Directed by a lot of people.
Distributed by Monster Pictures
Hoping to fill a hole in the appetite of the most ardent zombie fans out there, Monster Pictures have put together the Ultimate Zombie Feast – a two-disc set packed to the brim with short and near-feature-length films all dedicated to the walking dead. Considering punters will be asked to dedicate nearly five hours(!) of their time to the endeavour, it’s pleasant to note that despite a few unpalatable courses this is one bloody pile well worth taking a bite out of.
The range of styles offered up here is impressive, delivering an eclectic mix of straight-up survival horror bleakness, vicious, gore-strewn splatter-fests, sombre drama, comedy, and even some puppet action to keep things consistently fresh. Of note, too, is the fantastic menu arrangement which provides a standalone splash screen for each film containing a poster image alongside a short summary, and just reeks of quality. Kicking things off is the promising, yet somewhat underwhelming Zombeer – a Dutch short that becomes almost giddy with build-up before delivering next to zero in terms of comedic payoff, opting instead for an extended sequence of zombies crowding streets and eating bystanders in underwhelming fashion. It’s not exactly bad, but the title alone hints at a humorous slant that never fully materializes. Thankfully, Ultimate Zombie Feast kicks up a notch with the second course, Zombies and Cigarettes – an endearing pseudo-love-story set in a Spanish shopping mall under attack by fast-moving living dead that isn’t afraid to dish up the violence alongside the sweet.
Up next is Plague. As bleak as they come, this is a desolate, grim treatise in desperation. Following European gun-runner and illegal immigrant Vilhelm, who makes the move to London just in time to end up smack in the middle of the zombie apocalypse. A little talky, perhaps, but powerful nonetheless, Plague is your first indication that this set isn’t content with only lighter fare. Disappointingly, the next attempt at desperate atmosphere isn’t quite so successful. Bitten, a six-minute British short with a sole cast member (a woman battling with memories of her family’s death as she turns due to a bite) tries much too hard to be arty and instead becomes grating, however thankfully brief it may be.
The disappointments continue with Arise, a hard-rockin’ short (apparently made to coincide with the release of a comic book) that isn’t anywhere near as cool as it thinks it is. Cheap sets, poor blocking, a lead character awkwardly named Thanatos, guns inexplicably lying around a supposed professional workshop and ill-fitting death metal blaring over the soundtrack all contribute to an innately amateur feel to the whole affair. Upping the quality, the brief (at five minutes in length) Not Even Death takes a stab at emotional poignancy and tragedy that just about works, even if anyone with just a slight familiarity with the ruthlessness of the zombie genre will see the ending coming before they’ve even hit “Play”. It’s kept afloat by a sense of honesty and emotive cast, feeling almost like a short scene lifted straight from a faithful Day of the Dead spin-off.
Fear of the Living Dead takes us on a journey alongside a young, axe-wielding female survivor, apparently immune to the zombie infection, as she goes about her daily existence before meeting with another survivor – a young man with a startling secret of his own, revealed in a surprisingly cruel finale. This one delivers a nice amount of carnage throughout, but can’t help running out of steam a couple of minutes before it decides to wind things up. Heading back into the humorous stables is Canadian short Kidz, chronicling the exploits of three videogaming youngsters whose parents meet a sticky end due to the spontaneous appearance of a neighbourhood zombie. Taking to the streets as self-styled heroes Decapitator, Headshot and Princess, the kids rip it up as the zombies do the same to the surrounding adults. At nine minutes, it’s brief and most certainly low-tech, but a heck of a lot of fun regardless.
The feature-length centrepiece of Ultimate Zombie Feast arrives in the form of Scott Kragelune, Paul Cranefield and Erik Van Sant’s The Book of Zombie. When a freak occurrence sees the entire Mormon population of a small Utah town inexplicably turn into flesh-eating zombies, the remaining intact non-believers have to band together to survive. Except there’s one other thing: These Mormon zombies aren’t your usual walking dead, and the only way to kill them is to force them to break their religious code! Stomping along at a chipper pace, The Book of Zombie is a consistently funny and very entertaining low-budget romp. It’s also filled with enough impressive and seriously gloopy practical effects to put most indie zombie flicks to shame.
