Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Red Eye Report's 2010 October Horrorthon #27: "Zombie Self-Defense Force"

When the first five minutes of your movie include UFOs, radiation, and George Romero references, you know it can't end well. Sure enough, when aliens crash-land in suburban Japan, the ensuing fallout spawns hungry hordes of the walking dead. Any who die for whatever reason rise again as ghouls, and even the old "shoot 'em in the head" stand-by isn't enough to put these suckers down. As the zombie ranks swell, survivors spanning a group of soldiers on maneuvers and a spoiled pop idol come to gather at a secluded country inn. But the situation only grows more dire as the undead continue to congregate, with the gang's only hope of escape resting with an army grunt who has a secret not even she's aware of.

So there's these guys in a house against a zombie apocalypse -- oh, wait, you've heard this one already? Yeah, and it seems like the rest of the world has, too. No matter how versatile the undead have become over the ages, it's the oldest of hats that we see filmmakers don time and again. The best shot at being entertained is if someone plays the formula for goofs, so in this respect, Zombie Self-Defense Force is a step in the right direction. The film is fully aware of how many thrill-seeking hipsters and horror nuts will seek out anything with a whiff of controversy, so it plays its slim 76 minutes to a sensationalized hilt. Everything this movie can do to draw attention to itself, it does, and you know from the start that not a frame is to be taken seriously. But while there isn't a zombie genre cliche that's not addressed here, the trouble is that the flick does jack-all with what it's got.

Zombie Self-Defense Force subscribes to the Friedberg/Seltzer theory that just mentioning things constitutes good satire. Other than merely bringing up that one guy who's clearly hiding a zombie bite or how the most hateful character gets the goriest death scene, the film does nothing funny or observant with its material. It tries to coast on pure crazy, which helped make Monster X Strikes Back go by more quickly but leaves this one gasping for air. And just like Monster X, it chucks in a political angle that goes nowhere, matters little to what plot there is, and comes off as pretty damn vague to begin with. For what positions itself as a silly gorefest, Zombie Self-Defense Force isn't a whole lot of fun, and the uneven special effects don't help much. You'll get an impressive set piece once in a while (such as when the zombies pull a Rhodes on an unfortunate soldier), but most of the blood splatters and gore geysers look like they were drawn with "Mario Paint."

I hate to beat up on Zombie Self-Defense Force for doing what made the likes of Versus so damn awesome, but it goes to show you how vital execution is, especially with horror. It's not enough that you have zombies shuffling about; if you have passion, creativity, and, God forbid, a budget, chances are that you'll have a cult favorite on your hands. But when Zombie Self-Defense Force takes the easy way out, true bloodhounds can smell the dull disinterest from a mile away.

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