As we move into the second half of the first decade of the new millennium, it is becoming clearer and clearer that zombies are the hackneyed fart joke of the horror genre. Where once these brazen flesh eaters instilled fear and futility into the hearts of the living, now they've become the scary film shortcut, a predetermined production value for your below-average homemade auteur. Like plot point putty, the novice macabre moviemaker will insert the undead into almost any scenario, hoping it turns the squalid and the stupid into something sinister. In truth, the exact opposite occurs. The cannibal corpses themselves transform into an idiotic icon, a laughable litmus test to how horrid or half-assed the entire claret category has become. Though he wants to create an epic monster movie, loaded with gruesome deaths and action set pieces, writer/director Chris Watson just can't get his spooky spit together. The result is the ridiculous Zombiegeddon, a film that fails on so many unimaginable levels that it's destined to become an instant cult classic. Like Manos: The Hands of Fate, or Hobgoblins, this breach of cinematic ethos is so ballistic in its bewilderment, so stupefying, in its senselessness that you can't help but swoon under the spell of its lumbering lameness.
Jesus has sex with a local talk show host and tells her that the world will be overrun by flesh-eating zombies within the next 72 hours. As proof, we flashback in time to when little Jeff Jackson saw his dad head off to battle a brood of these baddies, the family tiger in tow. Fifteen years pass and now Jeff is a crooked cop. He and his police pal Cage are violating every code in the law enforcement book of ethics and the bodies are starting to pile up. As they investigate their daily dose of local crimes, we hear Laura, the God diddling DJ, discussing the approaching apocalypse. Seems Satan, angry that God made man in His own image, decided to make zombies in his own evil visage and the two are heading for a big time battle royale for ownership of the universe. At the local community college, a gimpy janitor and a group of students run into the first wave of these killer corpses, and it's not long before Jeff and Cage are taking on these foul flesh-eaters themselves. Seems Jeff is destined to fight the Devil himself for dominion over the planet. He is one of a special race of humans capable of killing these fiends. If he fails, all will be lost and it will be Zombiegeddon for all living things. But he better hurry and save the day. An Internal Affairs investigation, led by the lumbering Det. Bobby Romero is close to uncovering the source of all the recent criminal activity and it's only a matter of time before Jeff and Cage must pay for their anti-social acts.
Zombiegeddon is a jaw dropper. Wait, strike that – it's a jaw UNHINGER! This is without a doubt the most messed up, ridiculous, epic, moronic, mind numbing/boggling/breaking/broasting excuse for a horror film ever to come wafting like a wet fart out of the cornfields of Kansas. With a b to z grade movie cast that would make your average horror hound pop with demented delight, and a storyline laced with religious overtones, rogue maniac cops, and the standard shuffling of flesh eating corpses, it would take a monumental effort to fork up this fright flick. Luckily, Zombiegeddon had such a mutant mutterforker in director Chris Watson. Perhaps best known as the producer of that proto porn slasher sputum Slaughter Party (featuring a feral midget as our killer elite) and featured in Troma titan Lloyd Kaufman's definitive Make Your Own Damn Movie DVD Box Set, Watson has big ideas for his end of the world spectacle. And, on occasion, when the lighting is just right and the appropriate gods are smiling down on him, Zombiegeddon works. After all, you've got to love a movie that basically berates itself with an opening diss from none other than that Teutonic King of crap, Dr. Uwe Boll. That's right, everyone's least favorite genre whore makes a marvelous appearance as himself, ridiculing the Hell out of Watson and his worthless film. Talk about the putz calling the kettle black. We are instantly won over by this directorial dumbass's admonishment. After all, when you've got the guy who made Alone in the Dark and House of the Dead calling you bad, that's quite an accomplishment.
