Wednesday, October 28, 2009

October Horror-thon #28: "Night of the Living Dorks" (2004)

Night of the Living Dorks delivers on its title by starring the most socially-awkward geeks you've ever seen. Philip (Tino Mewes) is the bashful nice guy with a thing for the resident hottie. Konrad (Thomas Schmieder) is the know-it-all who literally keeps every time he's been beaten up on record. Weener (Manuel Cortez) is the pothead who's too stoned to feel insulted. All live perfectly average high school lives, until a voodoo ritual turns out three zeroes into zombies. Upon this realization, the guys use their newfound abilities to get back at campus bullies and win over the student body. But the need to feed soon comes calling, leaving the trio mere hours to reverse their curse before their humanity is lost for good.

The vampire has been romanticized for so long, it's about time another movie monster got its turn. The zombie may not be a likely candidate (what with eating brains and the whole rigor mortis thing), but being undead has its perks. You never need to sleep, you can take a lot of punishment, and you can ingest all the booze you want, all sure-fire ways to wow your friends. Germany's Night of the Living Dorks plays this premise for laughs, sending up sexploitation cinema by way of George Romero. It's a big goof being made at horror's expense, yet it remains more respectful than Twilight and its many unintentional titters. While there's some reliance on reference jokes and riffs on zombie lore, it's never overdone. Similarly, there's not a teen stereotype the script doesn't address, but it's all done in the good name of satire.

But with so much sustained lunacy taking place, viewers might end up feeling like the walking dead themselves. After its off-the-wall introduction, Night of the Living Dorks started buying into all those conventions it was just giving atomic wedgies to five scenes prior. All its good will and offbeat charm vanish under a glut of derivative gags. Sure, it's funny when the guys start shedding appendages at inopportune times, but rehash the bit twenty times over, and you'll beg the film to make with the credits already. Though the three leads perform just fine (with support from Collien Fernandes as a cutie pie Goth girl), the constant potty humor makes it hard to accept their characters with even a fraction of the seriousnessness the story requests.

Night of the Living Dorks will do the trick for an evening with (preferably) inebriated amigos (switch over to the dubbed version for maximum laughter). But its effect stops there, for if you set the film in front of seasoned horror buffs, you'll get more complacent shrugs than guffaws.

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