Eye For Film >> Movies >> Zombie Transfusion (2006) Film Review
"Are you telling me those people out there are fuckin' zombies?"
This question is posed just a few seconds before the 30-minute mark of Steven C Miller's feature debut, but the viewer is way ahead of the characters – partly because we have been watching zombies attack people right from the opening sequence, and partly because the film, though originally entitled Automaton Transfusion, has been renamed Zombie Transfusion for UK audiences.
In other words, it takes half an hour (of a film that is only 75 minutes in total) for the three main characters to grasp the basics of what is going on all around them. It is not that this is some Shaun Of The Dead-style comedy of insulated obliviousness - Zombie Transfusion is played straight all the way through, with very few laughs and zero irony. Nor is it that the film's first half hour has been devoted to carefully establishing the dramatis personae, as there is virtually no characterisation at all, with high school hero Chris (Garrett Jones), for example, distinguished more by his T-shirt and haircut than by any nuanced psychological gestalt.
Even after Chris and his fellow 'grungy-ass stoners' Scott (William Howard Bowman) – the black one – and Tim (Rowan Bousaid) – the fat one – have recognised that their maddened, flesh-hungry attackers are zombies, they still do not seem to know what zombies are, requiring a helpful bartender (John Youmans) to deliver the old cliché: "Gotta shoot 'em in the head!" Given such ignorance, you might suppose that these boys had never seen a zombie movie (could this be possible in the Noughties?), but, in fact, we know that they have an endless supply of free DVDs through Scott's job at the local video store, and Scott (at least) is a fan of horror. After all, when he gets his hands on a chainsaw, Scott expressly likens himself to the hero of The Evil Dead franchise, declaring: "Ash would be so proud". In fact, Ash would be hanging his head in shame, given that Zombie Transfusion represents a witless degeneration of the undead-slaying heights attained by Sam Raimi's series.
Maybe it is just that Miller's zombies are different from the ones usually seen on film. This is certainly the line pushed by school janitor – and covert soldier - Lee (Larry Miller), who turns up near the end to explain, unnecessarily and banally, the origins of this small-town zombie outbreak. "In the movies," he says, "zombies can't run, zombies can't think... In real life, the army made them lethal – able to think, able to run." Problem is, movie zombies have in fact been able to run since Danny Boyle's 28 Days Later... (2002), or even as far back as Umberto Lenzi's Nightmare City (1980) - while we never see any evidence that the undead in Zombie Transfusion are able to think any better than your average thick-as-shit revenant.
Zombie Transfusion is clearly intended as a calling card. Made for peanuts by Miller, and expanding upon a trailer that he shot while he was still in high school, the film showcases his ambitious way with filming action, gore and deserted cityscapes. It is, however, ineptly scripted, amateurishly edited, poorly acted, ugly looking and determinedly adolescent in its focus. Worst of all, it is entirely without subtext - and a zombie flick without subtext is like a bottle without the wine. There is lots of running about, lots of tooling up, lots of orgiastic blood-letting, but no real point to it all, so that none of these stock scenes ever really engages or 'goes for the brain'.
Recently Dance Of The Dead (2008) has shown the humorous potential of setting a zombie feeding frenzy among high school pupils, while Colin (2008) has demonstrated that a minuscule budget need be no barrier to crafting an intelligent and idiosyncratic apocalypse of the undead. Zombie Transfusion fails on both these counts – but at least, for all its derivativeness and deficit in ideas, it is not quite as execrably bad as Bubba's Chili Parlor (2008).
Still, in his first film, Miller definitely turns out to be one of those people out there fuckin' zombie movies.Reviewed on: 20 Oct 2009