I have two ways of approaching this review. This first, is to avoid giving anything away, which quite frankly I'm going to find hard, given the sort of zombie review I normally do. The second is to just come out with it… Or maybe there's a third where I do both…
Contains mild spoilers.
Duane (Allen Maldonado) and his buddy Russell (Taylor Piedmonte) attending a horror convention are enticed to attend a super-secret party by the alluring Judith (Lauren Mae Shafer). No sooner they down their first beer, they wake, it's morning, they're dressed up and come to realise they've been drugged so they can take part in a live role play of the great Romero classic. One grizzly and brutal murder at the hands of a Bill Hinzman wannabee, and one subsequent frantic chase with Karen aka Barbra's (Jana Thompson) from the blood hungry zombie to the farmhouse and protection of Duane, and we understand the safety is definitely off. One zombie becomes two, Karen and Duane find bodies on the first floor and the rest of the individually picked survivors in the cellar, and the movie becomes its namesake, mimesis: to imitate; life mimics art; and the classic zombie farmhouse siege is set to go.
The twist is their awareness of the film they're now taking part in, though disappointingly so for purported horror film fans. Between them they know how many of them they should be, they know how many of them survive, they understand what the zombies will do to them, and they have a rough outline of how; on the other hand though, they seemingly don't know how to break from playing out the same narrative with the same avoidable deaths and same level of indecisiveness. It's almost like…
Wait, I've already said too much…
It's almost like there's a guiding hand; a puppet master pulling the strings, manipulating them to play out their roles and guide them to their assured death and destruction. It's that same that brooding under current of the original; the pervasive feeling that all is really utterly futile whatever one does; that one should just give in to the waves, the ever increasing tide of dread; the inevitable.
Except the cracks are there along with doubt and a rationality that's screaming that zombies just don't really exist. It's hard not to appreciate what Director / co-writer Douglas Schulze has put together, and he does a good job of establishing the illusion. And for a short time I almost believed they were zombies; hoped at any rate there would be another meta-meta-twist and the sick little killers who were staging the whole thing had themselves found themselves trapped in the narrative; though alas they weren't. You see they're not zombies, they're humans pretending. There's no zombies here at all; it's not really even a zombie film. Still, it is a neat trick, though I'd have probably preferred that they try and maintain the full illusion a bit longer, rather than deciding to blend back to the real with more than enough cohesive-interruptions, so that there was never a need for a big Ta-Da moment. While you're guessing, wondering, Mimesis really does shine.
Hat's off to the zombie-wannabees though. Ripping, feasting, gorging, gouging; for the short time they really do stay in character, some even seem willing to die for the cause and it's this that maintains the fantasy. They also look the part, staggering around the farmhouse slowly, randomly as if lifted straight out of the genre classic. As said, for a short time I was genuinely captivated; the problems for Mimesis is that with the game up, with the cat out the bag the narrative and ideas start deteriorating; they're sick privileged little sadists and they want to do what sick privileged little sadists want to do. The last twenty minutes with the zombies now out of character trying to wrap things up, the survivors fighting back and some laboured exposition to try and explain it all, things became a bit derivative and lazy. Yes, there's some nice deaths and drama but it's ultimately not as rewarding as perhaps it could have been.
The horror convention key note speaker Alfonso Betz's (Sid Haig) theme is that it's not tv / movies / video games to blame for societies murder problems but "sick little fucks just being sick little fucks", and I guess then film is trying to play around this and the mimesis theme. The bad kids are using NOTLD to indulge their sick perversions to kill; not because of it; at least I think the message isn't trying to make media culpable for mass murder. Still there's some ambitious stuff going on in Mimesis, perhaps too ambitious; as for as much as it does a good job setting the clever original meta-narrative up, it just unravels at the point it really should be hitting it home.
Contains mild spoilers.
Mimesis: Night of the Living Dead is a refreshing, original and well thought out take on the Romero legacy. Douglas Schulze has put together a quite the tight claustrophobic zombie slasher. Full of gratuitous deaths and gore, tension and intrigue, with solid acting, good pace and a coherent and competent script it's a great gritty dirty little horror. The film does eventually lose its identity with an ending that feels a little rushed and at odds with its potential but it's not a deal breaker and it's still entertaining - 7/10.