Zombie Undead

Zombie Undead


Reviewed by: Anton Bitel

Cliché is the very lifeblood of genre, providing the pulse that enables us both to recognise, say, a zombie movie for what it is, and to distinguish it from other kinds of cinematic form – but that is not to say that cliché alone is enough to keep a movie shuffling along. There have been literally hundreds of zombie movies of varying quality made in the last decade, but the ones that have made an impression are those which not only embrace their subgenre's clichés, but also give them a little twist.

Just think the post-9/11 viral rage of 28 Days Later... (2002), the ferociously fast rebooting of Dawn Of The Dead (2004), the loving pastiche-cum-satire of Shaun Of The Dead (2004), the alternative-universe Fifties setting of Fido (2006), the in-camera diabolism of [REC] (2007), the semiological mindmelt of Pontypool (2008), the apocalypse-as-funpark themes of Zombieland (2009), or the amoral banlieue location of The Horde (2009).

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All this is by way of contrast with Zombie Undead, a film in which every zombie cliché is present and correct, and yet not only is nothing new done to reinvigorate their innate triteness, but they are also handled so incompetently as to have even less than their usual impact. Not that first-time writer Kris Tearse (who also plays one of the main characters, Jay) is not trying desperately to put a topical spin on his dearth of original ideas, which is presumably why he makes the source of his zombie outbreak a 'dirty bomb' detonated in a city centre – but this idea, with all its potential to resonate with semi-contemporary anxieties, is abandoned as quickly as it was mooted once we find ourselves trapped in a hospital on the city's outskirts with a small band of utterly uninteresting survivors who go through all the subgenre's motions as automatically as the undead themselves.

Before the film even has a chance to begin, its problems are heralded by a title so ineptly tautologous that it seems to be promising comedy that never, alas, comes. At least within the film itself no one refers to 'zombie undead', although jolly paramedic Steve (Barry Thomas) does mention his fear of 'the living undead' – a phrase so full of fail that he inevitably uses it twice. Perhaps this explains why all the characters are so clueless when it comes to dealing with zombies, as though none of them has been to the cinema since 1968, let alone in our zombie-saturated Noughties - although Jay's actual use of the term 'zombies' suggests that he ought to have at least a vague idea of the threat confronting them.

Being low budget and British is no excuse for dire unoriginality. After all, Michael Bartlett and Kevin Gates' Zombie Diaries (2006), though certainly rough and ready, beat even Diary Of The Dead (2007) – by zombie king Romero himself - to the shakicam style of faux reportage; and Marc Price's truly no-budget Colin (2008) found an ingenious way to turn the usual survivor perspective of a zombie apocalypse on its head. With Zombie Undead, though, we just get banal dialogue that barely even qualifies as perfunctory, stilted performances, dull characters confronted by dilemmas far less morally challenging than they seem to think, and occasional zombie attacks that somehow fail either to excite or to scare. Novelty was evidently the outbreak's first casualty, left gutted and bloody on the floor.

Emblematic of the film's general lack of economy (despite a thankfully brief overall duration) is a sequence where Jay, Steve and protagonist Sarah (Ruth King) are shown standing in a rising elevator that inexplicably gets stuck, before lurching into motion again a minute or so later. No amount of switching from juddery handheld camerawork to pseudo CCTV footage can lift this episode out of its pointless tedium – and, unbelievably, the whole scene repeats itself when the characters head back down again after finding the upper floor full of hungry braindead patients. This film gives even the most inherently visceral clichés a bad name.

"I'll tell you what, I can't take much more of this," announces Steve, less than 15 minutes into the film. You'll know exactly how he feels...

Reviewed on: 22 Apr 2011
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Zombie Undead packshot
A dirty bomb causes a zombie outbreak.
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Director: Rhys Davies

Writer: Kris Tearse

Starring: Ruth King, Kris Tearse, Barry Thomas, Christopher J. Herbert, Steven Dolton, Sandra Wildbore, Clive Lord

Year: 2010

Runtime: 79 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: UK


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