Friday, 3 October 2014

Apocalypse of the (Living) Dead (Zone of the Dead) - review

2009 (Serbia / Italy / Spain)

Contains mild spoilers.

Apocalypse of the Living Dead aka Apocalypse of the Dead aka Zone of the Dead must have caught me on a good day as though there's much to criticise, overall I really quite enjoyed director Milan Konjevic and Milan Todorovic's visceral and dramatic little Eastern European zombie horror. Made on a shoestring (a purported $1m) what we have is an earnest attempt at a frightening apocalyptic story in the Romero vein with absolutely no rom or com, with deference for the genre and a healthy respect to work to the budget. You could say Apocalypse of the Living Dead is an old school antithesis to all the Shaun of the Dead wannabe's, to all who've try to paint the picture that z-day wouldn't actually be deeply unpleasant, and to everything The Asylum has managed to put out. This is Serbia, it's the zombie end of the world, and it's no laughing matter.

Really, what Apocalypse of the Living Dead needs is a good edit. Someone to go over all the dialogue, give it good old polish and take out all the unnecessary exposition and play with pacing. It does improve significantly as the film progresses but struggles to get all the characters to where they need to be when the action takes off, in any kind of coherent or cohesive manner. This doesn't just apply to the dialogue either as the getting to the point where the zombie-genie is firmly out the bottle requires quite the number of dominos to fall in the most forced and avoidable way. Don't get me wrong, once Mortimer Reyes (Ken Foree - Dawn of the Dead 2004), Dragan Belic (Miodrag Krstovic) and Mina Milius (Kristina Klebe) are battling the undead forces of darkness everything clicks in to place; it's just getting there is all a bit amateur and if we're honest, not really very well thought or planned out.

You're the president of Serbia and you've got some crazy dangerous reanimating compound you're thinking of using to bolster your armed forces to make you an influential player on the world stage. I'm betting one of the first things you wouldn't do, is transport it on the railway with minimal protection, especially when we're lead to believe the Serbian public transport system allows random armed soldiers to not only wander on the tracks but get into light skirmishes with transport policemen inadvertently firing their guns at anything that happens to be passing through.

There's no ambiguity with the Living Dead of this Apocalypse. One whiff of the green gas and it's death and zombie as fast as you can say snarly little gut muncher. With ground zero established and a ravenous zombie first wave out and ready to make wave 2 the mayhem soon spills into the adjoining city of Pančevo and bumps into Mina and co. who have been tasked with moving a prisoner to the airport for transport to London. Not content to tell the straightforward disparate group of survivors against an increasingly belligerent zombie threat story, Konjevic and Todorovic include not one, but two mysterious kick-ass pseudo Riddick characters. Both know how to use a gun, both keep their cards close to their chests and while both could have come across as comical or farcical each actually fits with the narrative in a way that feels natural. Think Michonne from The Walking Dead; she's larger than life but still fits in the world and story.

As said, with a good hard edit and a bit of polish I feel we'd have a great pilot episode of a gritty new zombie series. Reyes, Belic and Milius along with Riddick 1 and 2 make for intriguing characters and some great zombie killing action, and the undead menace itself while following the traditional modern Romero template, shows enough original ambiguity and thus the possibility of complex content with two hundred year old ancient curses, the Chernobyl disaster and even that hell might be full, all getting a mention. A surprising gem, I really thought this was going to be more zero budget zombie fodder to throw on to the cynical fire but I couldn't have been more wrong. A solid, dark apocalyptic no thrills zombie explosion with blood, gore and truck loads of menace. With a bigger budget and some solid production and editing I feel these guys could really deliver something very special; scary indeed, 6/10.

The Blu-ray I watched was the German MIG release. It comes with both the original English audio track as well as a German dub. There are no English subtitles and it's region locked to Europe.


1 comment:

  1. I just watched this and it really did catch you on a good day, didn't it?