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Zombie Nation

Lionsgate Home Entertainment // R // December 19, 2006
List Price: $26.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Adam Tyner | posted December 29, 2006 | E-mail the Author
So, take a quick look at the thumbnail of Zombie Nation's cover art in the sidebar. Rotting flesh. Misshapen teeth. White irises. Yup, that's a zombie. Zombie Nation's a dumb title, but at least that guarantees a bunch of the walking, ravenous undead munching on the warm, inviting flesh of the living, right? The tagline reads "terror in numbers", but apparently "numbers" is "five". Five zombies. Five zombies who don't show up until the last twenty-something minutes of the movie and attack a grand total of three people. Oh, and here's what passes for zombie make-up in the movie:
The undead in Zombie Nation aren't too broken up about the whole living-dead thing, but why should they be? They shamble a bit, sure, but they can walk, talk, drive cars, find gainful employment, and lead an otherwise completely normal life. See?
Aaaah! A zombie!

The fact that I
Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that the zombettes go undercover.
thought to seek out an issue of Elle with a TV starlet wearing raccoon make-up is more horrifying than anything in Zombie Nation...or, as the title card reads, "Ulli Lommel's ZOM". If you're curious, the "BIE", "NA", and "TION" follow a few seconds later. See, Zombie Nation isn't a horror movie. It's not that it tries to be scary and fails; it just...doesn't try. There are a few weak stabs at camp, such as the zombettes learning about the eating habits of the undead from a voodoo priestess, but there's not really enough of it to qualify as a comedy either. I don't know what it is or what it's supposed to be 'cause I don't think "Shitty" really qualifies as a genre.

So anyway, to stop bitching about the movie and run through the plot, Zombie Nation opens with the misadventures of Alabama good ol' boy Joe Singer. Singer's played by by G√ľnther Ziegler 'cause nothing spells "Southern" like an umlaut, an Austrian accent, and broken English. Anyway, Little Joe is a cop in L.A. who likes to handcuff women on trumped-up charges, drag them to his warehouse-slash-furniture store home while his partner waits patiently for hours outside, flashback to dumpy, naked men being spanked in his mom's asylum, and shove his victims' lifeless corpses into an undersized duffle bag. There are kinda-sorta-subplots about Singer's army buddies trying to sweep his possible evildoings under the rug and his partner wondering if there's anything strange about the fact that the same women Joey kidnaps for hours at a time never show up again, but...yeah. That's the formula. Kidnapping. Zany flashback. Injection. Duffle bag. Cop-exposition. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

Terrified that she could be next on the killer's hit parade, Romy the Barely Legal Romanian Stripper does what any of her countrywomen would do: turns to a band of Haitian voodoo priestesses to zombify her if she's murdered. When she's murdered, I mean, 'cause she does a quick nude scene, is politely redressed by the deranged killer, is almost set up for some necropheliatasticness, and then gets shoved in the ol' duffle bag. She and the other victims (maybe they went to a witch doctor too) rise from the dead, off a couple of hornballs, and drive back to L.A. where they learn about their fate and do the whole vengeance routine.

Some of the other wackiness scattered around Zombie Nation: the cops are stationed in a half-painted warehouse, complete with chains hanging from the ceiling, water pressure meters or whatever in the background, stage lights used in place of lamps, and a big-ass gong. Joe lives in a furniture store, even though the store has no employees, the door doesn't open more than a quarter of the way, and he's too busy torturing busty women to do all that many sales. The only indication that it's supposed to be a furniture store is a borderline-surreal scene with some chick screaming "fucking open the fucking store, you fucking asshole!" for three minutes straight. One of Joe's fellow cops looks like he should be skanking a guitar in Reel Big Fish. There are two fight scenes for no reason in particular in a warehouse full of empty cardboard boxes. The voodoo ritual has a boa and a tarantula squirming aimlessly towards Romy's hoo-hah because...I dunno, because snakes and spiders are creepy, I guess.

While Joe is eating donuts (you see, cops eat lots of donuts) and gabbing about life back home in Alabama, the movie intercuts these hysterically low-resolution snapshots of churches or whatever, as if Ulli searched Google Images for "Alabama church" and just spliced in the first few results. Joe's furniture store supplements his civil servant salary well enough for him to be able to afford a yacht. When a couple of the gals rise from the dead, they stumble upon a businessman in a business suit conducting business in the middle of damn nowhere even though it's supposed to be his day off. "Buy the Euros. Buy two million Euros. Yen, yes, yen. A million yen. Unload all of the pesos. Yes, all of the pesos." 'Cause when I'm on vacation, I drive my luxury sedan to the middle of a federal park in a three piece suit too. Another zombette rips off a guy's pecker and chomps on it, all to the tune of an Eiffel 65-esque Euro-pop number about eating people. Last House on the Left's David Hess has a pointless cameo as a Catholic priest, doing his best Colonel Klink to keep up with his on-screen son's heavy Austrian accent. Uli Lommel casts himself as a psychiatrist who chants "is it safe?" over and over again. Y'know, like in that Dustin Hoffman movie! Why? Who cares? When you see the name "Uli Lommel" above the title, it's not a selling point; it's a disclaimer.

Video: Zombie Nation's 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen video is all over the map. Most of it was shot on 35mm film, with the quality ranging anywhere from "pretty good" to "1993 direct-to-video Full Moon sequel". To spice up the look of the movie, I guess, Ulli also borrowed Grandma Lommel's camcorder for a few quick pick-up shots. A good bit of Zombie Nation has a jittery, shimmering, aliased look to it, and some edge enhancement creeps in every once in a while too. Meh.

Audio: The Dolby Digital 5.1 audio is even worse. With the movie being devoid of...y'know, action, atmosphere, and all that stuff, there really isn't much for the mix to do. Still manages to botch it, tho': the harsh, jagged dialogue is an incoherent mumble for several stretches of the movie, and its English-as-a-third-language star's overbearing Austrian accent doesn't help. Some of the looped dialogue is Gamera vs. Barugon-grade at times, and the recording on-set is so inept that it sounds like I can hear the film running through the camera in some shots.

There are Spanish subtitles if you don't speak English but still want to watch a shitty zombie flick, and English subs and closed captions have been tacked on too.

Supplements: Hidden under the 'Set-up' menu is an audio commentary with producer Nola Roeper, editor Xgin, und drehbuchautor und direktor Ulli Lommel.
Marvel at the craftsmanship of Zombie Nation's sets.
It's kinda dull, alternating between complete silence, quasi-narration, pointing out which locations are now ritzy condos, and who's appeared in Lommel's other "Hollywood House of Horrors" flicks, seemingly all of which have the word "killer" somewhere in the title. There really aren't that many comments about production, the tone they were aiming for, the story, the way a no-budget flick like this gets put together, or...hell, anything. Ulli does liken the lighting in one scene to the German Expressionism of Fritz Lang's early work, and he can't remember that it's The Marathon Man he's repeatedly and awkwardly referencing at one point. At least the movie is unintentionally funny; the commentary doesn't even have that going for it, aside from a handful of comments like "When you work with Ulli as an actor, you bring your A-game".

The only other extras are letterboxed, non-anamorphic trailers for Zombie Nation, The Descent, House of Blood, Dark Harvest 3, A Dead Calling, and The Kumite.

The DVD sports a set of lightly animated 4x3 menus, and the movie's been divided into sixteen chapters. The disc comes packaged in a standard issue keepcase, and there isn't an insert or anything tucked inside.

Conclusion: No. Skip It.
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