About a Zombie (Portrait of a Zombie)

PZ1

A documentary film crew decide to film one Irish family’s decision to take care of their son after he is turned into a zombie.

It makes sense that a family would want to take care of their loved ones after they’d been turned into a zombie. I mean you don’t want to just turn a family member out when they get sick or injured do you? Well, some assholes do but we just call those people heartless and cruel and pretend we live in a world where they don’t exist. At least I do anyway. Here’s the thing though, taking care of a zombified family member is a little different than taking care of someone with the flu. A zombie requires a bit more than chicken noodle soup and some rest. Don’t get me wrong, we’ll still eat chicken noodle soup because living or dead that stuff is delicious, but we usually mix our soup with a little human flesh for taste. Oh, and pepper, lots of pepper. I completely understand the desire to take care of an undead son or daughter, brother or sister, husband or wife, and I applaud anyone willing to go through the pain in the ass of having to take care of us after death. Just ask my girlfriend and she’ll be more than happy to let you know the hassle you’re getting involved with god bless her. I should just warn you that you’re going to have to be prepared for the whole nine yards if you’re going to do it. Flesh raids, zombie beauty products, little to no sleep, late night poker games, well I guess the last one is just a guy thing really. Though personally I always preferred gin rummy. My poker face is always falling apart.

Our mockumentary begins with newspaper clippings about a virus contaminating the meat at a Dublin plant. We then being an interview with a man about a documentary that was started to film him and his family taking care of their son Billy before switching to said documentary. The film chaotically jumps back and forth between interviews with people about the documentary, interviews with people who know about the family’s situation, and the documentary itself. After jumping around with no real structure, order, or reason we are finally let in on that Billy, the son that is being taken care of, is a zombie that the family has locked up and is trying to keep safe, being that Billy’s girlfriend became pregnant shortly before he reanimated and they want to make sure their grandbaby has a father. Not sure why it is presented in such a shocking manner as it had already become fairly obvious that’s what the documentary was about, but I guess they were hoping you were going to be shocked somehow. Anyways, it seems that many people who live near the family aren’t happy having a zombie in their midst, not with zombies seemingly becoming a problem all over Dublin, and are raising hell about the situation. The documentary film crew are there to get it all tape but as they grow closer to the family and less watchful of the ever increasing tensions around them, Billy might not be the only zombie hoping someone takes care of them.

PZ3

{They do look like loving parents though}

Mockumentaries can be extremely interesting things. I’m not talking your standard found footage films where people went missing, filmed something beforehand, that something was found and released to the public, but the ones that are presented from the very get go as a real documentary that was never so much found but simply released. Some of my favorite films are mockumentaries, not just in horror, but in a few other genres as well (don’t get me started on how much I enjoy Best in Show). The thing is even if something has an interesting premise execution is everything and About a Zombie (also known as Portrait of a Zombie) fails miserably in its execution.

PZ4

{They at least made sure to add the katana in}

The main problem is the extremely chaotic set up that jumps around so much it makes the film hard to follow as far as when events are occurring. You can never quite tell what you’re watching or where you are in the story. It goes back and forth so much that it is near impossible to ever become fully drawn into the story. What makes this worse is that for a documentary there are a lot of scenes in the movie that shouldn’t be there, scenes that the documentary crew did not get on camera but appear in the film anyway, and there are way too many of these scenes. Things such as gangland executions (done before the camera crew arrives), Billy’s perspective as he stares at the camera (he has no camera on him), Billy turning into a zombie (this was before a documentary had even been decided upon), and kid’s taking out zombies with slingshots (with no camera in sight). If you’re going to make it a mockumentary make it a mockumentary, don’t just decide that you can change it up whenever you decide because you can’t figure out how to write certain scenes otherwise. It makes the film impossible to take as an actual documentary and ruins any sense of mood. Also, don’t decide that when you need an extreme close up of a zombie attacking people you can just shove the camera in a zombie’s face and it will suddenly ignore the camera man when the zombies have been shown to attack him any chance they get. In my opinion it was a sign of shoddy writing on the filmmakers’ part that they couldn’t figure out how to film the entire movie documentary style so they just suspended disbelief instead of trying to keep it like it was a real documentary. Of course since they couldn’t even keep track of who lives and who dies I’m guessing they didn’t much care. People who are interviewed at the very beginning for their opinion on the chain of events documented during the film are dead by the documentary’s end making it impossible for them to have given their interviews in the first place. Again, shoddy writing.

