Eaters: Rise of the Dead (UK DVD)
Starring Alex Lucchesi, Guglielmo Favilla, Claudio Marmugi, Rosella Elmi
Directed by Luca Boni and Marco Ristori
Distributed by Chelsea Films
Mankind once again finds itself facing extinction via the influence of a hungry corpse-reanimating virus in Eaters: Rise of the Dead. A low budget Italian entry, Eaters introduces us to what would appear to be one of the final remaining outposts in a post-apocalyptic world ruled by roaming flesh-eaters. Spending their time drinking beer and lamenting the future of the human race due to the lack of women (who were not only the first to become infected by the virus but also rendered completely infertile) are protagonists Alen (Favilla) and Igor (Lucchesi). These two are partners in zombie hunting, kept under the employ of scientist Gyno (Marmugi), who regularly sends them on patrol to round up live (or undead, more accurately) specimens for his research into an antidote. Setting off on their latest expedition, the pair cross paths with an insane religious artist, a neo-Nazi gang with an axe to grind and a man purporting to be the self-titled “Plague Spreader” responsible for the apocalypse and his apparently healthy daughter; and they ultimately learn that the machinations of Gyno aren’t exactly in the best interests of the still-living.
If there’s anything that filmmakers Boni and Ristori certainly can’t be accused of, it’s lacking ambition. On a miniscule budget the pair chuck in a cavalcade of characters, crowd scenes, multiple action sequences and a hell of a lot of special effects. Visually, their own little apocalypse is well realised with crisp lensing and impressive, digitally enhanced landscapes. A muted and drained colour palette lends a stark and hopeless aura to the proceedings alongside the desolate sets, which appear to be mainly abandoned warehouses and facilities.
While it certainly looks good, Eaters does end up falling foul of its own story ambitions with so many seemingly random events thrown in that it struggles to maintain a solid narrative thread to pull it through each vignette. Due to this, it regularly feels disjointed and the pacing schizophrenic with the flick appearing to run out of steam multiple times before picking up again. Occasional editing misfires also serve to add to the clunky and meandering nature of some scenes.
Still, the endearing performances of the two main players manage to keep the viewer captive enough as their personalities are played off of one another in perfect balance and the mix of individuals that they encounter – especially the crazed artist and a rather disturbing looking midget Führer wannabe – is just quirky enough to work. Similarly, many zombie fans will likely remain attentive to the huge number of practical gore effects and gruesome zombie makeup. Dismembered corpses, burned bodies, disembowelment, nasty bites, heads split in half, squirting arterial spray and much, much more is the order of the day here with some seriously impressive prosthetic work. Digital effects are mainly saved for less intrusive landscaping, visual tweaking and some blood spray, but the less said about the CG muzzle flashes and explosions, the better.
Obviously inspired by George A. Romero’s indomitable classic Day of the Dead, Eaters manages to generate that same desolate, apocalyptic tone on its own terms but fails to muster the narrative strength that made Romero’s effort so striking. These failings at story level leave Eaters an ambitious and above average zombie romp, yet only particularly recommendable for resolute fans of this particular subgenre.
First up on the extras side of Chelsea Films’ release comes Supershock: The Making of Eaters, a roughly 35-minute documentary featuring input from the directors, special effects artists and principal cast accompanied by loads of on-set footage. There’s a large amount of insight here for aspiring indie/low budget filmmakers to take in as our directing duo pull no punches when it comes to the challenges of such an undertaking. Similarly, the lead cast members are frank, down to earth and very likable people. You can also find the directors’ opinions on the constant fan vitriol leveled at a certain Dr. Uwe Boll considering it was his influence, and promise of securing distribution, that resulted in Eaters even being made.
Next up is VFX Breakdown. As the title suggests, this is a montage of various shots from the flick in “before and after” format detailing just how big a role the use of visual effects played in realising the post-apocalyptic landscape. While the difference is striking and impressive, it would have been nicer had this sequence included a commentary with the directors or VFX artists, or simply been included in larger scope within the making-of piece. Finally, a trailer caps off the special features.
3 out of 5
2 1/2 out of 5
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