Indeed, Zombiegeddon starts out startling and only gets more outrageous as it goes along. After another cruel critiquing (with Troma legend Trent Haaga on hand for some additional smack down) we are swept up into our first action scene, which involves a little boy, his supposed hero father, and his zombie-fighting tiger. Yes, that's right. A ZOMBIE FIGHTING TIGER. Not some guy in a bad striped suit, or a dog painted in Bengal regalia. No, a couple of real life ferocious felines battle college kids in purple-blue face paint like a supernatural Siegfried and Roy act, and our mandibles begin to loosen and lax. Then our first faux famous person, scream queen Brinke Stevens, makes an appearance…and she's screwing F/X wizard Tom Savini no less…and our make-up man extraordinaire is, believe it or not, playing Jesus Christ. You have to admit, with a one-two punch like that, it's hard to imagine a possible tripe terror trifecta. But Watson delivers, fast-forwarding 15 years and focusing on a pair of perverted police officers who kill innocent bystanders, steal drugs from the evidence locker, and stop unsuspecting teen boys in the city to intimidate them (while masturbating in the process). In fact, Harvey Keitel was never this bad a lieutenant. After Brinke bitches out Ed Wood alum Conrad Brooks for being a boring guest on her talk show, we wait for the other stinking shoe to drop. The movie can't continue on with such an insane narrative strategy. Sadly, it doesn't, but it really doesn't matter. We have such an aromatic cheddar of a time discovering the disappointment that we can't help but feel victorious and vindicated in the end.
Indeed, Zombiegeddon is like a cinematic purgative, a gentle as a chainsaw enema indication that films don't have to be professionally made, expertly directed, flawlessly written and believably acted to be a snootful of fun. Celebrity spotting alone makes this movie a minor masterpiece. What other no budget fright flick can boast a cast that includes Stevens, Savini, Brooks, Troma's Lloyd Kaufman, Robert "Maniac Cop" Z'Dar, Joe "Soultaker" Estevez, Felissa "Sleepaway Camp" Rose (and her omnipresent pleasure pillows), Linnea "Return of the Living Dead" Quigley, Lilith "Bad Movie Police" Stabs, J. R. "Tempe Entertainment" Bookwalter, Edwin "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" Neal and William "Manosaurus" Smith. Add in the vocal work of Ron Jeremy, Julie Strain and Fred Olen Ray and you can start your own genre geek convention with this array of macabre mainstays. Who cares if the storyline jumps around in time like a hyperactive scientist with ADD, and that certain plot elements don't pan out with any kind of rational believability or sense. That's Lloyd Kaufman screaming about "homo-zombies", while Joe Estevez does his best dominated gay demon shtick. Who cares if the action is as lame as Star Jones' weight loss explanations – that's Robert Z'Dar hobbling around like a battle-weary Future War cyborg. Proving that horror nerds are some of the most forgiving fans in any cinematic category, the mere presence of these direct to video icons gives Zombiegeddon a berth of benefice so massively wide that Joe Fleishaker could rest comfortably inside.
But that's not all. There's boobs o' plenty, ranging from an amiable A-minus cup to a Holy Guacamole set of biker babe lungs. There's also gore, with everything from disemboweling to head smashing as part of the grue stew. Watson attempts a few first class fight scenes, but these swing and miss muddles are poorly executed and downright dull. As for the undead, they apparently missed the mythology memo about being slow, lumbering and dense. Our cannibal corpses here are agile, alert, and often more on the ball than the victims they are violating. Some stumble around like Papa George intended, but the vast majority are fired-up, focused fiends who shape-shift at will (see, some of them can look like regular humans before going all grotesque and…ah, forget it). In fact, the zombies may be the lesser element in this movie overloaded with pristine piffle. Between the nonstop killing spree cops, our cynical college kids who prove almost powerless when faced with defending themselves, those frequent visits to Satan's underworld (really just a rock formation backdrop) and Brinke's bored disc jockey rants, we find ourselves smack dab in the middle of a true cinematic rarity – a film that's so atrocious it knows it, and then does everything in its power to be bad, but then by doing so elevates its crappiness to campiness, only to have it all fall apart by the time the credits roll…almost. Zombiegeddon is so gloriously awfully, so amateurishly fabulous that you can't help but fall in instant, adoring desire for everything in it. Its craven cult craziness will keep your genre shorthairs twitching for days to come.
