Contains mild spoilers.
Now, the term 'cowboy' in the UK is more colloquially used as an adjective to mean reckless, wild or unreliable; usually for something that's been shoddily undertaken by someone not fit for the purpose. It's a funny term, that seems to be attributed to John Cleese and Faulty Towers in 1972 when it was first recorded, and here is generally a prefix to builder, or workman. So in many ways renaming director Paul Winters' 'Walking Dead in the West' to 'Cowboy Zombies' for the UK couldn't have been more fitting or honest.
One always starts to worry when the best quote they could get to emblaze the back and really sell the film is 'Zombie Fans Will Enjoy This'; as if admitting if you're not, then you really won't, and if you are, we'll attempt lame some headology to convince you in advance that you will. It's safe to say it didn't work; and I'll actually go one further, positing you'd actually have to be pretty desperate and a bit mentally unhinged in your undead love affair to actually get the enjoyment promised, from what is easily the most tedious zombie film I've reviewed. Yes, the daft little wild-west zombie story is kind of ok, the cause of the outbreak laughably bad and confusing, but once it gets going does obey all the rules; it's just that the film is entirely derivative, has absolutely nothing memorable of merit and is so exceeedingly tiresome I'd genuinely consider it the next time I'm struck with insomnia.
It's Arizona 1876 and Marshal Frank Wilcox (played by none other than Paul Winters) has rounded up some dirty outlaws. In the nearby town of Crumpet (I kid you not) Sheriff White (Jean Paul Turgeon) and Preacher Black (Greg Bronson) are hanging two other no-good hoodlums when one throws his lot in to God for a sign of mercy, but instead of salvation gets a cheap sfx clap of lightning and his final judgement for his efforts. That's kind of it; the dead come back, the headshot trope is done to death, Marshall and Sheriff eventually get together with a bunch of uninteresting survivors who tick all the wild-west ethnic, gender and moral stereotypes and The Night of the Living Dead template is abused till it all comes, thankfully, to an early and abrupt end. It's Armageddon, day one, ground zero, the wild frontier where civilisation is tested every day, and everyone is armed, drunk or both. It should be explosions, death and carnage and humanity holding on by the merest thread; not this unapologetically tame, and ponderous, second rate snooze-fest.
For all that it's God holy wrath; well there is some lightening at the right moment; it's also an infection. So we have all the dead, even those buried well before all the trouble started, back up staggering about, and we also have bites, dark ugly wounds and sudden extreme personality shifts. It's The Walking Dead regurgitated in the West, and the infection stuff confusion one feels was added just to drive a few painfully forced emotional scenes, where the group are forced to deal with little girls and deputies who are about to turn. The zombies themselves are unfathomably slow and shambolic. As they lurch and spasm about gargling, spluttering and yelping all the time being picked easily off by elderly Sioux or incompetent teens pretending to be able to use utterly fake six shooters, one can't help question how they could they possibly win. There isn't ever a point you feel they pose any tangible threat, and that each tame and generally off-screen kill is the result of baffling incompetence and hesitation.
'Cowboy' Zombies is not a good film. Second tier actors working with a mediocre script that's devoid of all spark; it's a film that drags itself and the viewer along for seventy pitiful and dreary minutes before putting us all out of its misery. I wasn't expecting much but I do normally get something for my trouble; here though, nothing. I've also read murmurings it was also to act as a possible pilot for yet another TV series, and yes Undeadwood with Ian McShane in full-swing taking down zombies with expletives would be glorious, but more of this miserable uninspired schlock? No thanks - 2/10