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George: A Zombie Intervention
When a filmmaker chooses to work in a genre that many others have taken on before him, the hope is that he has something novel to say. Zombies may have been done to death but director J.T. Seaton approaches them with a slightly different comedic spin. Although the execution is flawed, Seaton does give us a fairly clever setup before delivering multiple gory punch-lines.
George's (Carlos Larkin) friends and family are worried about him. He has grown pale and withdrawn. Most forms of human contact end with him physically attacking someone. Of course, the worst part is that he usually ends up eating that person because, well, George is a zombie. His friends have accepted this and want him to seek help for his condition. Lacking any experience in how to handle such matters, they decide the best thing is to stage an intervention. George's best friend, Ben (Peter Stickles) has a planning meeting at his place where he is joined by George's sister, Francine (Shannon Hodson). Also, adding her concern is George's ex-girlfriend, Sarah (Michelle Tomlinson) who has dragged along her current beau, Steve (Eric Dean) for moral support.
While Ben and the rest of the gang mean well, they are still ill-equipped to approach George on their own. Thankfully Francine finds an interventionist, Barbra (Lynn Lowry) who has the good sense to decorate her flyers with stickers of cute animals ("She's a professional"). After a bit of role-playing they finally face George only to find that he's even more stubborn than they could have imagined. They bicker and argue and finally take a break so that cooler heads can prevail. Next thing you know, George and Steve get into a tussle and Steve accidentally impales himself. When he eventually comes to, he notices that he's quite dead (and Zombified) and is being feasted on by George. From this point on, things get progressively worse as intrepid salesmen, Mormons and strippers get thrown into the mix with George having a nibble on most of them. This sets us up for the gut-munching, blood-soaked finale where, well, lots of guts get munched and quite a bit of the crimson stuff ends up painting the walls.
Before I go any further, I have to stop and give Seaton credit for a crackerjack concept. An intervention for a zombie is so left-field that I was hooked from the start. It just feels like the sort of idea that may have shown up in a sequel to Shaun of the Dead (if we were ever fortunate enough to receive one). Clever impetus aside, the two films couldn't be further removed from each other. Let's just say that George trades in Shaun's brains for a sizable helping of slapstick and schlock. This is not to say that Seaton's film doesn't have a certain charm of its own. It's just a bit harder to appreciate since the nuggets of fun are buried in the folds of this uneven affair.
The film works best when Seaton allows his cast to tackle their situation with a straight face. For my money, the fact that Barbra assumes a red low-cut party dress is appropriate attire for an intervention is a million times funnier than the painful scene where she leads the group through a dry run. By the same token, some of the best moments of the film come courtesy of the salesman who is trying to have a civil conversation with a zombie with a one track mind. These scenes are droll, sharply written and work well without trying too hard. I also have to give kudos to Carlos Larkin for his expressive portrayal of George. While others struggle to find the tone of the scene they're in, Larkin feels perfectly tuned in to his own weird frequency.
Of course, for every shot of measured humor the film also offers up disconnected bits of wide-eyed buffoonery and manic gore. Holding an intervention for the undead is already such a ludicrous situation, that throwing lots of broad humor into the mix only diminishes the cumulative effect. Despite the best efforts of the cast, much of the film's first half seems intent on jabbing us in the ribs rather than slowly building up a cohesive atmosphere. Perhaps this is why the chaotic whiplash of the second half feels forced to me. I appreciate a good bloodbath as much as the next bloke but here the Mormon and stripper smorgasbord feels obligatory rather than anarchic. At least the climax rights earlier wrongs through wonderfully improper use of lawn implements.
Despite my mixed reaction to Seaton's feature length directorial debut, his enthusiasm and raw talent is undeniable. He squeezes every ounce of energy out of the screenplay he co-wrote with Brad Hodson. The results may not be consistent but the effort is admirable.
The film was presented in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio with anamorphic enhancement. I found the image to be fairly clear without any obvious compression artifacts or other defects. The visual presentation was a bit flat but the colors still looked good without any unwelcome buzzing or smearing.
The audio was presented in a 2.0 Stereo mix. I didn't notice any obvious defects in the mix and found that it provided adequate support for all the scenes of squishy, gloopy zombie killing mayhem. Dialogue also came through loud and clear with reasonable separation.
The release is loaded with an extensive slate of extras although their relative entertainment value is questionable. We start things off with an Original Ending / Deleted Scenes (11:35) which really just amounts to an extended cut of the film's climax. A few extra moments are tacked on to a few of the death scenes making their tone a bit more somber but the overall outcome and impact remains the same. A Behind the Scenes (14:00) piece proves to be the most revealing extra here. Comprised of B-Roll footage, the featurette gives us an intimate look at the filming of a few gory zombie deaths. Special kudos to the folks who have the unenvied job description of Blood Detail (aka cleanup crew).
What follows next is the longest and most boring extra to be found here. Lloyd Kaufman Outtakes (27:32) is roughly half an hour of Kaufman slogging through the same scene again and again while making small improvisational changes that largely don't work. He's a good sport but this stops being fun after the first few minutes....and then it is pure torture. Zombie Group Therapy (11:03) is a shade better as we see George and other zombies hashing out their problems with a medical expert. The unrehearsed and unscripted feel of this piece prevents it from ever being laugh-out-loud funny. Instead, it's just a curious piece of the filming process stretched beyond any useful length.
Besides a Photo Gallery and Trailers (for George and others), we also have Sunday on the Set with George (4:00) which is a short film directed by Mike Justice that goes behind the scenes of the filming process and sees the cast and crew goofing off. Also, there are a lot of squirrel shots...no, even more than what you just thought. Finally we have two Audio Commentaries, although only one is truly worth listening to. First up, we have a track with director Seaton and co-writer Hodson. This is an engaging track and a fairly entertaining listen. Seaton and Hodson are both funny and charming guys and they use this opportunity to give us as much background information as possible. We learn how the script was written after the casting was largely completed. We even get some dirt on a sound guy who got fired for being too grabby only to be replaced by someone who was also truly incompetent. By contrast, the second track featuring much of the principal cast is a raucous free for all that doesn't quite come together. If you'd like to listen to a bunch of people all talking at the same time, then knock yourself out.
J.T. Seaton builds his horror-comedy around a clever premise but neglects to maintain a consistent tone in his urge to rush to the gory climax. Fortunately he finds the perfect lead in Carlos Larkin who gives the titular character a magnetic charm. Fans of zombie films and horror-comedies may want to check it out but should temper their expectations. Rent It.