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Tuesday, September 22, 2015

A PLAGUE SO PLEASANT -- DVD Review by Porfle

There are so many zombie apocalypse movies these days that in order for one of them to distinguish itself from the pack, it has to be really good (naturally) and it also helps if it has a hook that's sort of intriguing and unique.  A good example of this would be COLIN, which is told from the living dead protagonist's point of view.

A PLAGUE SO PLEASANT (2013) has both qualities and, thus, is one of the best post-Romero undead mini-epics that I've seen.

It mimics George Romero's seminal classic NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD by being a low-budget zombie flick with crisp, atmospheric black-and-white photography and a somber attitude.  There's also the requisite political and social undercurrent although nowadays the story conjures up implications that even Romero didn't dream of back in '68.

Like most modern zombie movies, A PLAGUE SO PLEASANT seems to explore the same timeline created by Romero's film and joins the ranks of unofficial sequels to it.  What sets this tale apart, however, is the fact that humankind has learned to co-exist with the living dead. 

It seems that, having fired the first shots, we humans started a war that the zombies were compelled to counter the only way they knew how--by eating us.  Stop shooting them, and they lose their hunger for human flesh and become docile, unthreatening, albeit exceedingly unproductive citizens.

This solution to the conflict is its own wonderfully repellent nightmare, of course, with the living forced to go about their everyday lives amidst an ever-growing population of shambling corpses endlessly milling about.  It also creates the problem of what to do when your late loved ones are still walking around and looking more horrible with each passing day.

As Clay Marshall (David Chandler) ruminates while taking his sister Mia (Eva Boehnke) to visit her dead boyfriend Gerry, cemeteries were better when the dead were buried below the ground and not strolling around on it.  Clay's concerned not only for his seemingly loony sis, who just knitted a new wool cap for her decaying beau, but also for his roommate Todd (Maxwell Moody), a very nice but painfully straightlaced fellow who loves Mia but can't compete with the lingering charm of Gerry's moldering corpse. 

It sounds a bit spoofy, and at first, I thought that's what this movie was going to be--a rigidly deadpan satire of zombie movies.  But beyond some very tongue-in-cheek references and Maxwell Moody's performance, which is so restrained as to be almost over-the-top, it turns out to be one of the grimmest, scariest, and most harrowing entries in the genre. 

The turning point comes when Clay decides to do something drastic, the result of which is a shockingly sudden halt to the cease-fire between the living and the dead when a raging, snarling horde of zombies come running--yes, running--over a hill like a tsunami, all clutching hands and gnashing teeth.

This also heralds a brilliantly executed switch from black-and-white to color that's just as purposeful, and almost as exhilarating, as the one in THE WIZARD OF OZ. 

After that, A PLAGUE SO PLEASANT is one long, seemingly endless zombie attack on the city of Terminus (an apparent nod to AMC's "The Walking Dead") with Clay running for his life as warning sirens blare and unsuspecting citizens become a human sushi buffet for the slavering ghouls.  Co-direction by Benjamin Roberds and Jordan Reyes keeps the suspense taut and visually compelling, while the makeups are top-notch--several of these zombies are pretty scary-looking. 

There are some terrific vignettes in which Clay interacts with a frightened little girl named Alexandra in a dark, abandoned house and encounters a blind zombie who stops his frantic thrashing around periodically in order to listen for his prey to make a sound.  The filmmakers accomplish all of this despite their low budget and the results are impressive, suggesting a full-scale zombie invasion without the need for hundreds of extras.

The DVD from Wild Eye Releasing is in widescreen with 2.0 sound.  No subtitles.  Extras consist of domestic and international trailers for the film and trailers for other Wild Eye releases.

After putting us through the wringer by making us vicariously experience a scarifying zombie attack, A PLAGUE SO PLEASANT ends with a final irony that I think George Romero would approve of.  Not all that pleasant after all, but as these films go, this one's a keeper.

Buy it at
Street date: Sept. 29, 2015


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