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Zombie Hunter

Well Go USA // Unrated // October 8, 2013
List Price: $29.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Adam Tyner | posted September 23, 2013 | E-mail the Author
Zombie Hunter sort of plays like the Reader's Digest condensed version of Grindhouse. You've got Danny Trejo as a grizzled old shitkicker, he's staring down an army of ravenous gutmunchers, some fake film damage is sprinkled in there, and you're even lookin' at a bad-ass black muscle car with a skull on the front. Zombie Hunter only clocks in at an hour and a half too, so you're in and out in a
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fraction of the time. Efficient! Oh, except then there's that whole thing about Zombie Hunter really not being very good.

You know how in the Will Smith-ified I Am Legend there's that miracle drug that kills cancer and accidentally turns pretty much everyone on the planet into something close enough to zombies? Well, NATAS doesn't cure cancer, but this street drug still suffers from many of the same nasty side effects and oh wait look at the name backwards I get it now!!! Flash forward a year later. We're knee-deep in a zombie apocalypse, and as far as The Hunter (Martin Copping) knows, he might be the last man on Earth...until a bullet crashes through the windshield of his muscle car, anyway. He wakes up in a nearby camp with a handful of other straggling survivors. The last time they tried to set out for sunnier shores, they fled the armies of the undead only to be attacked by cannibals of the living, breathing variety. The herd of zombies is about to shamble into the survivors' latest stomping ground, and they're either gonna have to steel themselves for an impossible battle or take this show on the road again.

This really isn't the review I want to be writing. I mean, try to imagine Grindhouse careening head on into Mad Max in Tromaville, and you kind of get a sense of what Zombie Hunter is aiming for here. The
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only problem is...I don't know, everything. The first act of the flick plods along endlessly with way too much time between zombie attacks, distracted instead by a bunch of cardboard cutouts whose characters can be fully summed up in a word or two a piece (cute virgin, creepy brother, aggressive slut, warrior priest, asshole slob). Oh no, the skanky one calls herself Fast Lane Debbie! Isn't that crazy?! There's waaaaaaay too much narration. If you somehow dragged Laurence Olivier back from beyond this mortal coil or whatever, he couldn't salvage the tin-eared, not-even-a-little-bit-quotable dialogue, let alone a cast this unskilled. The performances pretty much across the board are stilted, and for some reason, they tend to deliver their dialogue vvvvveeeeerrrrrrryyyyy ssssslllllooooowwwwwlllllyyyy. Martin Copping scores the title role despite being perhaps the worst actor in the bunch, growling his dialogue like some kid doing a Christian Bale-as-Batman impression on Disney XD. Characters occasionally speak in the third person for reasons I, and there are multiple "I'm gettin' too old for this shit"-s and "what are you, retarded?"-s.

But hey, maybe you're reading all this and shaking your head that I'm missing the point. "C'mon," hypothetical-you is saying right now. "It's an gutmunching '80s throwback! I'm not in it for story or gripping characterization." Fair enough, but Zombie Hunter is a swing and a miss in just about every other end of things too. The look of the zombies is all over the place. Some of them genuinely look incredible; others look like they have paper mache caked across their faces like something outta Nightmare City. Again, sometimes the movie goes way too long between attacks, and there's not much of anything else to propel Zombie Hunter along in the meantime. If you're trying to tick off all the usual exploitation checkboxes, there's plenty of cleavage, a wait-what stripper sequence, and multiple
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sex scenes but no actual nudity. Not that the lack of nipples is a bad thing, but I'm just trying to cover all my bases here. There's a ton of gore -- some practical, some digital -- including high-speed roadkill, a zombie accidentally blowing off his own head with a shotgun, a cannibalistic clown conducting a hysterectomy or something with his chainsaw, and not-quite-coital chestbursting. It's splattery and executed skillfully enough, but it's just that none of it's anywhere near as infectiously fun or deliriously over-the-top like you get in the better '70s/'80s throwbacks such as Grindhouse or Hobo with a Shotgun. Zombie Hunter is going more for clamshell VHS schlock than unnerving horror, so don't expect anything in the way of scares or suspense. It's aiming for camp appeal but never hits its mark. There's a bunch of action but none of it's ever staged in a way to send pulses racing. Zombie Hunter is very ambitious visually, but some of it's stale (the Zack Snyder-esque speed-up/slow-down), the infrequent fake speckling/film damage is way too derivative of Grindhouse, and the way it tries to liven up shots near the end by randomly drenching them in magenta kind of just gets distracting. The zombies aren't menacing or especially interesting, and the PS2 Resident Evil cutscene 'hybrids' are kind of a bad idea all around.