Believe it or not, Zombiegeddon actually looks pretty good. The 1.33:1 full screen image is clear, bright and loaded with excellent color. Sure, Watson whiffs many of his attempts at standard motion picture artistry. Shadows from crewmembers often cross in front of the actors' faces, and lighting can fluctuate between adequate and atrocious. Still, this is a quasi-professional looking production that provides some real aesthetic atmosphere in more than a few select sequences.
Perhaps the worst aspect of this release, from the technical side of things, is the horrible aural presentation. For once, it's not Troma's fault. Watson obviously doesn't understand the notion of ambient noise when it comes to recording dialogue. There are several scenes where wind, air conditioner compressors, random traffic and local urchins undermine the conversation clarity. Some of this may derive from the internal microphone recording techniques being used. But Watson should know better than to stick his actors near a busy intersection and expect clear, crisp audio.
In a very strange strategy, Troma uses Zombiegeddon to pimp parts of its upcoming fast food fright flick Poultrygeist. In one of the DVD's main extras, we see the recording of several songs for the movie (yep, the undead chicken creature feature is a musical). While intriguing, it really has nothing to do with Watson's work. Along with this unusual behind the scenes featurette, we get the typical Troma stuff, including a crafty Lloyd Kaufman introduction, the standard corporate merchandising, and an interview with exploitation pioneer Herschell Gordon Lewis. Looking spry for his advanced age, Lewis laments the old days of moviemaking and offers advice for those interested in a career in cinema.
It is information that Watson and pals should have taken to heart. It is clear from the added content he participates in that Chris Watson is a bitter, bitter man. The three years it took to bring Zombiegeddon to the screen has jaded him well beyond his still youthful facade. All throughout his full length audio commentary he laments the decisions he made while trying to get his vision on film, and spends so much time in a self-deprecating funk that you fear for his sanity. In fact, he grows bored with his own horror movie making horror stories and calls up fellow indie personalities James Bryan, Dennis Hayden, Eamon Hardman and Allen Richards to share his pain. Offering their own input via the telephone speaker, they support Watson's generalized claims about drug addicted actors, abusive pseudo-stars and the general backstabbing that goes on in the film business.
Along with a minimal selection of deleted scenes and outtakes, an odd look at Joe Estevez and William Smith "in the cave" adlibbing away, a collection of incredibly in depth interviews with executive producer Andrew J. Rausch, director Watson, Conrad Brooks, Brinke Stevens, Nick "The Punisher" Phillips and Eric Spudic and a goofy second alternate narrative track featuring three "zombies" (yes, it's as WEIRD as it sounds) we get an excellent lesson in outsider filmmaking…and it's far more terrifying that anything in Zombiegeddon itself.
It's too bad that Watson feels betrayed by what happened with Zombiegeddon. Perhaps he really wanted to make a living dead epic, but could only manage a magnificently minor micro-movie. Maybe the actions of all those notorious schlock film stars really did undermine his personal confidence and worth. It could be that he's just not cut out for the cutthroat world of the motion picture medium. Whatever it is, it doesn't take away from Zombiegeddon's gloriously goofy delights. Easily earning a Highly Recommended rating, this is the kind of film that demands bong hits and brewskis. So what if it makes about as much logical sense as the trickle down theory of economics, and contains about as much fetid frommage as an abandoned Wisconsin dairy farm, this is still amazingly awful stuff. It needs to be celebrated for its horrendousness and hugged for its flopping failures. And who knows, maybe decades from now when the new bad movie rulebooks are being written, Watson will take his place among the names that so often come up when cinematic atrocities are discussed. Of course, if and when that happens, he'll have those subpar scare stalwarts, the zombies, to thank.
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