To return back to what will hopefully amount to regular updates, I’m starting with a double review feature. Dipping in to the Amazon Instant Video (AIV) online catalogue I’ve picked two zombie films that take a similarly different take on an increasingly over-wrought genre. Don’t get me wrong, I do love zombie films, but in recent times, particularly since the explosion in popularity that The Walking Dead created, there has been a tendency to ‘zombify’ as many situations as possible and eventually it gets wearing, even for hardened fans of the genre. The films chosen both come at the idea of the zombie apocalypse in a much more human way than is usually expected. (As a sidenote I should say that this was supposed to be a two-part feature with Wasting Away and Warm Bodies making up the second pair, but unfortunately in the gap between this review and my attempting to watch the films, they had been removed from Prime viewing.)
In Portrait of a Zombie (2012) the action takes place in Ireland as a morally suspect American documentary film maker covers the story of a family who try to accept their son back in to the family, even after he has turned in to a flesh devouring monster. The premise is an interesting one, even if the mockumentary/found-footage gimmick is a little bit old hat ,however the interest never really gets beyond the premise. The character’s aren’t really sympathetic in any way. The family and the documentary team are made up of one-dimensional, uninteresting personalities and the dialogue between them is clichéd to the point of agony.
The films real problem is that it suffers from a crisis of identity. It doesn’t know if it wants to be a comedy or a serious zombie film. It isn’t even sure what message, if any, it’s trying to put across; the faux-intellectual attempts to cover economic or political problems come across as superficial. There simply isn’t enough good here for it to be a film worth of recommendation, there isn’t even enough bat-shit crazy to make it so-bad-it’s-good even if at times it feels like that is the road Portrait of a Zombie wants to go down. There’s the leader of the rioting mob who inexplicably is an expert with a katana, a horrible husband/wife scene that ends in a spectacularly gruesome death or the sounds of automatic weapons being fired when shotguns are on-screen. In this film, however, these feel like shuffling mis-steps rather than lovingly crafted craziness.
Director: Bing Bailey
Running Time: 87 minutes
From a film with identity problems to a film about identity; Colin (2008) offers some interesting themes from a zombie film with a remarkably small budget. Once you move past the generic themes of horror i.e. watching your family members killed twice or the fact that humans have the potential to become just as monstrous as the zombies, there is a surprisingly thoughtful piece here on conformity and the loss of identity. When Colin becomes a zombie he shuffles aimlessly through suburbia but all the while he can maintain a trouble-free life by simply going with the flow, by just going along with the others, the way not to get torn apart is to be the same as everyone else. This is by no means a perfect film, the plot is wafer thin and the ending doesn’t quite sit well with the rest of the film, but there is a certain charm to Colin, and, especially when compared to the busy Portrait of a Zombie, there is room to breath, for ideas to come to the surface. Not only this but a great physical performance from lead actor Alistair Kirton really cements this as a surprise package.
Director: Marc Price
Running Time: 97 minutes
Neither film is perfect, then, but they both do at the very least try to offer some new perspective. Colin, however, is much the better film; in part this is down to the minimalist, microbudget feel, but it boils down to it being much better constructed and it feels more honestly made.
Up next I’ll be back to regular business with a Poundland film, the details of which will be outlined in a coming schedule post.