Originally made by The Asylum for the SyFy Channel, 2012: Zombie Apocalypse follows the same story as pretty much every other cheap zombie movie ever made. See, zombies have taken over and they're eating people - lots of them. A slight twist here is that the zombies are getting more intelligent over time and whatever virus it is that spawned them is spreading faster because of this. Enter out requisite group of rag-tag survivors, lead by a tough guy named Henry (Ving Rhames - no, seriously!) who is going to lead Ramona (Taryn Manning), Cassie (Lesley-Ann Brandt), and Billy (Eddie Steeples) to Catalina Island where evidently they'll find some reprieve. As the island is far enough away from the mainland, the virus hasn't spread there yet and so it offers a safe retreat from all of the chaos.
And that, dear readers, is really about it as far as the storyline goes. The script tries, and occasionally succeeds, in throwing in a couple of interesting twists and turns but this follows that very basic premise from start to finish. Of course, not everyone in the group is going to make it to the island alive - some are certainly going to be eaten by hordes of the undead, and so if you wind up caring about any of the characters, you'll derive some suspense from that aspect of the film (and yes, this was shot on film, not digital video). Surprisingly enough, as cliché ridden as the script is, you actually do wind up caring enough about the leads to want to know what happens. Maybe they're not the most fleshed out people to ever hit the screen but each of the leads infuses their character with a bit of personality.
Rhames does most of the heavy lifting here, physically and metaphorically, and after appearing in both the Dawn Of The Dead Remake and the Day Of The Dead remake, that won't surprise zombie movie aficionados. His Henry gets more action than the rest of the characters but Rhames makes the most of it and carries himself that way he is known to carry himself, with a bit of poise and a lot of attitude. He acts tough, he looks tough - let's face it, he's probably pretty tough in real life. So yeah, Rhames is kind of cool here and Manning and Brandt are hot, so there's that. But what about the gore effects? That's a different story all together. See, they appear to have been pretty much all done digitally and not only that but done quickly and cheaply too. So they don't look very good. In fact, they look pretty bad. Say what you will about the older zombies films but a scene with a ghoul pulling butcher shop leftovers out of a chest cavity pretty much always looks more convincing than a ghoul pulling digital guts that don't physically exist out of a chest cavity. This movie has none of the former and lots of the later, so organic effects fans will be disappointed in that aspect right away, while those not obliged to hate digital effects based solely on principal probably won't be all that impressed either, as they just do not look good. On top of that, the film recycles some of those digital effects - keep your eyes open and you'll see the same zombies getting shot multiple times throughout the movie.
So ultimately what we wind up with here is a very cliché ridden movie with moderately well defined characters and bad effects work - is there a saving grace? Yes, in fact, there is and it comes in the form of a zombie tiger. Despite the fact that the effects here don't look so great either, well, there's enough creativity here in this one aspect of it and enough of a 'wow did they really just bring in a zombie tiger?' factory going on that it adds some fun and some originality to the picture.
2012: Zombie Apocalypse arrives on Blu-ray in a 1080p MPEG-2 encoded 1.78.1 widescreen transfer that looks okay, but which won't floor you. This was a made for TV movie and this transfer looks like a decent HDTV broadcast, so while it offers more detail and better color than DVD could, it's not really the epitome of reference quality high definition content. This was obviously made with a low budget so don't expect this to look amazing, but it's not a bad picture for the most part. Some aliasing is present but there's not much in the way of compression artifacts or heavy edge enhancement of note. Not an amazing transfer, but a perfectly acceptable one.
The only audio option for the movie is an English language Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound mix and while it sounds decent, a lossless track would have been more than welcome. There is some decent surround activity present throughout the film at any given time and some solid directional effects are noticeable. Levels are properly balanced, dialogue is clean and clear and there are no problems with hiss or distortion to complain about. Again, this isn't going to floor you, but the movie sounds fine.
The extras on this disc aren't really anything to get too excited about. There is a short making of featurette that provides a look at what it was like on set and which provides some moderately interesting behind the scenes footage, but it's not particularly substantial. Aside from that? There's a quick gag reel and a few previews for other releases available on home video from The Asylum, some animated menus and chapter stops.
2012: Zombie Apocalypse isn't going to win any awards for originality, but it might entertain you enough if you're looking for some cheap, goofy fun. Ving Rhames sort of carries the film and it does feature a zombie tiger in it. Additionally, Lesley-Ann Brandt is plenty easy on the eyes - this could have been a lot worse. Faint praise? Yes, but moderately entertaining B-grade schlock regardless. Zombie fans should rent it.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.