Halloween is technically over, but… one more!
You may think this is another of those movies that trojan horse you into watching them because they have Danny Trejo on the cover…. but not quite. And yes, “Trejobaiting” was (and i guess still is) a thing.
If anything, i’m angry because he’s in it for the first half-hour, then they sloppily kill him off at 35 minutes (and use him in zombie form for 5 more), after letting you believe he might be in the third act. Still, it’s definitely better than stuff like Zombie Hunter, where he there’s for 5, 10 minutes tops, despite being prominent on all promotional material.
Even more surprising, the movie itself isn’t complete shit…. even if it isn’t very good.
Not that you expect much from something called “Rise Of The Zombies”, you don’t, and poppin up in streaming services along some of the “(number)-Headed Shark Attack” movie..doesn’t help. But it saves some extra bucks.
The plot is as generic as they come, with a zombie outbreak…that happened, and the standard pack of survivors hiding on Alcatraz, now forced by necessity forced to get off the island, with a marine biologist that wants to track down a professor that was working on a cure, and Danny Trejo (playing “Capitan Caspian”, but we’re not gonna call him that) hellbent on reaching Petaluma, where a safe haven should be waiting for any eventual survivor. While the two groups proceed in their separate way, a brave doctor has offered to rest in Alcatraz, to wait for eventual rescue parties and maybe to find a way to cure his infected daughter.
I’ll be honest, for a SyFy original produced by The Asylum, it could have been way worse on the technical side, they actually pulled off something quite presentable, the rare digital effects are crap (and almost immediately make you think of Sharkenado), but the practical fx and gore is kinda decent, the zombie make up surprisingly convincing, and it doesn’t shy away from showing some nasty details.
One thing that hurts the movie is the manifest intent to be The Walking Dead, it’s fairly obvious even if you did watch just an episode of it, because Rise Of The Zombies tries to pull off the same direction. Even discarding comparisons to The Walking Dead… you can’t, because of the way it’s directed and presented, like an episode of a tv series, but since said series doesn’t exist, it starts almost like we’re supposed to already know these people, and then the script crowbars exposition dialogues to give you some context and – in theory – reasons to care.
It’s hard to care about characters that aren’t really charming or empathic at first impact, to really care about what happens to “asian adolescent boy” or “granny”, and even when they aren’t offed by a clichè when the script feels the need to (like they do for Trejo 35 minutes in), some of the exposition is for naught, since there isn’t time to really make you know them all, And when you do get to know some of these characters better, they aren’t that interesting… or the writer completely destroys any reason to care for said character, like for the “lady of the exploding bus” (see the following paragraph).
Shame, since this has some recognizable faces, like Mariel Hemingway (Manhattan, Superman IV), LeVar Burton (Roots, Star Trek: Generations) and Ethan Suplee (American History X, Blow, The Wolf Of Wall Street), who do their best with the mediocre material given to them.
And for what it worth, there is some effort put into Rise Of The Zombies, it tries to work, but then it fumbles in a kinda disastrous fashion. For example, they try to make you care about characters, and even have the balls to depict a c-section, have the baby turn in a zombie, and actually having a character smashing it to the curb. It’s just shock value, but most zombie stories usually avoid touching upon this matter, and it serves also as character development for the “scaredy cat” of the group, they built up to her and the hope of maybe raising a child with her boyfriend… until she, out of the blue, decides to off herself in one of the most sporadic and stupid scenes i’ve seen in a while.
It’s worth spoiling even more because it’s clearly intended to be a poignant death scene, but it’s goofy as hell and badly edited, with her setting in a bus, and 2 seconds later she has somehow removed the brakes on the bus (without moving at all, of course), which speeds down the road into another bus, explodes on impact, then the second bus explodes and opens in half like a chocolate bar. All with digital effects that make you think a shark is gonna fly out of the bus, somehow.
It’s already unintentionally funny as it is, completely out of place and tone deaf, but it’s worth saying this happens AFTER her boyfriend decided to keep the baby despite not being his, so it comes out as a cruel, egoistical, and completely gratuitous “fuck you” to his redneck-ish boyfriend. And yes, you’re supposed to take this scene seriously. XD But then again, there’s also a scene where some characters manage to escape the zombies by entering a car, a character throws a grenade near the car, and it must be one of those special explosive, since it doesn’t make a scratch on the car, but somehow kills all the zombies near it, and even “asian boy-man”, he was in the car but falls down dead with a half-melted off face. Somehow. Whatever.
Going back to the “he means well, but..” argument, the movie tries to give an explanation to the zombies, it’s not a virus but more like micro-organisms that take over organic matter and control it, the doctor even discovers that they are weak to electricity, and that they form a hivemind of sorts, since a shocked zombie makes the others undead in the vicinities affected by the electrical blast… but it doesn’t go anywhere, there’s no pay-off to this. Like the hypotesis of this “zombie plague” being created by chemicals accidentally released in the water supplies, made and forgotten.
Like the sub-plot about the doctor that tried a serum (meant to be a “inhibitor”) on a chimpanzee, but then again, the script doesn’t seem to know what a vaccine is, you don’t inject yourself with vaccine if you’re already infected. That’s an antidote, you might wanna take notes and maybe avoid these imbelic, inexcusable errors in your movies about pandemic and/or zombies, as they keep happening, somehow, even thought i’m pretty sure the screenwriter knew the difference. But then again, it doesn’t really matter for this type of movie, and in the same scene the doctor says he abandoned the vaccine… then 30 seconds later he doesn’t know if the vaccine will be strong enough.
As a side note, i watched this on Amazon Prime Video, and the version for my region (Italy) is kinda shit. Video quality is fine, but it’s available only dubbed, and the dub is quite badly produced, to be brutally honest. Voice acting is decent, but the audio balance is off, so it seems like there’s still the original voice track with overlapped dub (as is often the case for reality shows like Hardcore Pawn), somehow, and there’s a buzzing sound running through it that’s a bit grating.
Rise Of The Zombies comes by the fairly prolific – if largely unknown – genre tv movie director Nick Lyon (Isle Of The Dead, They Found Hell, The Bermuda Triangle – North Sea, Bermuda Tentacles), who manages to cook up an half-competent survival zombie flick, better put together than you would expect, perfectly watchable if generic as hell (and with obvious desire to ape The Walking Dead), but one that flumbes in even reaching the mediocrity mark, with some cool and even kinda ballsy moment completely outset by some very stupid, random and tonally deaf moments, a script that doesn’t seem to know what’s a vaccine, some potentially interesting sub-plots going nowhere, and a flaccid ending that’s the antithesis of cinematic, very casual and more fitting to a tv series. Not that there’s ever gonna be another “episode” of Rise Of Zombies.
There are worst ways to spend 90 minutes, but this one is only for zombie buffs.
4.5 out of 10