Rise of the Zombies

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It took only two months for a waterborne zombie virus to turn most of humanity into the living dead, but a scientist in San Francisco, where the virus began, thinks he’s close to a cure, and a small group of survivors will do anything to get to him.

Am I the only one that hears “waterborne zombie virus” and thinks of zombified merpeople? Come on, I can’t be the only person here whose wondered about the possibility of underwater zombie cultures living in decaying cites that once used to sparkle with the gleam of long forgotten technologies. I’ve met a lot of creatures in my lifetime, heard about even more that I hope I never meet, but no one I’ve talked to really knows anything about the existence of zombie merpeople. Sure, there are stories because of course there are stories, but nothing concrete, someone heard it from friend of a friend of a friend’s roommate or some drunk that was eating people on the docks, it’s always from someone you can’t go ask yourself. The accepted theory on their existence is that they don’t exist, or if they ever did, they’d likely all be dead by now. A zombie in the water isn’t going to last very long, even with our extremely slowed rate of decay we’d be waterlogged and useless in a relatively short amount of time, final death quickly becoming more of a blessing than a fear. This wouldn’t leave a whole lot of time for mer-zombiekind to keep up their numbers, not in a way that would let all the normal merpeople keep up their own population. Before long, both living and undead would all be extinct. Still, we can dream, and who knows, maybe they found a way to deal with the way water affects dead tissue. Sorry, got a bit off track there didn’t I? It totally wasn’t because I was trying to put off getting into yet another Asylum review, I promise. You’d think I would have given up on these already, but I wasn’t going to pass up a zombie movie with LeVar Burton, Danny Trejo, Ethan Suplee, and French Stewart.

Our film begins two months after a waterborne virus mutated inside of a San Francisco water treatment plant, becoming a zombie plague that spread from there out into the world. As the city fell, a small group of survivors found themselves holed up inside the closed down prison of Alcatraz in San Francisco Bay, but when zombies start washing ashore, the survivors realize their safe haven has stopped being so safe. While they all agree they need to leave, they can’t agree on where to go. De facto leader Lynn (Mariel Hemingway) wants to go find a scientist (French Stewart) who believed he was close to a cure while Captain Caspian (Danny Trejo) and his second Marshall (Ethan Suplee) want to go look for an army base they hope will still be safe. The two sides decide on going their separate ways and hopefully meeting back up at a later time, but with only one boat on the island, medical researcher Dr. Halpern (LeVar Burton) will have to stay behind and continue his research while the two groups go about their different tasks. Between them and their destinations are zombie infested waters, a city full of the living dead, and a sense of hopelessness that may destroy them before the undead get the chance.

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{Hopelessness is a far deadlier thing than any zombie could ever hope to be}

It doesn’t take a very long history with B-Horror to figure out that having a bunch of recognizable names in a straight to video horror flick is cause for concern. One or two is enough to make one worried, but when you see an advertised cast like the one for Rise of the Zombies, you know it’s going to turn out bad. Of course, studios can continue to do it without any worry on their part because some actors will always draw in certain fans, even if said fans know they’re about to step into a dragon sized pile of excrement. I’m no different because four of the six advertised stars, especially LeVar Burton, completely caught my attention and the DVD was already in my hand before my brain could even register how awful it was likely to be, and certainly before I saw a “The Asylum” production logo at the bottom. Funny enough, the two I didn’t know much about, Mariel Hemingway and Chad Lindberg, ended up being two of the three strongest actors along with Burton whose performance is the shining star of this film. Hemingway is great as an action hero type who leads the group towards what will hopefully be a cure, and Lindberg provides some of the film’s only emotional moments. Danny Trejo of course plays Danny Trejo, or at least the same character he plays in the hundred or so horror movies he’s been popping up in over the last decade. Not that I mind; put into the right film, Trejo’s particular brand of badassery seems to work time and time again, but you won’t see him much in this movie. He pops up for a minute or two here and there before quickly being killed off, this despite his face being the only one gracing the cover. Same goes for French Stewart minus the gory end. Stewart has an admittedly very entertaining video cameo in the beginning, but then disappears until a few minutes before the credits roll. Neither Trejo or Stewart were bad, they just weren’t in it much, the same cannot be said for Ethan Suplee. It’s usually difficult for me to see him as anything other than Randy from My Name is Earl, but with Rise of the Zombies, his acting is so wooden and completely devoid of anything resembling emotion that it’s pretty easy to see him as a completely different character, that of “actor starring in a film they clearly didn’t want to be a part of.”

