War of the Dead: Z-E-R-O (Online Series)

War of the Dead: Z-E-R-O (click for larger image)Starring Don Money, Andrew Roth, Sean David, Carson Grant, Dina Cataldi, Lynn Mastio-Rice

Created by Joe Sena

Pilot Episode directed by Michael Disario

Distributed by Fear Werx and Fangoria TV

Now this is a little different. In fact, I think this is the first time that we have covered a digitally distributed episodic show. The times they are a changing my friends, and as a result we have to move right along with them. Still, for us to cover a project like this there would have to be something about it that sets it apart from other online endeavors. When the news broke last week that the folks at Fangoria TV were poised to start distributing the first ever Internet only live action zombie series, how could we not pay attention?!? The debut episode of War of the Dead: Z-E-R-O will begin airing this Friday, March 30th, 2007, so let’s take a look at it to see if it makes the cut.

The story is simple. The world as we know it no longer exists as the dead have risen from their slumber to feast upon the flesh of the living. Personally, I’m cool with that as long as gas prices go down and there’s something else on the news other than non-stop coverage of Anna Nicole Smith’s death. Then again, if this dead world were a reality, she’d be up and chomping (a veritable coupe for Trim-Spa, no doubt) and this madness would never end! I just can’t win, I tell ya! Where was I? Oh yeah! With the world in ruin, the United States has no choice but to implement a special squad of soldiers known as Z-E-R-O, the Zombie Emergency Response Operations task force as a means to eliminate and contain the undead outbreaks. This series tells the stories of those few and proud who have taken up arms to slay this great nation’s dead a second time. I know, it’s almost impossible not to draw comparisons between this and J.R. Bookwalter’s classic, The Dead Next Door (review here), but that is not a bad thing!

War of the Dead: Z-E-R-O (click for larger image)“Episode 0” opens with a few of our soldiers sitting around a table as an agency psychologist (Mastio-Rice) discusses with them the bloody events of the day. You see, this particular entry in the series deals with the zombie problem while it’s still in its infancy. The countries population is for the most part unsure of exactly what is going on, so they do what they can to protect their loved ones. Remember that old adage the road to Hell is paved with good intentions? Well one such road leads our team to suburbia where a family whose children have just turned is shielding their newly undead from the outside world while keeping their bellies full with their local neighbors. Can our troops mentally handle this challenge or will they end up going batshit crazy like Wooley from the original Dawn of the Dead?

At a run time of only about thirteen minutes this pilot episode tries to answer those questions and even raise a few more. With such a short amount of time to work with that’s pretty ambitious. Yet there is one glaring pitfall which holds this episode back from being really good; the grisly events are told in flashback style. This negates any tension from the experience, as we see our protagonists are all alive and well after their mission. It’s like reading the end of a book first. You’re left with no suspense or payoff.

Still, War of the Dead: Z-E-R-O is an interesting idea. One which reeks with not only the putrid bodies of our dearly departed, but also with promise. The acting was very passable, the folks behind the project seem to have no problem tossing around the red stuff, and honestly the whole thing looks and feels quite a bit better than most low-budget indie-zombie fare.

Even though things don’t exactly kick off with the type of bang that I was hoping for, there’s more than enough reason to just tune in and enjoy a bit of the mayhem. Hell, I’ll tune in again just to see if these zombies run or shamble along.

Now if only someone would offer me that TV show …

3 out of 5

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Steve Barton

You're such an inspiration for the ways that I will never, ever choose to be.