Also known as Apocalypse Z and produced by none other than Uwe Boll, 2013's Zombie Massacre begins when a working class woman somewhere in an Eastern European factory heads home for the day. When she gets to her rundown apartment she has to tend to her father, an elderly man who appears to be terminally ill. She hears an explosion and heads to her balcony to check it out when she gets covered in a gooey substance that rains down from above. Faster than you can say Romero she turns into a snarling zombie, her eyes blood red and her hunger painfully obvious.
From this admittedly impressive opening, the movie segues to a group of American military types who answer to the President (Uwe Boll, who is actually pretty funny here in small doses), all of whom speak with obvious German accents. They're sifting through folders and looking at pictures of different agents of some sort. Their discussion clues us in to the fact that what happened in Eastern Europe was the result of a top secret American military experiment gone horribly awry. Apparently that women in the opening scene wasn't the only one who turned into a zombie and in order to clean up their mess, they're planning to basically wipe that portion of Europe off the map. Enter super patriot Jack Stone (Christian Boeving), an Iraq War veteran who the big wigs free from his stint in prison in order to coerce him to accept their mission. If he agrees, they'll let him see his kid again, if not, it's back to the clink. So of course, Jack is on board. They team him up with a technical wizard/explosives guy named John ‘Mad Dog' McKellen (Mike Mitchell), a sharpshooter named Dragan Ilic (Daniel Vivian) and a sexy Irish lady named Eden Shizuka (Tara Cardinal) who has some sort of martial arts training that may or may not be kung-fu. She also uses swords. They get dropped off right in the thick of zombie central and have to plant the bomb that will make this problem go away before they're devoured themselves by the hordes of shambling undead.
There's a reasonable amount of gore here and the zombie makup effects are done fairly well. Some decent scenes of splatter and carnage are found in the movie and at ninety minutes it doesn't overstay its welcome. Let's see, what else can we say here that's not too nasty… the movie is reasonably well shot. The Eastern European locations look desolate enough that they seem fitting for a zombie apocalypse scenario to play out on and the cinematography is at least in focus and competent. Aside from that though… this is pretty bottom of the barrel stuff. The characters are ridiculous clichés, from the scenes where we first meet Jack Stone as he's pumping iron in prison to the scenes where Mad Dog goes all MacGuyver on a situation to solve his problems with bomb wizardry. The explosions? Bad CGI, really bad, painfully obvious CGI. They never convince, they don't even try.
Lots of tough talk here, delivered by bad actors who seem to specialize in stilted dialogue and none of whom are convincing as ‘Americans' (you get the impression that this is on purpose and that the movie is fairly self aware in that regard but as it plays everything else fairly straight, this seems out of place). You want a scene where one of the troop gets infected and Jack has to begrudgingly put him out of his misery? You got it, but let's make sure he has a heartfelt moment and expresses his brotherly love for this guy before he pops him in the head just as the zombie plague is starting to take hold of him. What about some traitorous government types who don't want to deliver on their promise to Jack? Yeah, those guys are here too, which of course means he's going to have to do things on his own terms to make it out alive and see his kid again. You can be damn sure he'll do it too, because his name is Jack Stone and he's an ex-soldier who went to jail. That's what guys with names like Jack Stone who are ex-soldiers who went to jail do. They make it on their own terms. This is pretty much an indisputable fact in the realm of action and horror B films. Oh and if you were wondering since most movies like this have a scientist doctor type involved who may have a cure for all this, if there was one of those here? Yep, we get that too. We meet him in his lab where he experiments on rats and speaks scientific gobblygook to the top brass before we witness the true nature of his work.
Yeah, it's gory and we get a bit of topless nudity and a monster towards the end (always a good thing), but it's so completely phoned in and by the numbers that the bloodshed and carnage just cannot save it.
Zombie Massacre arrives on Blu-ray in a 2.35.1 widescreen presentation with AVC encoding in 1080p high definition. The locations look appropriately grey and have that sort of hazy industrial complex look about them, which makes sense, but a lot of times the colors look intentionally unsaturated, a stylistic choice, no doubt. That being said, don't expect colors to pop the way brighter and more playful looking movies can on Blu-ray. Skin tones are good, they look pretty natural, while black levels remain dark and quite strong. There aren't any compression artifacts or edge enhancement issues of note and all in all, the movie looks very good here in high definition, despite a few moments that show some banding and aliasing.
The English language DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio mix on this release is pretty good, really. The lower end is nice and strong and a few of the more action intensive scenes make good use of the surround channels by toying with gunshots and guttural zombie noises. Otherwise, dialogue is well balanced and mixed in nicely ensuring that you won't have any trouble understanding the performers while the score has some nice liveliness to it. Not much to complain about here, really, this aggressive mix suits the movie well and sounds just fine. Subtitles are provided in English SDH and Spanish. An optional Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound mix is also included as are English closed captions.
The main extra on the disc is a forty-one minute long featurette entitled Superfreak: The Making Of Zombie Massacre that is, as you could probably guess, a look at the making of the movie. Much of this supplement's running time is made up of self-congratulatory comments from various parties involved with the film but some of the behind the scenes clips are interesting enough. There's some focus on the makeup and effects work as well as one some of the stunts and locations used that might tickle the funny bone of BTS junkies.
Outside of that? A minutes worth of storyboards, a storyboarded version of a prologue that runs two minutes, a teaser for the feature and a full length trailer for the feature. Menus and chapter stops are also included and aside from the full length trailer, all of the supplements are in standard definition.
Although eOne's presentation is fine, the fact of the matter is that Zombie Massacre really isn't a very good movie. The transfer is nice, the audio is good and the featurette is watchable enough but the movie itself? It's contrived, unoriginal and just not very well made. The action scenes can't save it, the horror isn't horrifying and the storyline riddled with one cliché after the next. Skip 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.