Reviewed by Uncle Creepy
Starring Grace Lee, John Solomon, Austin Bass, Suzy Nakamura, Jane Edith Wilson, Al Vicente
Directed by Grace Lee
Distributed by Cinema Libre Studios
Just when you think you’ve seen every conceivable type of zombie movie that there is, one will sneak in and turn the genre on its ear. American Zombie is just such a film. Though there’s barely any gore and the dead only look, well, slightly dead, there’s enough mayhem and dark humor sprinkled about to satisfy any fan of the subgenre!
John (Solomon) decides that he wants to film a documentary with renowned documentarian Grace Lee (played by Lee) about the real life problem of zombies who have integrated into society in three forms: low-functioning zombies, high-functioning zombies, and of course, feral zombies. American Zombie even goes so far as to give a scientific reason for the dead’s re-animation which comes in the form of an orally transmitted virus that originates in the brain called R428. In order to get to the bottom of zombie life, Grace, John, and their crew befriend and follow around several high-functioning zombies. Zombies apparently have a bit of an identity crisis. Not to mention they have to put up with various forms of discrimination. Apparently it ain’t easy being a member of the walking dead. As a result they have various support groups and, more importantly, a yearly event at which they can gather and blow off steam called Live Dead.
While all this is funny enough, about halfway through the dark humor turns to even darker horror, and that’s what makes this film work. But (there’s always a but) American Zombie also suffers quite a few pitfalls along the way. There are parts of the flick that feel way drawn out and strangely heavy-handed. True, most real documentaries can get a tad pretentious and maybe that was needed here to drive this project home, but there are a few instances when things become way too uneven tonally to enjoy what’s going on. Thankfully these pacing gaps are brief, but they’re also numerous. If this flick was about ten minutes shorter, it would have been a real winner.
But (yep, another but) then there’s also the ending. I swear it almost dropped a half a point just because of it. It’s as if Lee and company just ducked out of production while they could, leaving us with a very flaccid exclamation point on an otherwise ambitious experience. Remember the good things, Creepy, remember the good! Moving on.
The special features are also a bit on the lacking side. We get two commentaries, and the first with Lee and writer Rebecca Sonnnenshine is a decent little listen, but it’s the second that features Lee and the majority of the cast that’s the winner here. It’s mucho entertaining and easily carries you through the duller moments of the movie without a second thought. Other than that we get a pretty standard and short behind-the-scenes featurette that clocks in at eight minutes and the trailer.
American Zombie will keep you laughing and also send the shivers. It’s one of the most unique living dead experiences you’re likely to have for some time to come. Though it may be a bit of a struggle every now and then, if you stick with it, you’re bound to end up feeling satisfied that you did. That is until the ending. UGH!
3 1/2 out of 5
2 1/2 out of 5
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