I grew tired of "Die You Zombie Bastards!" by the fifth minute. By the tenth, I completely hated the thing. And then I had ninety more to go.
At least the title's fun. "Zombie Bastards" is inspired by a couple decades' worth of Troma movies, most notably the underground studio's run during the 1980s of cheapjack splatter comedies that earned them their reputation. Which makes sense: writer/director Caleb Emerson, co-writer Haig Demarjian, and a handful of cast and crew were all cast members on Troma's "Citizen Toxie: The Toxic Avenger IV," and Troma honcho Lloyd Kaufman drops by for a voice-over cameo. The only thing keeping this from actually being a Troma movie is the little fact that Image, not Troma, is releasing the thing.
But here's the problem: only a very tiny selection of Troma movies (and their imitators) are actually any good. The rest are slapdash comedy wannabes, with buckets of gore and a parade of naked breasts filling the screen while some schmuck cracks too many unfunny jokes. The kind of goofball kitsch Troma's best works achieve is a delicate balance of potty humor, insane horror-comedy, and winking good nature that's often too hard to reach, leaving the rest ranging from honorable failures to unwatchable messes.
"Zombie Bastards" ranks among the latter. Emerson and his merry gang try hard to achieve everything, throwing every conceivable gross-out comic idea at the screen, figuring something's gotta stick. It turns out the screen is pure Teflon, as lowbrow joke after mistimed gag after horridly unfunny hamminess flops to the ground, no matter how much energy the filmmakers inject. The film is little more than a string of comedy ideas that fail to work on their own; pasted together haphazardly as it is, they fail even more, as they create a painful mishmash that seems to stretch on forever.
The film is billed as "the world's first ever serial killer superhero rock n' roll zombie road movie romance," which is a good place to start, plot-wise. Red Toole (Tim Gerstmar) is a redneck serial killer madly in love with cannibal girlfriend Violet (Pippi Zornoza). Alas, Violet is kidnapped by guy-in-a-cheap-Halloween-mask Baron Nefarious (Geoff Mosher), who wants to turn everyone into zombies (or, it seems, people painted green), and, um, he's horny or something. And so Red dons a supersuit - including cape made of human flesh - and travels the globe in search of his beloved.
Along the way, he meets a Rastafarian in a bathtub, a buxom Sweedish bartender, and porn icon Jamie Gillis, seen here in lederhosen. There's also a scene that plays out as a classic Santo adventure (guest starring "Kid Fantastico"), a story about a cheese demon (a cheese demon that attacks nipples, no less), an unintelligible intro from rockabilly lunatic Hasil Adkins, and, of course, several scenes in which three babes run around topless.
Some of you may be thinking, "Ho ho! Cheese demons and nipples, eh? Must be hilarious!" I remind you now that it is so very not hilarious. The whole thing reeks of one writer coming up with a wacky idea ("Ooh! We should do a scene where naked zombie chicks hit Nefarious' oversized penis with mallets! That'd be, like, awesome funny!"), and then nobody really bothers to do anything else about it, yet they still find a way to drag the scene out beyond reason. They top it all off with this dreadful sense of intentional camp, which in the wrong hands can be unbearably dull, and here, it's in the wrong hands.
The cast consists of non-actors (read: women willing to get naked on camera who can also memorize sentences and repeat them mostly in order) and straining cut-ups (read: guys who find it uproarious to overplay every line). Putting the two together results in plenty of pain, as neither type is capable of delivering the slightest bit of actual comedy.
There is, of course, an audience for "Zombie Bastards." You know who you are - after all, you've read the whole review under a bluster of "aw, man, he just doesn't get it." And maybe I don't. After all, Troma-esque flicks like this aren't supposed to be good. They're supposed to be crazy, wild, all over the damn place, overfilled with intentionally bad jokes and obviously fake violence and enough T and/or A to make the whole stupid thing worth it. But even on that level, on that lowered-expectations rung on the dumbass splat-com ladder, "Zombie Bastards" fails in a very big way, because it commits the biggest sin a movie like this can: it's boring. It's a bunch of guys who think they're funny struggling to be so, and for much longer than they should. At best, the zombie bastards won't be dying. They'll merely roll their eyes, check their watches, and yawn.
Video & Audio
Nobody expects quality presentation with a movie of this sort, and "Zombie Bastards" delivers on that promise. Shot on lousy video (and presented in its original 1.33:1 full frame format), the whole thing's just downright ugly, although nobody actually interested will probably care. Same goes for the crappy Dolby stereo soundtrack, with its bad dubbing and sloppy music. No subtitles are provided.
The commentary from Emerson and Demarjian reveals a genuine love from the filmmakers for their project, and while it's not enough to convince anyone to give the movie a second chance, at least they're awfully chatty throughout to please whatever fans this film may collect.
Two incoherent interviews with a shirtless Adkins, apparently taped in between shots on the set (and obviously before his death in 2005), find the musician babbling about "The Old Days" (10:20) and his "Favorite Movies" (2:54). For Hasil fans only.
"Behind the Scenes" collects 40 minutes' worth of on-set home video. It's incomplete (the filmmakers admit to not bothering recording the last five days of filming), although those fascinated with how a no-budget gets made might enjoy the low rent sights on hand.
"ADR Sessions: Fall 2003" (8:08) is just what you think it is: footage of Gerstmar re-recording key lines of dialogue. ADR sessions consist of actors reading the same line over and over and over again, so if you find that not at all mind-numbingly dull, by all means, have a look.
An interview with Emerson (10:01) from something called "Dark New England" (which looks to be a public access show of some sort) mixes pimpage of the movie with honest talk about making a movie on this level.
Finally, we get caught-on-tape concert performances from two New England-based bands: Sawzail does their "Kill Kill," then Demon Seeds jams to "Voodoo Spell." Congrats to gimmicky goth rockers Sawzail for officially proving that if you play a song while your bass guitar is on fire, your song will indeed sound like total crap.
I admire Image for providing enough bonus material to satisfy the sort of fan who'd be interested in a movie like this. But I still have to say Skip It, because no matter how many extras you slap on a terrible movie, you still have a terrible movie.