Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Fast Zombies with Guns! ( 2009)

Director:        Bennie Woodell
Screenplay:    Bennie Woodell
Laura:            Leena Kurishingal
Jake:              Tony Swansey
Will:               Will Cummings III
Carl:               Dennis Doornbos
Paul Varlo:     Charles Ramsey
Dan:               Chad Meyer
Robin:            Sofiya Smirnova

4 kisses and Tony Swansey gets one all to himself
It’s a title and synopsis all in one! Actually, “fast zombies with guns” describes my second scariest nightmare. (The first one involves a phone call telling me I have to take high school over again, but I digress.) I was prepared to not like this one, but I was very pleasantly surprised. It is a delight; well drawn characters, lots of action, believable dialogue, solid acting, a great sense of humor, an effective score, lots of blood, lots of zombies, and lots of guns.

The movie starts and ends with a framing device of a man running through deserted streets, looking scared to death. He meets up with two characters in protective gear who are patrolling the area. He takes shelter with them and starts to tell his story. The action then really begins two days earlier.

We find out that the zombies were created by a toxin. A mob boss orders the toxin to be introduced into the water supply of a house belonging to a man about to rat out the mob and go into witness protection. The witness and his wife are the first victims. When they start attacking others and creating more zombies, the movie really takes off.

By the way, these are really fast zombies. When people try to outrun them, the zombies shoot them down, and then enjoy their feast. But, where do the guns come from? The answer to that is a little shaky. A few of the victims have guns which get into the rotting hands of the zombies. But, where do they get so many guns? Who cares.

We are introduced to a motley crew of survivors who are a little of everything – the tough veteran, the coward, the redneck, the young married couple, the little girl, and so on.

Two of the survivors are a hit man named Jake and his stunning but irritating girlfriend Laura. At first, she seems to be good for eye candy and not much else. Jake also seems to have had it up to here with her. The only explanation of why they are together – the sex must be massively mind-blowing. However, by the end of the movie we see that these two really love each other, and we root for them. Speaking of easy on the eyes though, whoever cast Jake - thank you!

Jake and Laura team up with the others and devise a plan to escape to Chicago. Unable to hold out any longer where they are, the group has to make a break for it, guns a-blazin’. We are then treated to an all-out free-for-all bloody battle. Just before this, Laura has what I would call an “Ellen Ripley moment”: She changes out of her high heels and into a pair of really kick ass boots. It may be a bit of short hand for character development, but it works.

As for the blood and gore -there is plenty; geyser-like arterial spray, chests exploding from shotgun blasts, heads blown off, zombies chowing down on their victims and pulling off chunks of flesh with their teeth. There’s something for everyone.

As I mentioned, there is a lot of humor here. There is a very funny scene of a reporter calmly interviewing a police officer about the chaos, while in the far background we see people running for their lives. Also watch for a pair of zombies pushing a lawn mower while running after a victim.

But Juice, why do they….? How does that guy know that…? But how come they can…? And why do the zombies…? I don’t know, and frankly I don’t care. I enjoyed this movie way too much to argue with it, and was able to suspend most of my disbelief in order to sit back and let it get the job done.

The vet (Will Cummings III) has most of the best lines. He also shows us exactly the attitude to have when faced with a BIG ol’ zombie pointing a BIG ol’ gun at us. I also have to mention the actors who play Jake and Laura ,-Tony Swansey and Leena Kurishingal. They do a great job making us care about a pair of pretty un-likeable people. At the end, our outlaw lovers get on a motorcycle and ride off together into the sunset, and a possible sequel.

One quibble I do have is with the sound. At times it is very muddled making it hard to hear the dialogue, some of which is completely unintelligible. It’s a safe bet that there was neither time nor money enough to go back and re-shoot, or do any ADR. But it’s a pretty minor quibble. A colleague of mine, CK, has also pointed out the poor lighting in some scenes. I agree, it is pretty rough at times. Some of the action during the night scenes may just possibly be taking place at the bottom of a murky pond. It’s hard to tell. However, I am so fond of FZWG I will be uncharacteristically forgiving.

There is not a false moment in this movie. We get invested in each character, even the minor ones. This one is a great example of what can be done by an imaginative writer/director with a talented and hard-working cast and crew, even though the budget is meager. I look forward to more work from director Bennie Woodell and his group.

The dvd comes with some welcome extras. We get a commentary track, previews of other films from this director, as well as a short film called “Scarlet Widow”. This is about a hit-woman and features many of the actors we just saw.

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