Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Apocalypse Z (2013) - FilmReview

Article author: Alwyn Ash

Not to be confused with the vastly superior - and bigger budget - "World War Z".

Often, when I come across a low budget indie film, I keep a distance. The bad acting, dire special effects (if any), and the direction usually leave a very nasty taste in my mouth. That said, I am a fan of some Web Series that just seem to hit the right buttons in style and direction, acting and vision. Please don't misunderstand, I have great respect for the indie market, but even with a low budget there must always be a focus to make the best possible feature - if you have talent, it will show!

"Apocalypse Z" is one of those features that has some good, and plenty of bad. Its downfalls are quite clear to anyone who actually sits through a viewing. Directed by Luca Boni and Marco Ristori, there is so much inconsistency and weakly-executed scenes that the whole affair feels laughable. Even the characters and dialogue are cliches without an attempt at some originality. As for the "plot", the US government sends a group of mercenaries into a Romanian town after the local population is infected by a toxic chemical, turning them all into zombies. We discover that the deadly chemical is actually a US experiment gone wrong, or at least, it is from a scientist's point of view. However, the military has other ideas. The town wasn't meant to be overcome by the chemical's affects, but an explosion at the research facility leads to a rapid spread and infection.

Originally titled "Zombie Massacre", the creators of this feature had clearly been inspired by financial possibilities and renamed it "Apocalypse Z" to cash in on the success of Brad Pitt's far superior "World War Z". Sadly, the "Z" is really all they have in common, as there is no comparing the two. Of course, the latter has a far superior budget too, so perhaps a comparison is unfair.

So, to the positives. Well, many of the zombie makeup effects are actually quite good. And the female cast outshine their male colleagues in every way. The opening scenes of a Romanian woman returning from work to feed her father (or husband) actually sets the atmosphere well, with her stepping out onto her apartment balcony to investigate the source of a distant explosion, only to see smoke rising and feel droplets of dark liquid on her hand. Inside, the droplets contaminate her and she mutates.

What follows the opening title sequence is far too much tedious dialogue without any zombies at all. Instead, for example, there is a long scene featuring mercenaries John 'Mad Dog' McKellen (Mike Mitchell) and Dragan Ilic (Daniel Vivian) as they discuss absolutely nothing at all. There are too many moments such as this, where there is a lot of talk but nothing that matters or adds to the plot. Thankfully, fellow mercenary Eden Shizuka (played by Tara Cardinal, above) says little until it is needed.

One of the things that really stands out with this feature is, no matter their nationality, the actors just do not try to match an accent to their character - this unforgivably leads to the President of the United States ("portrayed" by controversial director and "actor" Ewe Boll) having a German accent! And then there are the supposed skills that the mercenaries possess: highly-trained soldiers who seem as inept at skillfully firing guns as an over-excited badger, a female whose sword-fighting skills seem to be deeply lacking in... skill (sorry, Tara, but more training was needed), and decisions that just didn't make any military sense. Speaking of military sense, why would the US government send in to a small Romanian town this ragged group with an atomic bomb and not, let's say, fire a missile instead?

I can see that there is much fun to be had (which I am sure includes Boll delivering a German-accented US President), but this is neither a zombie comedy nor a serious attempt at a decent movie, it lies somewhere in between, and that remains the problem - it is "The Expendables" meets "The Walking Dead" without the talent! When being advertised with its original title, "Zombie Massacre" had the tagline: "There is no hope". At times that is precisely how the making of this movie feels...

It is true that the zombie genre is being over-saturated by the movie market, but there is always room for more well written and crafted films. Even at his worst, master of horror George A. Romero still manages to deliver a decent feature film.

It is a shame, as "Apocalypse Z" could have been so much more. Its use of make-up effects and design is passionately approving. However, what we are given is a low-budget feature with no great expectations of its own success - why rename your project to mirror a major successful Hollywood film unless you are desperate for an audience? It is clear that writers/directors Boni and Ristori thought "Zombie Massacre" unable to succeed on its own merits. Their own lack of faith is telling in itself. Also, if Boll's inclusion wasn't bad enough, there is even the "Resident Evil" Nemesis-like creature to bring this adventure to a "sharp" climax. Honestly, I would rather watch "Resident Evil: Apocalypse" (2004) and enjoy the real thing.

For die-hard zombie fans only. Not to be confused with "Infection Z" (2013) or any other project that carries the same letter.

Purchase Apocalypse Z from the Store:
DVD - Running time: 90 minutes