PZ7

{Or maybe they just thought cameras were magic}

Bad writing is a good way to describe a bit of this film actually. There are many ham fisted attempts at parody as the movie goes on, bits that were obvious parody but were neither relevant nor at all humorous. A vegetarian tries to get zombies to eat veggies to save the world’s ecosystem while the director argues about how humans being consumed by the dead would be the best solution for the planet’s ecosystem, a nurse tries to argue that the dead deserve rights as much as the mentally disabled do, and the Vatican denies a woman her right to marry a zombie in what is supposed to be commentary on marriage equality. They were all so poorly handled that it made it impossible to find any relevance or parody from any of it. Then there was the obvious commentary about the lengths a family would go in order to take care of a loved one who had been injured or maimed. I got that they were supposed to be grieving but the things they either let happen or turn a blind eye to are just astounding, not to mention dangerous. The parents have other children in the home yet don’t seem to care about them at all, letting their undead child (who at one point does something so horrendous it’s obvious there is no coming back for him) endanger the rest of the family to the point of stupidity. Lastly there is the obsession of the documentary film crew. There is a gradual buildup that makes perfect sense as I could see a group of filmmakers drawing close to a family they were filming, but out of nowhere it just goes over the top. There is a slow buildup and then a sudden snap. There was no finesse in how they showed it, just a pop and it all went south. It was far too sudden.

PZ8

{He was such a nice boy though}

I think the one thing that saves this movie from being a complete disaster is the acting. There are some truly amazing actors that do a great job portraying their characters. I even found myself caring about many of them despite how over the top their obsessions were written into them. The one who truly stood out was Patrick Murphy as main zombie Billy. He played such a creepy character with his jerky movements, enraged behavior, and inhuman like portrayal. They did a great job with his makeup as well which made his character all that creepier. I can’t say all the makeup in the film was done with as much finesse as Billy’s was, but they took their time with his. Don’t take that to mean the other zombies look terrible, they are creatively done and show some great imagination, but there were a lot of times where too much was done to the zombies and it didn’t show up so great, a good lesson that sometimes less is more. I will say the some of the gorier scenes where the living are consumed or torn asunder do look amazing.

PZ2

{These scenes are strangely loving between mother and son}

Despite this one praise I can’t recommend the movie. With the sheer amount of other zombie flicks out there it’s not worth the time to bother with this one.

 

The Undead Review

 

Directed By: Bing Bailey

Starring: Patrick Murphy (Invoked, Fractured), Geraldine McAliden (The Secret Scripture, How to Be Happy), Rory Mullen (Derelict, Hunger), and Todd Fletcher (Lincoln, Killing Lincoln)

Released By: Organ Hill Films and Studio Canal

Release Year: 2012

Release Type: Straight to Video

MPAA Rating: Not Rated

About The Undead Review

When I was alive I was an asshole and after I died remained pretty much the same, if not a little worse. You’d think becoming a member of the walking dead would mellow a person out, no more worrying about awkward small talk with people, no more having to be politically correct, and the entire world is your upright, bipedal buffet. Don’t get me wrong, it’s fun as hell to be a zombie, just somewhat irritating at times, especially those times you have to watch a lame movie or read a lame book. Thankfully, when I am forced to watch these films or read those books, I’ve got places like The Undead Review to bitch and moan to my heart’s content. {When he’s not devouring the living or sinking his teeth into a good film The Undead Review (Andy Taylor) spends his time writing his own stories or hunting down the paranormal. Oh, and did we mention his blind dog once saved the world?)
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