Ordinarily, having Uwe Boll's name attached to a movie, especially a zombie movie, is a sure marker that the film in question is a big puddle of mediocrity and failure. So, when I saw that Italian zombie film Eaters was "presented by Uwe Boll", I was hesitant, and expected something ridiculous and awful. What I got instead was a very well crafted, original and fun movie.
Eaters dispenses as quickly as possible with context setting, using short snatches of news broadcasts to get the viewer up to speed. A global flu-like pandemic has killed most of the people on the earth, striking women more quickly than men, and transforming its victims into shambling zombies. Our heroes, such as they are, are two soldiers: wise cracking, cynical Igor (Alex Lucchesi) and laid back Alen (Guglielmo Favilla). They work out of a decaying compound, capturing live zombie specimens for unstable scientist Gyno (Claudio Marmugi), and trading with various people of questionable sanity for food and supplies. Alen continues in the hopeless work because he wants to find a cure for his wife Alexis (Rosella Elmi), who is sort of a patient zero, partially turned but not quite all zombie yet. They keep her in a cage in the compound so she doesn't hurt anyone. Igor just keeps on because the work is a distraction, and he doesn't have anything better to do.
Gyno sends them off for some more specimens, and the two soldiers take a couple of side trips: trading a severed head to a demented artist for food, and going out of their way to annoy a gang of neo-Nazis, complete with their own diminutive fuhrer. They also cross paths with the Plague Spreader (Steve Sylvester), who claims to have originated the disease for religious purposes, and his daughter Cristina (Elisa Ferretti). All the while we see flashbacks from Alexis' perspective that slowly reveal the true origins of the infection.
Eaters is an effective, straightforward zombie movie. It isn't winkingly self-referential, or a humorous back handed compliment of a film. It's a straight up, decayed face, blood splattering effort, that strives to explore the standard themes normally seen in these films, but with a surprising amount of introspection, sly humor and character development. The central relationship between Igor and Alen is realistic and affecting. The supporting characters are strong and strikingly portrayed. The villains are fun, and at least one is not someone expected at the outset to be on the side of the demons.
The gore and blood effects are top notch, enthusiastic and fun, though there are a few moments when the producers decided to go with CG rather than practical effects, probably for budget reasons, and these moments stick out. Thankfully, CG is used mostly as an augmentation, or only subtly, so these jarring moments are few. It's possible to detect the rough edges here and there that indicate that this is in fact a low budget film, but these folks get a lot of quality for their dollar. The locations, crumbling buildings, abandoned churches, rotting warehouses, lend a sturdy sense of weight and reality to the endeavor that goes a long way. It's not exactly a tremendously scary film, but it is tense and eerie, and there are a couple of good jump scares.
Eaters is something of a throwback to the good old days of Italian zombie movies. While perhaps it's not on the level of Fulci's Zombie or some of its wackier cousins, it holds its own as a film. Lovers of old fashioned zombie fare (and this reviewer definitely is one) will find a lot to like here. Highly recommended.
The video is 2.35:1 widescreen and looks pretty good, especially considering this is a very low budget film. There are some deep shadows, probably intentional for stylistic reasons, but otherwise the image is bright and crisp, and the colors rich.
The audio is available in Dolby 2.0 English, DTS 5.1 Italian and Dolby 5.1 Italian. All three sound quite good, nicely highlighting the driving score. The English dubbing is a bit cheesy, as is normal for these things. English subtitles are included.
There are a few extras included, a Making Of featurette, and a trailer and three teasers. The making of is pretty informative, and the main creative team, director Luca Boni and writer / director Marco Ristori, have a lot of screen time. They complain about the bad rap the film has gotten, even from people who haven't seen it, since Uwe Boll's name is attached. The teasers particularly are interesting, since the first two were made before any filming had been done at all, for fundraising purposes. This is all pretty cool stuff.
Eaters is a zombie movie like the Italians used to make, and one can hope that it will spark something of a return to form. There's plenty of action, suspense, humor and gore to be had. This is definitely one to seek out, regardless of Uwe Boll's name being on the cover.