Zombies

King Of The Zombies (1941)

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Finally a film from the 1940s! King of the Zombies tells the story of an unfortunate plane carrying Bill Summers (John Archer, Rodeo) and his manservant Jeff (Mantan Moreland, The Jade Mask) that has been blown off course by a storm. Luckily they follow a faint radio signal to a small Caribbean island. On the island they meet the eccentric Doctor Sangre, played by Henry Victor (Freaks, The Mummy) who lives on the island with his wife, who has seemingly had some sort of nervous breakdown and walks around in a trance, and her niece who clearly suspects the doctor of causing her Aunt’s condition. The film follows Summers and Jeff along with the pilot, James “Mac” McCarthy (Dick Purcell, Captain America – the original 1944 version) as they realise something is very wrong on the island only to discover that their only means of reaching the outside world – the plane’s radio – has been stolen. From the flirtatious kitchen maid we learn that the doctors uses zombies as servants (although for exactly what I’m not sure) which are reanimated corpses from voodoo magic. The maid, cook and butler seem completely nonplussed by the use of zombies, even preparing dinner to serve to them.

There is a lot of racial prejudice in the film that watching in today’s time is very uncomfortable. For example, when pouring brandy for his visitors when Jeff (the black manservant) reaches for a glass it is quickly removed. Whilst this is an obvious act there is a far more pervasive undercurrent of white supremacy running throughout the film which is often seen in other films, such as the startlingly similar White Zombie. Indeed, Jeff’s entire character would probably not be seen in modern films. Having mentioned the similarity to White Zombie, it is impossible not to compare Victor’s Dr Sangre to Lugosi’s Legendre nearly a decade before, indeed the part was originally written for Bela Lugosi. Unfortunately with this comparison Sangre appears a pale imitation, lacking the dramatic flair and overwhelming presence of Lugosi.

In my mind there are too many plot lines in King of the Zombies meaning that nothing really stands out. For example, the type of zombies in King of the Zombies is very confused. At first it is a simple voodoo-reanimated-corpse that slowly shuffles around and suddenly appears at the sound of a clap, however, as the film progresses the idea of hypnotism gets bandied about. It transpires that Dr Sangre has hypnotised his wife which explains her zombie-like state although she herself isn’t a zombie. The addition of the hypnosis storyline really confuses the voodoo aspect (to me at least). There is also an unspoken Nazi theme running through the film, Dr Sangre has a German accent and speaks German on his hidden radio, although again this is never fully explored which is a shame, possibly as it would make marketing and distributing the film much harder.

An interesting but slightly confused film to watch, at slightly over an hour long (67 minutes to be exact) King of the Zombies is a good watch for when you are in the mood to watch something short but don’t want all the baggage that comes along with a series.

Rating: 3/5

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World War Z (2013)

World War Z

World War Z is a big budget, big action film featuring Brad Pitt (who I’m sure you all know, but has also starred in Interview with a Vampire, Fight Club and numerous other films) as Gerry Lane. The film starts with a huge set piece with zombies attacking people in the middle of New York in which we witness both how people become infected (the traditional through a bite), how quickly it takes effect and how inexplicably capable Gerry is to deal with the zombie attack. Indeed, if he was not so capable, this film would be a lot shorter, say 15 minutes instead of 116 minutes. Through the film we learn why Gerry is so well equipped to handle this unfortunate turn of events, he is an ex- UN Inspector.

Fighting to survive the zombie apocalypse alongside Pitt are Mireille Enos (The Killing) as his wife, the slightly less capable Karin Lane and his two daughters, Constance and Rachel played by Sterling Jerins (The Conjuring) and Abigail Hargrove (The Butterfly Circus), who are frankly useless, which I guess is how children would react in that situation. Due to Gerry’s unique background, it earns him and his family a helicopter from his old boss Thierry Umutoni (Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom) out of the fallen Big Apple onto a Naval vessel 200 miles from New York. It soon becomes clear that this is not the blessing he thought it was and in order for his family to remain on the ship he goes to the origin of the outbreak with Dr Fassbach (Elyes Gabel), a young brilliant doctor to try and develop a vaccine to the (suspected) zombifying virus.

