Made in 2008, New Zealand’s Last of the Living sticks its nose into the somewhat crowded low-budget zombie comedy-horror genre. Unlike much of the dreck out there, Last of the Living is a pretty good view, although hardcore zombie fans will find nothing here that they have not seen before (and done better).
The movie focuses on three slackers. There’s Morgan (Morgan Williams), a wannabe actor who is pretty good with as baseball bat. There’s Johnny (Robert Faith), a big lunk who enjoys rock drumming and fancies himself as a martial artist (the dude favors escrima sticks as his principal weapon). And then there’s Ash (Ashleigh Southam), a nerd who held down a grind job before the zombie apocalypse.
The film starts out paying homage to 28 Days Later and then settles in for some standard fare. These three dudes pass the time squatting from mansion to mansion. While housed, they play video games and horse around, venturing out among the zombie nation only when they run out of food. It is during one such excursion that they run into an old man (Mark Hadlow) and his daughter Steph (Emily Paddon-Brown). Unfortunately, poor old dad has been bitten, so he must be quickly dispatched. It turns out that the father and daughter are scientists who may have a cure for the zombie malady. Although reluctant at first, all three guys agree to help Steph on a trek to a safe zone on an island. Rumor is that there are scientists working on a cure while being guarded by elite military forces.
The remainder of the movie follows the fantastic four as they fight their way through zombies to at last secure a small aircraft, which Steph is uniquely qualified to fly. Although the film focuses on comedy at first, it slowly becomes more and more serious. Main characters begin to die, until only one is left. As for the safe zone—it has been compromised, so the journey to secure a cure was for naught.
Produced on a shoestring budget, Last of the Living nevertheless is good for a night of entertainment, principally because of the characters involved in the story. The core trio of slackers is fun to watch, particularly Johnny, who steals every scene he is in. The dude is hilarious when executing his martial arts (his siniwali is a must-see), particularly his whirlwind punch (he calls it the “Berserker”), which if done properly cannot be countered.
Also in the film’s favor are the writing and directing. Although the film gets a little too depressing at its climax, the film effectively balances comedy with horror. Now, the plot itself is nothing stellar, as films have already covered every facet of the storyline, but the characterization is very good. Direction is likewise good, as there are very few dull moments. Newcomer writer/director Logan McMillan is a filmmaker to watch for.
Props must go to all the actors. Although some performances are a little self-conscious, for the most part the actors carry their scenes well. Morgan Williams is affectionately obnoxious, Emily Paddon-Brown plays vulnerability and sassiness with equal aplomb, and Ashleigh Southam does well as a nebbish with style (the link to Shaun of the Dead and Zombieland).
Hardcore gore and horror fans may want to pass on Last of the Living, but those who can stomach comedy with horror and zombie fans in general will find the movie at the very least tolerable. Personally, I enjoyed it—not as much as a Romero film, but in the scheme of things, it is great to find a zombie movie that is worth watching these days.