Directed by Rene Perez
If zombies unleashed from an erupting volcano have bodies filled with lava, burn people with nothing more than their touch, and are so superheated their skin can take on the reddish-black appearance of a burn victim, am I over-thinking things to question how it is that their clothes are barely singed, let alone not completely burned off? Am I putting too much thought into this?
What’s that you say? They’re supernatural beings brought about by a mountain curse? Oh… well that changes everything, I guess.
Looking for a new spin on the tired zombie genre? What if the zombies are actually the shambling spirits of Donner Party cannibals set loose by an erupting volcano? What if these magmatic corpses have glowing eyes (infrequently) and drip orange jello mix/lava from their mouths and splatter from open wounds (sporadically), even appearing reddish and ashen as if they are smoldering on the inside (sometimes)? What if the best way to defeat these flame-retarded (not a typo) zombies is with the freezing spray of a fire extinguisher rather than a bullet to the brain? What if I told you the filmmakers make little use of their zombies’ novel traits and The Burning Dead just ends up being the same old, same old?
Volcanic zombies? There’s so much schlocky potential in that set-up I found myself wishing it had been in the more capable hands of The Asylum; for while it still may not have ended up being a particularly good film, I’m willing to bet they would have done it with more flair (and flare).
The plot makes little sense. The script feels like a first draft. There’s a prevailing sense that the production had no time to shoot second takes so what you see is what you get. Such is the nature of so much low budget b-moviemaking today – except this doesn’t really feel all that modern. The digital effects are so chintzy, the zombie make-up so slapdash, and the direction so lackadaisical that I found myself wondering if this was something someone discovered gathering dust in Fred Olen Ray’s vault from about 1999.
The Burning Dead belabors so much of its short running time, tediously setting up its razor-thin premise and non-entities assortment of characters, only to make matters worse by taking itself far too seriously when the few zombies emerge to do what zombies do.
There’s a family that wants to get their grandpa off the mountain before it erupts. There’s a sheriff who seemingly has nothing better to do amid a mandatory mass evacuation except to focus entirely on getting this one family off the mountain. There’s a teen daughter who has a geeky boyfriend who exists to spout random fanboy talking points in an attempt to be witty. There’s an Asian model with big fake boobs who decides getting some shots of herself topless with a smoking volcano in the background is worth risking her life for. There are scientists that babble, guys in uniforms that prattle, and zombies that shamble. Then there’s me, so very bored.
But let’s get to the part you’re most curious about: Danny Trejo. As in, does he have an actual role, or did he just show up for one night to get paid?
Danny Trejo could currently be considered the hardest working man in show business if not for so many of his top-billed appearances in b-movies being so blink-and-you-missed-him, they’re less a cameo than a photobomb. Here his role is so extraneous it feels positively tacked on in a desperate attempt to add a recognizable name to the marketing while also padding out the meager 82-minute running time. Trejo pops up briefly at the beginning and end in a framing device divorced from any of the action in between, playing a Native American elder sitting around a nighttime campfire with a group of youngsters telling them the legend of the cannibal zombie demons lurking within the volcano. Not to be confused with the scenes in the film where the actual characters relay the same info in a similar fashion or the needlessly long flashback sequence that also visualizes much of this nonsense.
Trej O, Trej O…
Daylight come and me wan’ get paid!