It’s that time of year again! Time to celebrate the Resurrection with a weeklong plunge into all things zombie! Here’s the history: In 2008, Dr. Girlfriend and I decided to spend a week or so each year marathoning through zombie films that we’d never seen before and I would blog short reviews. And simple as that, the Easter Zombie Movie Marathon was born.
For shits and giggles, we decided to have a Trejo Tuesday Two-fer and check out Danny Trejo‘s recent forays into the zombie apocalypse. Wow. That really wasn’t a great idea.
Now, if you’re a fan of the site, you should know that I try to avoid writing bad reviews, especially for low-budget films (big budget films I have no problem with slagging if they deserve it). I understand that making a film is a monumental effort and simply getting something on film is a feat in and of itself. So when a film doesn’t hit all its marks, I don’t want to pile on like some critics will and I don’t take any joy from coming up with a sarcastic, smart-ass dismissal of all the hard work that went into the project.
Sometimes, things just don’t come together.
The first film we watched tonight, The Burning Dead (2015) was directed by Rene Perez, whose work we checked out last year when we watched The Dead and the Damned 1 & 2. Neither film was great, but they both had some good visuals and were fun as they tried to craft serious zombie films with little to no money. The Burning Dead, on the other hand, was intended by its producers from the start to be a Syfy-style horror film in the vein of Sharknado and such. It was Perez’s first try at a comedy after cutting his teeth on zombie films, westerns, and weird horror fairy tales.
It’s really not a genre he should return to.
But that’s not his fault. He does what he can and tries to make the mindless crapfest of a script look as good as possible (although they could maybe have splurged on more than one set of cheap-ass intestines that are swapped from kill to kill). But this is simply the worst zombie film I’ve ever seen and I put the blame on writers Jason Ancona and Jeff Miller. They are the producers who worked up the script and found the money to get this film made, so congratulations for that. I know that’s not easy. But this script is atrocious, the CG lava (and its inevitable consequences) is amateurish, and it’s got a dumb-as-shit ending.
The only good thing I can find to say about it is that Danny Trejo nails his scenes. Too bad they don’t really have anything to do with the actual film. Trejo is Night Wolf, a Native American dad who is telling a scary story to some kids about a cursed mountain and the lava zombies that live inside.
He’s a joy to watch and seems to really be having fun.
Just skip the rest of the film.
Our second Trejo Treat for the night is better, for the most part, but still isn’t much to write home about.
Actually, that’s not really fair. Zombie Hunter (2013) is the first film by writer/producer/director Kevin King (K. King on IMDB, for some reason). King and Chris Le got this film made and were able to get Danny Trejo to take a major role, then were able to garner over $46 thousand on Kickstarter to get the post-production costs covered. You’ve gotta applaud that.
And while the performances aren’t always the greatest, the lead actors are experienced, the script is actually funny at times – intentionally funny – and there’s a nicely idiosyncratic visual style that is a bit derivative of a few filmmakers, but still schlocky enough to stand on its own.
What we have here is a post-apocalyptic zombie tale about a guy called Hunter (Martin Copping) who stumbles upon a small group of survivors led by Trejo’s Jesús. In the group we have the guy who’s too old for this shit (Terry Guthrie), fat-ass (Jake Suazo), sort-of good girl Allison (Clare Niederpruem), her chronic masturbator brother (Jason K. Wixom), and pole dancing “Fast Lane” Debbie (Jade Regier). When their refuge is overrun by the flesh-eaters – people turned into zombies by the street drug NATAS – they have to make a run for an abandoned airport. But not before they go through the nightmare town of Dahmer, which sounds scary, but is apparently inhabited by only one cannibalistic maniac, The Funny Man (Jeff Kirkham).
Oh, and there are Ray Harryhausen-style CG creatures that appear with no explanation but are kind of cool in an old-school way.
Zombie Hunter is one of those low-budget films that demonstrate just how much fun you can have with very little money. There are fun CG zombie kills, bad jokes, some almost-nudity, and Danny Trejo killing motherfuckers with an axe. This isn’t a film that’s going to make anyone’s best-of lists, but for a first try from filmmakers who just want to make their own movies, it’s a solid piece of work. It doesn’t try to pander and instead does what it wants.
That’s gotta count for something, right?