Utah town gets an undead wake-up call when all of the townspeople of Mormon faith suddenly transform into flesh-eating ghouls.  Now, a group of ‘non-believers’ unaffected by the mysterious epidemic must bad together to survive the night and answer the burning question: how do you kill a Mormon zombie?

The only feature-length production out of all the films that make up Zombie Feast, and it’s certainly a goodie, right from the opening where clever title graphics combine with pulsating Danny Elfman-style music [the latter for the second time in a row!].   The Book Of Zombie is a light-hearted romp which uses Night Of The Living Dead as a template but parodies certain elements, such as all the other ‘humans’ our hero and heroine meet being complete nutcases, while of course all the zombies are Mormons.  The often profane dialogue sparkles and it’s fun to just watch the character talk crap to each other, but gory thrills are certainly not ignored.  The film is exciting when it needs to be and has the most convincing and extensive gore of all the films in the set, sometimes recreating gruesome moments from other films that any horror fan will notice [thumbs in eyes, exploding head], but delivering plenty of original carnage too.  The practical effects are better than some of the CG stuff you get at the moment. Not all the cast act great but they all have chemistry with each other, and, just when you think it’s coming to a rather conventional  close, writers Scott Kragelund and Erik Van San deliver an original final twist with a killer punchline that had me in stitches!

 

 

DISC 2

ZOMBIE HARVEST [2003, Say Johal, Tony Jopia, J0hn Pane, UK, II mins]

In the English countryside, a scientist working at the local US Army base is hunted by two soldiers as he flees the base. Little known to them, the scientist has used himself as a human laboratory coducting tests with tragic consequences.  Told through the eyes of one of the soldiers, the story takes a dramatic turn when the chase enters a farmyard…..

The juanty opening music signifies that this particular zombie opus is going to be very different.  Though it details the origins of another zombie uprising, it’s mostly told from the point of view of a dying soldier. It’s a comical romp, lightning paced and with more than a touch of English craziness, such as a sex scene intercut with a cow mooing.  It’s a little inconsistent with its point of view and it’s short running time seems to cram in more influences than it can manage [Found Footage! Ealing comedy!] though it’s more fun than one of its main leanings, Diary Of The Dead, and has a few moments of inspired madness.

 

THE SKIN OF YOUR TEETH [2009, Dan Gingold, USA, 14 mins]

Four survivors are holed up in a farm, waiting for the end of the zombie apocalypse.  Isolation and creeping terror sets in as they realise they are not alone…..

After two films which see the funny side of a zombie apocalypse, here is a welcome dose of deadly seriousness.  For the first two thirds, The Skin Of Your Teeth is a sombre affair, with seven minutes before any zombies and five minutes before even any dialogue.  Long distance shots mixing the characters with their deceptively pretty surroundings help provide  palpable a atmosphere of still tension.  The naturalistic performances help considerably.  The climactic zombie scenes hold back on the gore a bit and it’s actually a nice change.  Overall a bit lacking in inspiration but very well made and rather convincing.

 

ZOMBLIES  [2009, David M. Reynolds, UK, 47 mins]

When a private militia’s rookie zombie hunters end out a distress call, it’s up to the Rangers to cross the Well and bring them back, as well as uncover the truth about a terrifying new breed of zombie…..

Edge-of-seat, gritty action is the order of the day in Zomblies, which partly due to its very slick look, feels like it is far more expensive than it actually is and would certainly hold its own if expanded by, say, 40 mins, to the length of a feature film and released on DVD.  The opening scene features that sick-making handheld ‘shakycam’  that I abore but afterwards the film only has that only in fits and bursts and overall there is a wide level of creativity with the camera work.  The performances are solid, there are some terrific landscape shots of the locales, and the action never slows and grows in intensity as our protagonists realise they have been deceived by those in command and are on their own. The last 10 mins, replete with the best motorcycle dash in ages, really is thrilling stuff.  Phew!

 

IT CAME FROM THE WEST  [2007, Tor Fruergaard, Denmark, 16 mins]

Virgil lives alone with his bully father and a mute bartender and is mocked by the two tough cowboys Eddie and Hank.  The Dark Butcher has been terrorising the local Indian tribe, and the Indians see no other way but to bring the dead to life by peforming The Forbidden Rituals…..