I'm guessing that the guys behind Zombie Hunter spent their junior high years mainlining schlock on USA Up All Night the same way I did, and I wouldn't have any trouble picturing Rhonda Shear introducing this sucker alongside Chopper Chicks in Zombietown and Surf Nazis Must Die if it had been made twentysomeodd years earlier. I'm pretty sure we have terrifyingly similar tastes in movies, their passion beams through every frame of the flick, and there's an effort and ambition here that outclasses more garden variety low-budget zombie epics. It's just nowhere near as clever, demented, or gloriously insane as it oughtta be. Still, this is director/co-writer Kevin King's first time to bat as a feature filmmaker, and with this experience under his belt and cult cinema fandom propelling him along, I'm hoping his sophomore outing will score a lot more stars in the sidebar over there. This, though...? Skip It.

The stylized visuals throughout Zombie Hunter translate really well to Blu-ray. The digital photography sure is crisp, clean, and clear. I couldn't spot any sputters or stutters in the AVC encode, and there's no clunky noise reduction or anything like that. Zombie Hunter generally goes for a sort of desaturated look but occasionally gets spastic with its use of color. I mean, most of the blood splattered throughout the flick is pink or purple, the opening is drenched in teals and magentas, and flashbacks and a few other scattered shots are usually tinted one color or another. Contrast is extremely flat, though, and outside of some fades and the opening/closing titles, I don't think there's a single, pure black lurking around anywhere in here. Other than that, there's not a whole lot to complain about.

Oh, and you're lookin' at a single layer Blu-ray disc and an aspect ratio somewhere in the neighborhood of 2.39:1.

Zombie Hunter is packing a kinda meek 16-bit, six-channel DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack. It does a decent job taking advantage of the whole 5.1 thing: the Death's Head car and the rickety old truck swooping from the front mains to the surrounds, a CGI beastie's gutteral growl filling the rears, and a bunch of gunplay once the climax rolls around. Bass response is really timid, though, with even
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an eight hojillion megaton explosion in the last couple minutes failing to coax much more than a belch from the subwoofer. I really like some of the sound effects, especially that clean sssssrrrrrrnnnnnk! of a machete being unsheathed, and every element in the mix is clean and clear enough. Zombie Hunter just doesn't have that big, thunderous snarl I kind of expect out of my horror flicks. It's not too different than watching a SyFy Original through the built-in speakers on my TV. Totally listenable but the sonic equivalent of unflavored yogurt.

The only other audio option is a Dolby Digital stereo track (192kbps). Sorry, kids; no subs, no dubs.

  • Trailer (3 min.; HD): There's a two and a half minute trailer in high-def, and...oh! Nothing else.

You do get a shiny, embossed slipcover out of the deal, though. All the other bells and whistles are only available to the folks who contributed to their Kickstarter campaign.

The Final Word
Zombie Hunter tries to play like a mashup of Grindhouse, Mad Max, and any random action flick that Cannon hammered out back in 1983, which, yeah, I know, sounds kind of like the greatest thing ever. Pretty much nothing about it works, though. The overstylized visuals kind of just get in the way, the pace is way too erratic, the dialogue tries and fails to be really quotable, the gutmunching is never dementedly fun or much of an adrenaline rush...ugh. Zombie Hunter is desperately trying to cement itself as an instant cult classic, but it takes all the wrong cues from the movies it's shamelessly nicking stuff from. Even with Zombie Hunter's really lean sticker price -- twelve bucks and change on Amazon, as I write this -- I gotta say Skip It.
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