It either starts appallingly well or appallingly badly depending on what mood you're in and now you feel about true b-movie film making at its brazenly finest. There's some running, some red-necks drinking beer, some neck biting, some stumbling, some garden rake slamming and a lot of CLOSE UP in your face camera shots. The result? Some laughs, some tears, some winces from a great no nonsense opening and appalling amateur acting and filming, but most importantly some fresh zombies ready to stagger around the woody outskirts of the small town of Otis.
I'll say one thing for director / writer Damon Lemay and the small but earnest cast. You get the feeling that there's been a genuinely passionate attempt at doing it all right. With the cabin in the woods massacre out the way the film picks up the insulated small town zombie outbreak narrative by the scruff of the neck. There's an ambitious, albeit painfully forced story that still works, some fantastic made up zombies, imaginative, fun and original outbreak sequences, and it all results in a tight competent little zombie film that more than holds its own at the low budget end of the genre. Complaints are more niggles; there's a bit of an identity crisis in that it's never full on farce despite occasional scenes that do descend to such, and the story is so telegraphed with Lemay obsessed with ensuring every small detail actually coherently plays some part in the story epitomised with Randy, the only guy in town with access to unlimited salt suddenly and inexplicably joining the main cast by wandering into the infected police station half way through. Despite the ridiculous contrivance though it was refreshing after watching so many small town zombie films that never even attempted a complete and cohesive storyline to watch one that has one through its core.
It would be very easy to call Zombie Town a bit of a Slither rip off with extra zombies, but by my reckoning, that Slither was released less than a year earlier, and understanding what goes into film production of any budget, I'd wager the basic parasitic zombie take over idea had at least laid its first eggs by the time Lemay had to hold his head in his hands and watch it appear on the big screen first. This being said, alien parasites taking over a small community isn't the newest idea whichever way you look at it.
I say alien though it's never explicitly stated. Either way they're certainly not your regular earth like blood leaches capable of climbing, infinite asexual reproduction and pursuing fresh victims all over town like hungry little death caterpillars. Finding a host it's a quick trip to the base of the spine where they inject hormones or a virus or something that soon attacks the brain rendering the person rabid, dangerous and eager to pass on the new found companions which have already started to replicate.
So they're not actually dead but that's ok; they're vacuous dangerous gut munchers and as I've now iterated on countless occasions lack of pulse isn't the be all and end all of state-z. They stagger about, they'll bite people or animals who also become infected, they appear to lose all cognitive function but they do degenerate if they can't pass on the ever swelling number of parasites. Denton (Phil Burke), brother of Jake and captured and imprisoned, is a zombie film delight. Watching his slow decent into zombie parasitic madness ultimately resulting in his death with parasites burrowing their way out in number was a celebration of unpleasant and provocative film making and wonderfully done.
The bingo scene, the grandmothers town rampage, the leg chain sawing, the eclectic metal / country / chime-bell score, the whole goofy central idea; Zombie Town is full of vibrant lively ideas and ties them all together, and even though I could, I'm not going to ruthlessly tear it all apart just because in doing so it relies on the viewer going with all the ridiculously narrative convenience. Instead I'm going to believe it was all a deliberate play by Lemay to give the film that b-movie undertone that leaves the viewer smiling both uncomfortably, as well as from having a genuine good time. Definitely a lot better than expected, and definitely a lot better than the vast majority of the low (and many bigger) budget zombie films made in the mid-00s this is definitely worth a watch, 6/10.