Contains mild spoilers.
Well somebody got the big bumper book of derivative zombie tropes for their birthday didn't they? A low budget Syfy/The Asylum co production Zombie Apocalypse is a no messing about, as straightforward as you can get zombie survival story, interweaving several groups of desperate men and woman as they overcome hordes of the undead to reach a fabled nirvana that they believe to be free from threat. It sounds great on paper; there's no tricks or gimmicks just good old fashioned survivors vs zombies, and it's a welcome sight, but there's a problem. In playing it so safe, the result is probably the most derivative, bland collection of ideas I've yet seen, not helped with having mediocre characters, bad acting and amateurish effects and production.
In an opening sequence ripped straight from Dawn of the Dead 2004, we're introduced to the world. We learn that virus VM2 has conquered the globe. Eventually reaching US soil it has eliminated 90% of the population and to combat this a desperate military has thrown everything at it, including EMP orbital nukes to disable the countries electronics. Now I'm no expert but wouldn't disabling all electrics, i.e. cars, communications, missile guidance systems kind of hinder those left alive and kind of give mindless zombie flesh eaters a bit of a boost? Still it's a handy plot tool to explain the lack of technological solutions used in the film...
Anyhow, out of this post apocalyptic graveyard we meet our main three survivors. Ramona (Taryn Manning), Billie (Eddie Steeples), and Kevin (Gerald Webb) who explain in a conversation very much engineered to fill us the viewer in, that they have been holed up in a nearby safe house for six months, but have had to leave to find food and hopefully some answers. Totally unprepared (as if this is their first zombie encounter), they get attacked and mostly saved by a second more worldly wise gang consisting of Henry (Ving Rhames), Julian (Johnny Pacar), Cassie (Lesley-Ann Brandt), and Mack (Gary Weeks). This group then proceeds to inform them, handily for us viewers again, on all the finer details of the threat they're facing, how to combat them and where they ought to be heading.
The group then journeys from one derivative location another, each time encountering and fighting the same old zombie horde (literally, as I swear I saw the same extras time and again) before being pushed on. And that's the plot in a nut shell. Often survival stories attain greatness not from the story or backdrop though but, from the intensity of their relationship and their interactions. I'll say this, if there is any depth or complexity to these guys they've managed to hide it well. I think we learn Cassie is married and thinks her husband might still be alive and, err, well, I think that covers it. They're the most derivative, shallow and unexciting bunch you're ever likely to encounter. Conversation is tedious and obvious and I honestly think if I'd have ended up with these guys I'd have ended up screaming all the time. On paper it's not a bad bunch of actors too but their screen rapport whether it's entirely the banal script and dialogue just never gets interesting or exciting.
I'll commend Zombie Apocalypse for not mucking about though as our undead friends make an early appearance and the zombie vs. survivors action sequences make up a good deal of the film. For all the action though, it's all still a bit safe and unassuming and there's never any real flare for the dramatic. With zombies streaming in, time and again on mass and often in tight claustrophobic environments you never feel there's any real danger and there's certainly very little tension. Survivors get swarmed but seem to have time to push, chop and shoot and when they do get caught out it ends up feeling very orchestrated like it was time for that particular character to die.
Like everything else the zombies aren't great if I'm honest. Even putting aside the poor effects which varies from obvious masks and self applied make-up the behaviour and style of the zombies seems to be a right mish-mash of genres and ideas without any continuity or uniformity. They try to explain it all in character dialogue, how there are older Romero style shamblers, and newer more sprightly Danny Boyle runners, but it just comes across as a mess and the feeling Nick Lyon just said 'move like a zombie' and each extra make it up for themselves. At some point though they obviously felt the need to add something to spice it all up and included first a fight with a big zombie brute/crap RE Executioner copy that bounced about comically then later something from Kinectimals but animated back in the 70s. Proving you can't please all people all of the time too, and despite me picking up that I liked this film for its lack of gimmicks I actually enjoyed both these scenes too much, or maybe they just woke me up. I'll quickly mention the CGI too. It's overdone, always obvious and really very bad.
I didn't expect much going in to Zombie Apocalypse and despite me tearing it apart I actually liked it more than I thought I would. I thought it would be really crap and in truth it's merely a bit rubbish. Totally derivative and stale, I can't really recommend it, 4/10.