Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Humans vs Zombies - review

2011 (USA)

Contains spoilers. 

Laboured, derivative and predictable, amateur in composition, story and acting; writer and director Brian T. Jaynes's low budget genre-bandwagon Humans vs Zombies isn't going to win any awards. Then again it's somehow also nowhere near as bad as it could, or should have been. I'll also hold my hands up. It was only after checking IMDb afterwards that I learnt that Humans vs. Zombies; the popular college campus high-jinx referenced was actually a thing; a combination of a UK University and the Nineties, had this one pass me by. I'll also keep my hands up to admit if it had been a thing I'd have undoubtedly joined in with James (Jesse Ferraro) and the nerd-gang pretending to keep the streets safe from the undead scourge.

Before I go into the gaming meta, I'd like to reiterate that Humans vs Zombies, the film, is an entirely safe, entirely done-to-death zombie holocaust survival story. There's a biotech firm, fluorescent goo, an awkward beach scene encounter between a hunky guy without a shirt, his girlfriend in her underwear and a zombie in a hazmat suit, and an entirely avoidable and terribly derivative accident that's soon spreading out of control. Add to the mix a narrative where all but a fortunate few students succumb and the local campus, town and countryside is rapidly overrun, and it's a scream, run, hold-up, repeat template all the way. As said it's laboured, full of inconsistencies, and for all it does do right is entirely hampered at all times by the obvious budgetary constraints. Yet it does do somethings right, and there were moments where clever dialogue, polished acting and delightful gore and effects had me believing I was watching something entirely less amateur. Unfortunately these moments were always followed with reminders I wasn't.

A play on the school-yard live action phenomenon, Humans vs Zombies the film for all the geek references and call-outs doesn't perhaps play with the video-game nerds become heroes and save the day trope as much as it could. Sure James is called out to finally put his extensive zombie know-how and first person nerdship to good use but it ultimately doesn't do much good. If we're honest it falls to the other survivors; his room-mate, non-gaming football player, Danny (Jonah Priour), girlfriend of five minutes  Amanda (Melissa Carnell), comic-relief Brad (Chip Joslin) and Frank, a gun toting campus police officer, gulf-war vet and paranoid conspiracy nut to step up to the plate. Add in gaming-know-it-all, and stream-princess Tommi (Dora Madison) who again falls apart when things get ugly and real and it's almost if Jaynes didn't really care much for the gaming origin.

As with everything else, for every gnarly authentic looking zombie and gratuitous and glorious gut munch or head-pop spectacle there's the inconsistent friends of the shoot drafted in to get a sense of scale once the carnage had spilled out onto the street. It's never terrible; there's obviously been some good editing, it's just never good. There's also some terrible and baffling story inconsistencies and decisions, like leaving a relatively well fortified campus police facility to run across in broad daylight to a flimsy hardware store, and once there abandon the plan to board it up, preferring to sit around depressed, maudlin and horny till morning. Even the zombies themselves; a traditional virus infected fast post 28 Days Later; are suddenly and eccentrically thrown docility if they can't feed and a lack of hunger for those ex-soldiers who've been exposed to chemical weapons. It's almost as if with half an hour to go and struggling, any and all ideas were ready to be looked at.

By no means the worst film I've watched there's just not enough originality or real substance to Humans vs Zombies to really make a recommendation. Above average acting and dialogue, and intermittent moments action and story clearly over-perform is not quite enough to sustain interest in a film that despite only lasting an hour and a half easily outstayed its welcome. Also how Jaynes turned what should have been the obvious and derivative bio-chemical origin story-line into the convoluted and confusing mess is really something. It was only after some incoherent conspiracy ramblings about the Illuminati, secret bunkers and an entomopathogen (insect-pathogenising fungus) engineered from ants to eat oil and wipe out humanity that any of the opening aerial shots, zombie virus news interviews and foreboding radio shows made any sense. It's just not a particularly good film; and despite not nearly being as bad as first impressions promised, clearly financially restrained and with fleeting moments of greatness, it's just all a bit shallow, repetitious and ponderous to stand out - 5/10.


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