After a quick sojurn in South Korea, Lane ends up in Israel where he spots an old man and an emaciated teen are ignored by the zombies, giving him the vital clue on how to stop the spread and save the world. One of the best things about this film is how it moves around the world, indicating that it’s a World war and not just America or the UK. The quest for a cure takes Lane from New York, to Cardiff via South Korea and Israel.

The zombies in World War Z are fast zombies and the infection spreads quickly, in some cases as fast as twelve seconds. They are characterised by much gnashing of teeth, in an effort to bite and infect, rather than eat human flesh. The special effects are, understandably with a $400 million budget, the best I’ve seen with both attention to detail and stunning large set piece involving almost literal waves of zombies.

Directed by Marc Forster (Quantum of Solace, Finding Neverland) World War Z is a fast paced film with not a great plot but lots of big action (big budget) scenes. It is a one man film, presumably making the most of the $13.5 million they paid for him. Whilst the plot is not believable (even for a zombie film), with the fate of the world resting on one person, it is still worth watching, keeping shocks and gore going right until the end and deserves its place as the highest grossing Zombie of all time*.

*Correct at time of writing.

Boy Eats Girl (2005)

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Boy Eats Girl is a zombie rom-com in the same vein as Shaun of the Dead which was released the year before. It follows the usual outline of  (non-zombie) romantic comedies; boy meets girl, boy and girl fall in love, problem appears (in this case the undead), boy and girl solve problem and live happily ever after. It was funded by the Irish film board in association with Isle of Man films and filmed in Ireland.

There is a host of the expected characters – including the school slag, the bully and the best friend comedy duo. As with all good low budget horror films, there features the creepy old man (C.O.M) who knows more than he lets on and has the solution to the zombie epidemic spreading through the local high school. In Boy Eats Girl, the C.O.M is a priest played by Laylor Roddy who continues to pop up at helpful times to drive the plot forwards.

The film focusses on teenager Nathan, played by David Leon (Alexander, Vera) who, after confessing his love to Jessica, played by Samantha Mumba (of early 2000’s pop fame) accidently dies and is reanimated by his single mother Grace (Deirdre O’Kane) using voodoo magic that she helpfully discovered in a secret room of the local church the day before.

Soon Nathan begins to feel a hunger that cannot be sated and at the end of term disco bites the school bully who in turn becomes a zombie infecting –and eating – more fellow classmates and teachers.

Unlike the rest of the flesh-eating contingent, Nathan manages to keep his human sensibilities (with the explanation that he was the first reanimated) and with the help of Jessica and a tractor manages to fend off their undead classmates and retreat to a handy barn which they then set fire to in order to kill the remaining zombies.In the meantime the ever helpful C.O.M has popped back up and told Grace the cure to her sons’ affliction (snake venom, continuing the ‘voodoo’ theme). With a cure, it is possible for the traditional happy ending to take place, leading this film more into the rom-com category rather than the zombie apocalypse category.

The special effects throughout the film are very low budget and charming in a naïve way, at one point it appears that a bucket of offal is thrown across the screen. The film is rated 18, and was banned on release in by the Irish Film Classification Office (IFCO) due to the depiction of suicide. Indeed, the aforementioned scene is the only reason I can think of the 18 rating as it is not particularly gory nor is there any nudity or use of the c-word.

Overall, this film, whilst unoriginal is a fine little foray into the zom-rom-com genre with the low budget special effects adding rather than subtracting from the charm. If you are looking for a gritty end of the world zombie film (similar to 28 Days Later) I would not recommend this film as it is more a rom-com with added zombies rather than a zombie apocalypse film. However, if Shaun of the dead or comedy horror is what you are looking for this film is well worth a watch.