In 2011 Luca Boni and Marco Ristori made Eaters, an indie zombie movie that embodied many of the best aspects of independent horror film making. It gave viewers a blend of zombie holocaust and post-apocalypse and had some very original ideas to it. That project was “Presented By” Uwe Boll, but Boni & Ristori’s new movie Zombie Massacre was produced by Boll. Unfortunately this time around the malevolent hand of Boll has a weighty effect on the production, and Zombie Massacre suffers greatly for it.
Zombie Massacre is about a team of soldiers who are assembled to help end a zombie outbreak in a Romanian town. That premise has the makings of a good action/horror movie, but the production is filled with problems both practical and artistic. For starters, the story is centered on the idea that the American government and military are trying to cover up their involvement with the zombie outbreak. Again, that’s a nice idea for a story, but the problem comes from the fact that most of the cast are European actors playing Americans.
Major characters who are supposed to be American have thick European accents, and one supporting actor can’t speak English at all, so she just isn’t given any lines. Others make efforts to disguise their accent with American colloquialisms (Like spouting “Y’all” constantly) but this doesn’t disguise casting problems. In the “Making of” feature that comes on the disk, the directors point out that movies which aren’t filmed in English aren’t as marketable as ones about Americans, but that doesn’t excuse the glaring lack of a dialect coach. Especially since the whole problem could be explained away with a single line of dialog declaring that this is a multi-national operation.
The two actually American actors in the cast somehow end up with very few lines. One of them doesn’t speak at all for the first half hour of the movie, and the other is a stoically silent protagonist. Worst of all is that Uwe Boll himself makes a cameo in which the German Boll plays “Ze President uff ze United States”.
Language barriers aside, Zombie Massacre has some other problems, most notably the pacing. It starts out fine with a cool prolog that shows the beginnings of the zombie outbreak, but then there is a very long set of scenes where generals discusses their mission (Providing exposition for the viewer). There is liberal use of stock footage of military craft while voice overs drone on, or soldiers exchange banter. Sadly, much of this exposition is made irrelevant once the audience learns that the whole mission is gigantic doublecross.
It ends up being a good 30 minutes into the movie before the zombie massacring begins. Action scenes are brief, and filled with non-sequiturs. Monsters appear from nowhere, guns run out of ammunition almost instantaneously. There are also new characters that pop up in the latter half of the story. Some of these expendable newbies only last a scene or two, and might as well be wearing name tags that identify them as “Zombie Fodder”. Plot points that should have appeared earlier in the story end up happening at fifty and sixty minutes into this 90-minute movie.
The highlights of Zombie Massacre are the special make up effects. Crowd scenes use clever prosthetics to make lots of zombies quickly, while scenes involving a single zombie or a “Boss Monster” use elaborate effects, including a full-body minster suit.
Boni & Ristori have proven themselves to be competent filmmakers with their previous work, but Zombie Massacre is an overly ambitious project with clear flaws that should have been ironed out before filming began. Hardcore supporters of this development team will be happy to learn that there is a brief epilog that ties in with Eaters, but it certainly isn’t worth muddling through the rest of Zombie Massacre just to get a cameo appearance of a certain Jean Reno look-alike.
Zombie Massacre is out now on Blue Ray and DVD.