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{Is it bad that I mentally picture him with a VISOR in anything he’s in}

Considering just how awful Rise of the Zombies is, I can kind of understand Suplee’s total lack of excitement. I don’t even know where to begin with all the things that don’t make sense, one of which is why they left the island in the first place. Zombies might have washed up on the shore, but between a defensible prison that, despite no longer being in use, was likely still full of supplies and the open streets of a once densely populated city, the prison seems like the better option. It’s true that they leave hoping to find a second safe zone and a scientist working on a cure, but the impetus to leave is that zombies washed up on the shore and they are no longer safe, but when a safer, much easier option would have been to just barricade weak spots in the large fence surrounding the prison, it seems like a huge overreaction to abandon ship. There’s a whole list of things I could go on about, and when I say could, I mean will. Here’s a list of the more glaring things I couldn’t ignore:

–          A lady hiding inside of an ambulance says she was forced to hide there because the zombies surrounded her and never left, but the scene right before makes it clear no zombies have been on the bridge in quite some time. The zombies that had been surrounding the ambulance before they freed her were the ones that were able to Spiderman their way up the Golden Gate Bridge, but more on that in a minute.

–        Despite the zombies always making a ton of noise wherever they go, there are several scenes where they’re able to sneak up on people, often while completely giving themselves away.

–       It takes Dr. Halpern (Burton) nearly the entire movie to figure out that zombies want to eat human flesh. The film started off with an attack in which the zombies ate a bunch of people, and his very own daughter was turned when a zombie tried to eat her, but it still doesn’t sink in that zombies want to eat people until much, much later.

–        A trolley car going about the same speed as a slow jogger manages to cause a huge explosion upon impact. If trolley cars are really bombs on wheels, can someone please let me know so I can avoid them in the future.

–        I’m just going to give everyone a piece of advice that runs contradictory to Rise of the Zombies, if you ever meet someone with an infectious and virulent disease do not, I repeat, do not headbutt them. It will not end well.

I can feel my blood pressure rising already, and that list doesn’t even include the weird, out of place theological discussions that come from nowhere and have no actual bearing on the film. I’m guessing someone was really hoping people would take their film seriously and thought a cheesy zombie movie was a good place to discuss the nature of faith, but it just comes across as an unnecessary and distracting addition that seemed forced. Then there’s the zombies.

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{I know, I feel exactly the same way}

The undead for Rise of the Zombies are all over the place in terms of concept, design, and representation. The makeup was extremely inconsistent; some zombies looked absolutely amazing, some looked as if they were wearing a cheap rubber mask that had been spray painted, and some looked like Evil Dead’s Deadites for whatever reason. The undead actors often made me question if I was supposed to be watching crazed mutants, walking dead people, or an army of chimpanzees. Worse yet, even the zombie physiology isn’t clear as it’s implied throughout the film that the undead can only be stopped with a bullet to the head, but there are times simply slitting a zombie’s throat will put it down for good. They couldn’t even decide if they wanted their zombies to be super powered or regular undead since these zombies can scale flat surfaces with either Spiderman-like palms or undisclosed antigravity abilities as evidenced by their climb up the smooth sides of the Golden Gate Bridge. I guess I should be grateful that at least some of the zombies look awesome, but the thing about mixing really awful effects with really great ones is that it makes the awful ones that much worse to watch, especially when they greatly outnumber the latter. There were great scenes of gory carnage where you can tell someone with real talent was available to them. Gems include a head being bashed in, a man being torn apart by zombies, a face being blown off by a shotgun, and a freaking baby being cut out of a dead woman. Mixed in with those great effects are so many just awful, awful scenes of terrible CGI work. They even used CGI to make smoke come out of a car. How lazy can you be when you can’t be bothered to film the effects of a small fire. What made me scratch my head though was that with all the CGI work they did, all the times they could have used practical effects but didn’t, when they needed to use CGI they didn’t bother. Our intrepid survivors cross the Golden Gate Bridge about halfway through their journey and find it completely blocked by stalled cars, yet every time they show an overhead of said bridge, there is a lot of traffic for an impassible bridge. I completely understand not being able to get a shot of the bridge with no cars on it. What I don’t understand is being comfortable enough to use so much terrible looking CGI, and then not using it when it was absolutely necessary to keep up the illusion of a film. If that doesn’t say nobody really cared what they were making, nothing else will.

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{I don’t think this bridge is supposed to have morning traffic on it}

It’s really a shame Asylum doesn’t try harder with their films. They’ve shown some genuine talent from a few of their productions, and I honestly believe that if they were to make a decent attempt at making good films, they’d succeed, but this is sadly yet another in a long, long, very long list of terrible movies that have no redeeming value.

 

The Undead Review

 

Directed By: Nick Lyon (Isle of the Dead, They Found Hell)

Starring: Ethan Suplee (My Name is Earl, American History X), Mariel Hemmingway (In Her Line of Fire, First Shot), LaVar Burton (Star Trek: The Next Generation, Reading Rainbow), Danny Trejo (Machete, From Dusk Till Dawn), Heather Hemmens (3 Musketeers{2011}, Hellcats), French Stewart (3rd Rock from the Sun, Stargate), and Chad Lindberg (The Fast and the Furious, October Sky)

Written By: Keith Allan (11/11/11, Zombie Night) and Delondra Williams (Night of the Wild, Blood Lake: Attack of the Killer Lampreys)

Released By: The Asylum and SyFy

Release Year: 2012

Release Type: Television Release on SyFy Channel

Television Rating: TV-14

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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