Comedy continue to keep to the fore with Zombie Harvest offering up a vibe akin to Peter Jackson’s Bad Taste, including quite possibly the only time you’ll get to see a zombie with its head stuck up a cow’s arse. It’s let down somewhat by a voiceover with a horribly affected American accent, but by the time the short has segued from slapstick comedy to gore-strewn apocalyptic horror, the voiceover takes on a much more effectively chilling nature, which leaves this one of the best of multitude of shorts. The pace, and level of interest, wanes with the next entry, The Skin of Your Teeth, which paints a far too clichéd and po-faced portrait of life for a bunch of survivors at a secluded farmhouse to be anything even approaching exciting. The plodding nature of the narrative sees its 14-minute runtime feeling more like 25, and in this case that isn’t a positive.
The second longest of the set, David M. Reynolds’ Zomblies , clocks in at a lightning-paced 47 minutes. The most action-packed flick amongst Ultimate Zombie Feast, Zomblies is a balls-to-the-wall blast of bullets ‘n brains that rarely lets up. Strikingly high production values, kinetic cinematography and razor sharp editing keep this tale of a group of soldiers sent in to investigate a distress call inside a zombie-infesting quarantine zone consistently pleasing. Packing so much action into the runtime means it lacks the kind of character development that made its obvious immediate comparison, Neil Marshall’s Dog Soldiers, so successful, but this lack also bolsters the sense that Zomblies really does feel like a truncated feature film; scenes taken from the latter half of a complete whole. At twice the length with a little more back story and character development, this could have made for quite the contender against most of the straight-to-DVD zombie dreck lining shelves these days.
Heading from live action into the lovable world of animation and puppetry is Tor Fruergaard’s It Came From The West, a delirious 16 minutes of miniature sets, bug-eyed hand puppets, chainsaws and jets and jets of gore. When a Native American curse raises the dead from their graves, it’s up to lily-livered young Virgil to prove his mettle and protect his father’s bar. It’s inventive, hilariously staged, well crafted and just absolutely great from start to finish. Watch out for the grave of Sergio Leone in the opening sequence. The lighthearted carnage continues with Paris by Night of the Living Dead — essentially one long string of action set pieces and effects work which sees a young couple bust out the guns, swords and motorbikes when their wedding is rudely interrupted by a gang of priest-disembowelling undead. This particular short lacks subtitles on the disc, but when the only dialogue is wedding vows that just about everyone knows (hey, you might learn a little French!), it isn’t much of an issue. Non-stop action from start to finish, this one is a great deal of fun, if a little goofy in both tone and the CGI effects used. Some of the gore is mighty impressive whereas other computer enhanced images are just distracting, but when they start blowing up famous French landmarks with rocket launchers, the visual winks at the audience manage to pull it all through. Good stuff.
Touted as one of India’s first independent zombie films, Tarunabh Dutta’s Savages offers little in the way of surprises during the 39-minute runtime, but plenty in the way of heart. When a group of friends head out to a forbidden area for a spot of rambling/camping to celebrate one of their number’s birthday, they get more than they bargained for when it turns out there’s a zombie on the loose. It’s one of the most low-tech of the flicks on show here, and the amateur status of those both in front of and behind the camera is obvious – not least due to the amount of unnecessary padding – but in this case, something about that adds a strange sensation of authenticity. This is a great boon when it comes to scenes involving the so-called friends being forced to abandon or murder their infected chums, and while it is at times quite melodramatic, it’s certainly worth a spin.
Finally, William Bridges’ excellent little short Dead Hungry brings everything to a close with its hilarious tale of what must be the world’s hungriest zombie. Thwarted at every turn in his quest for brains, this shambling loser’s luck might just be up when he crosses paths with a female zombie who takes a liking to him. Dead Hungry is impeccably charming, and very funny indeed, with a wicked little bite at the end that makes it simply irresistible.
In the end, there are a few shorts here that don’t quite make the cut, but like any good zombie horde the remaining ones easily overwhelm them. Considering the sheer amount of content on offer, it’s going to take more than one sitting to get through the entirety of Ultimate Zombie Feast. If you’re a zombie fan and haven’t seen any (or most) of the material included here, then this is a no-brainer – shamble out and pick it up. There are no special features on offer alongside the films here, but in all likelihood you’ll be more than satiated by the time you’ve gotten through the main events.
4 out of 5
0 out of 5