Raiders of the Damned (2007)

Raiders of the Damned review!Starring Richard Grieco, Gary Sirchia, Laura Zoe Quist, Thomas Martwick, J.C. Austin

Directed by Milko Davis

World War III has come and gone and with it civilization as we know it. Nuclear weapons and a synthetic virus called Agent 9-X: a one-two punch that’s unleashed the walking dead. Those infected by the nuclear-mutated bioweapon find their cardiovascular activity ceases within 27-hours of infection, but their brain remains alive and well. The zombies have been locked away in a designated quarantine zone behind a giant perimeter wall that looks about the size of the Hoover Dam.

That’s the set-up for American World Pictures post-apocalyptic zombie action flick Raiders of the Damned, a film that’s clearly trying to evoke the spirit of vintage John Carpenter. Unfortunately, while the filmmakers have their hearts in the right place, the film itself is pretty damn lousy.

The helicopter belonging to that of scientist Dr. Wells has been shot down behind undead enemy lines by bow-hunting, rock-slinging, grim reaper-looking zombies. The few remaining mortals at a nearby military installation desperately need Dr. Wells alive because he’s the leading scientist looking for a cure to the zombie-making virus. They know that Dr. Wells and his comely female assistant have been captured alive by the rubberfaced (literally!) Colonel Crow, a zombified military man who has been working to transform the zombies roaming the quarantine zone into a functioning army with plans to stage a massive offensive just as soon as they find a way past that pesky wall.

A loony military scientist decides the best man for the job of rescuing the doctor and the lovely lass accompanying him is Captain Dewey Crenshaw, a former comrade of Colonel Crow currently imprisoned for war crimes. Crenshaw, in turn, puts together his own small platoon to venture across the other side of the quarantine wall to rescue the scientist and his gal Friday and, while they’re at it, if it wouldn’t be too much trouble, put an end to Colonel Crow and his insidious plans. Those plans include getting through the wall and seeing if mortal women can be inseminated by the walking dead. If I learned nothing else from watching this film it would be that under the proper circumstances zombies can still pop a woody.

Now I’m sure you can already sense a bit of Escape from New York in the basic premise. I know this film was made beforehand, but aspects of Planet Terror come to mind as well. There’s no denying the film’s concept has a spark of imagination behind it and a good helping of cheese on top to boot; nothing like a movie where characters with all manner of high tech gadgetry are still required to ride around on horseback. You can see bits and pieces of the Carpenter-esque action adventure horror flick the filmmakers clearly intended: hero clearly inspired in some part by Snake Plissken, hammy villain, sword-fighting zombies, a gizmo that creates portals that allow people to pass through solid objects, fisticuffs with a twist final showdown between Crenshaw and Crow, etc. All of it is for naught.

For starters, you got a director here who doesn’t know how to direct action or pace a film. I realize the lack of budget is responsible for some of this, but the action scenes stink and the director actually manages to make even scenes designed to advance the plot feel like filler.

Part of that filler feel stems from these characters – living, dead, or otherwise – being total bores. It’s never a good sign when the zombies have more personality than the living. Colonel Crow had all the making of a great villain if he didn’t turn out to be yet another one of those B-movie bad guys who spends far more time talking about his plans than acting on them. The guy playing Captain Crenshaw looks like he should be starring in an off-Broadway musical production of Megaforce.

However, there is a performance worth noting. Richard Grieco, the poor man’s Lorenzo Lamas, chews considerable amounts of scenery with a spastic performance as the eccentric military scientist who recruits Captain Crenshaw for the mission. Grieco looks and acts positively strung out, and given his real-life rep he may have been method acting for all we know. I don’t know but at least it’s fun to watch him acting so loopy. His is still a minor character that all but vanishes from the film after the opening half hour.

Raiders of the Damned struck me as the sort of schlocky low budget junk Cannon or New World Pictures could have pulled off back in the mid-80s with relative ease. This film I just reviewed plays more like the crappy Asylum-produced mockbuster of that film.

1 1/2 out of 5

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Jon Condit