This is a bizarre Western parody with zombies, and I must say that parodying that genre, especially the films of Sergio Leone, has been pretty much done to death, but then again what Western parody have you seen where someone smashes someone’s face apart with a broken bottle.  O, and I almost forgot to tell you, it’s done with puppets and animation. The grotesque marionettes are like none I had seen before, and actually the second half of the film plays more like one of Peter Jackson’s early films, replete with the grisliest chainsaw mayhem since Braindead.  Fascinating to just look at and filled with clever details- I watched it twice so I could take everything in – and with great characters I’d like to see again.

 

PARIS BY THE NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD  [2009, Gregory Morinhas, France, 12 mins]

A bride and groom find themselves at the centre of an outbreak of the living dead in the French capital…..

My enjoyment of this French effort was restricted a little by the lack of subtitles.  I don’t know if it was a flaw with my review disc, or whether all the discs have this problem.  It’s still very easy to follow, though I couldn’t work out if the couple already know about the zombies before they get married or not [though if it’s the latter, you may ask if it’s normal for French grooms to carry two guns].  Effectively filmed with the colour desaturated and armed with a wicked sense of humour [look out for a variation on the MGM lion at the beginning!], it shows how a low budget doesn’t hinder the staging of OTT action, from the woman slicing up zombies with a samurai sword to the destruction of a certain Paris landmark, and it finishes in a manner which a little sick,  little funny and rather romantic [you’ll see what I mean].

 

SAVAGES  [2011, Tarunabh Dutta, India, 39 mins]

A group of teenagers go on a trek in the jungle to a forbidden area near a former bio-chemical facility.  When one of their members gets infected, the boys resort to desperae measures for survival, but in order to get out of the jungle alive have to stay together, trust their instincts and keep their sanity intact…..

The second longest film on Ultimate Zombie Feast.  India’s first ever zombie film and also one of the first independent films to hail from that country despite its enormous film industry, Savages feels a little seperate from most of the other films on the disc.  It’s much more of a slow-burner and has echoes of films like The Blair Witch Project, replete with opening titles that claim we are seeing a true story, and despite having a music score it has the look and feel of a Found Footage film, even though technically it’s not [don’t worry though, there’s not much Shakycam!].   It feels quite real some of the time, with even the performances rather good, but is weakened by some dreadful day-for-night shooting and some obvious padding, such as a fight scene with over-dramatic music.  Still, I found the low-key aspect of the ensuring mayhem quite pleasing and a nice change from what we’ve been seeing in Ultimate Zombie Feast, and Savages actually gets quite emotional, milking all the intensity from questions such as, is it right to kill a friend before they become a zombie?  Undeniably clumsy in places [see if you can notice some music from Predator!], but rather unique.

 

DEAD HUNGRY  [2009, William Bridges, UK, 10 mins]

Jed is staving, he hasn’t eaten for days.  Lost and alone, he wanders around the forest searching for the one thing that can satisfy his hunger; human brains.  The problem is he can’t catch a thing, he was a loser in life and nothing seems to have changed now he is dead.  But can the pity of a recently dead turn his luck?…..

A rather touching film to finish Ultimate Zombie Feast off, following a particularly useless zombie as he is constantly thwarted in his attempts to eat.  Jed is a sorry figure and you’ll probably feel for him right to the end when a romantic element brought into the story plays out unexpectedly.  The darkly comic ending adds a nasty but welcome touch.  It’s interesting how you are manipulated into liking this monster who eats human brains, and how the lack of dialogue is in no way a hindrance to enjoyment.  A nice twist on the zombie concept.

 

I would personally say that watching both discs at once or even over two sittings might be too much, so two or three shorts a sitting might be the best way to go. Regardless of that, I would unreservedly recommend Ultimate Zombie Feast, which certainly justifies its ’18’ certificate, to horror fans.  The diversity of the films is remarkable and the quality sometimes higher than at least several feature length living dead movies I could mention.  In some ways greater than the sum of its parts, it’s overall a very good package.

Rating: ★★★★★★★★½☆

 



Dr Lenera
About Dr Lenera 1914 Articles
I'm a huge film fan and will watch pretty much any type of film, from Martial Arts to Westerns, from Romances [though I don't really like Romcoms!]] to Historical Epics. Though I most certainly 'have a life', I tend to go to the cinema twice a week! However,ever since I was a kid, sneaking downstairs when my parents had gone to bed to watch old Universal and Hammer horror movies, I've always been especially fascinated by horror, and though I enjoy all types of horror films, those Golden Oldies with people like Boris Karloff and Christopher Lee probably remain my favourites. That's not to say I don't enjoy a bit of blood and gore every now and again though, and am also a huge fan of Italian horror, I just love the style.

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