The undead overload continues, this time with 2011’s Zombie Apocalypse, a film collaboration by The Asylum and the Syfy Channel. This threadbare production, both in terms of script and special effects, nevertheless introduces a few new ideas to the zombie genre and is for the most part a solid popcorn-and-beer flick for horror fans.
Zombie Apocalypse opens with a summary of the outbreak, this time attributed to a virus known as VM2. Patient zero is in France, and soon most of Europe is infected, followed by Japan and the United States.
The bulk of the story centers on a group of survivors, all of whom seem to have come right out of a comic book. There’s Henry (Ving Rhames)—the big guy with the sledge; Cassie (Lesley-Ann Brandt)—a thinly disguised Michonne, complete with katana blade; Julian (Johnny Pacar)—the kid who records everything in a diary; and Mack (Gary Weeks), the reluctant leader with a heat of gold. This team rescues Ramona (Taryn Manning) and Billie from a zombie attack that successfully does in their friend Kevin.
After some zombie killing and small talk, the new survivors learn that the group is trying to get to the island of Catalina, which remains zombie-free. Fighting through the zombie hordes and securing supplies, the group make it to what they believe is a safe-zone, only to find it overrun by zombies. As the survivors continue their fight against the zombies, they find signs that another group has also been battling the undead. Their signature: arrows.
The group finally encounters this second group, what is left of an archery team and their instructor. These “elves” hook up with the main group, all of them working hard to get to the ferry that could take them to Catalina. The group soon finds that the virus is not limited to humans, as they must do battle with a pair of infected zombie tigers when they finally make it to the docks. As more and more of the group fall, the survivors begin to lose hope. However, the film’s finale shows that there is indeed hope, as there really is a ferry and its occupants blow the ferry’s whistle to signal the weary survivors that they have at last been rescued.
Despite a threadbare script and lousy special effects, Zombie Apocalypse manages to entertain throughout its 87-minute running time. The principal reason for this is twofold: (1) the actors are all very good and (2) director Nick Lyon presents some good action sequences with plenty of comic-book flavor. Now, hardcore horror fans and zombie aficionados will find very little on here that they will enjoy, but those simply looking for a more simplified, less melodramatic and ironic-laden presentation will definitely relish this movie.
The cast is uniformly good, embracing each character’s comic-book-driven biography and fleshing it out so that it comes off as somewhat believable. Melodrama is kept to a minimum, but even during such obligatory scenes that cast does well. Director Nick Lyon has a knack for fun action sequences, and it is during such moments that the film really comes to life. There’s also kudos to writers Craig Engler and Brooks Peck, who give us fully fledged zombie animals and zombies who are actually cunning and even a little strategic.
However, there are plenty of directorial mistakes on display, including sequences that show care driving about in the background. Moreover, the special effects in Zombie Apocalypse are awful, particularly the digital effects. For example, the blood is too bright on the zombies, some of the zombies in the background look off or weirdly mutated, the machinegun when fired does not move (and the expended shells seem to float), and the blades are blurred.
One note: the uncut and unrated DVD of Zombie Apocalypse does contain some gore not seen on the release aired by the SyFy Channel.
Zombie Apocalypse is no Night of the Living Dead or Dawn of the Dead—it’s also no Walking Dead. However, as a zombie fanatic, I found it enjoyable enough, which is saying a lot, given that there are so many zombie flicks out there that are either too dark, too ironic, or too negative to watch a second or third time.