Zombie Apocalypse (2011)
Starring Ving Rhames, Taryn Manning, Lesley-Ann Brandt, Johnny Pacar
Directed by Nick Lyon
The only real knock against Zombie Apocalypse is that it’s a pretty standard entry in a genre that is already well past the over-saturation point and its overuse of shoddy computer effects suck some of the fun out of seeing zombies getting cut down.
Given Zombie Apocalypse was produced by The Asylum, I’m kind of surprised they didn’t release it as a mockbuster of “The Walking Dead” called The Walking Undead or something like that. Although “The Walking Dead” instantly springs to mind, I suspect video games like Left 4 Dead were an even greater influence since that game in particular is about a small band of survivors fighting past waves of zombies on their way to a safe haven with little or nothing by way of storyline or character development. That’s pretty much all there is here.
A virus that turns people into zombies has wiped out 80% of the population. A small group of survivors meet up with another small group of survivors who meet up with yet another small group of survivors, and they all try to survive a walking trek to a dock in Los Angeles where a boat is rumored to transport survivors to a safe haven on Catalina Island.
What little plotting there is follows a pattern of zombie attacks followed by a brief rest period at a safe point where we learn the bare minimum about who these people are. It’s a credit to the performers that they’re able to infuse their underdeveloped characters with any personality to register at all, but I still doubt you’ll find yourself feeling sad when certain individuals perish.
There’s absolutely nothing to Ving Rhames’ character other than being a large black man named Henry wielding a sledgehammer. Come to think about it, that practically describes one of the main characters in the game Dead Island. Taryn Manning’s character is of so little consequence I don’t know why they even bothered getting a name actress for the role.
Much of the fight choreography has the actors mostly standing in place fairly easily fending off the undead with melee weapons, gunfire, and bow & arrows, falling prey when they do primarily because of their insistence on standing in one spot the whole time zombies are encroaching. The zombie killing scenes began to feel a tad repetitive after a while given how similarly the scenarios are staged and how little variation there is in how they fight them off. I think I saw the woman with the samurai sword do the exact same fancy sword-swinging maneuver at least three or four times. It became like her video game combo finisher you would perform by pressing X, X, Y, LT, and A.
The zombies themselves are a bit of a mixed bag. The make-up looks perfectly ghastly on some and unfinished on others. Some of the zombie actors appear comically clueless as to how to walk like a zombie.
My biggest gripe with the film is that most of the fun of watching a zombie flick is to see what kind of zombie carnage the filmmakers can throw at the screen, and a good deal of the crimson that gets splattered is done so via very obvious computer animation that greatly detracts from the moment. You’ll also see pixilated muzzle flashes whenever a gun is fired. Heck, even things on fire look cartoonish. I know today’s low budget filmmakers go this route for time and monetary purposes, and we should probably just get used to it since it is the way of the future, but I am not used to it yet.
Zombie Apocalypse does bring one thing to the table that can be truly deemed original: zombie animals. If there had been more than just a brief appearance by a zombie dog before the climactic battle with the zombie tiger, this one could have truly set itself apart from the current glut of zombie flicks. Yeah, I said zombie tiger. Between the unpolished computer effects and the reality that you’re watching people battling the rotting corpse of a tiger, this finale is truly a spectacle on every level.
Zombie tiger aside, this is still a rather routine zombie flick coming out a time when the genre is rapidly burning itself out. For pete’s sake, a week before Zombie Apocalypse premiered on Syfy, another completely unrelated low budget zombie flick titled Zombie Apocalypse: Redemption was released on DVD.
That said, in terms of zombie movies starring Ving Rhames, this one doesn’t hold a candle to the Dawn of the Dead remake, but I would gladly watch it again before ever being subjected to that wretched remake of Day of the Dead.
2 1/2 out of 5