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Tuesday, October 25, 2011

SILENT NIGHT, ZOMBIE NIGHT -- DVD review by porfle

With so many zombie movies out there, it's nice to come across one like SILENT NIGHT, ZOMBIE NIGHT (2009) that still has that old zing.  This low-budget indy may have been done with limited locations and resources, but it makes up for any such disadvantages by being both an interesting "people" story and a good old-fashioned undead blowout.

The cast are certainly up to the task--the lead performances are intriguing and fun to watch even when they don't display the kind of finesse that wins big, shiny awards.  Likewise for the script, which actually gives them some interesting dramatic scenes and scintillating character interplay along with the carnage.

Your classic love triangle forms the basis of the plot as two buddy cops, Frank Talbot (Jack Forcinito) and Nash Jackson (Andy Hopper), have a falling out over their mutual interest in Frank's lovely wife Sarah (Nadine Stenovitch).  Meanwhile, a zombie apocalypse is brewing right under their noses, which they seem blissfully unaware of until a little undead girl bites Andy in the foot and Frank shoots his toe off while dispatching her.  (Most of the best scenes between these two guys will occur during zombie attacks.)

Back at Andy's apartment, Frank and Sarah nurse him back to health while the zombies mill around outside and try to get in.  We find that Frank can be a huge S.O.B. but a very handy one to have around, with Forcinito playing the role in a casual and lighthearted way that makes the character likable.  Hopper and Stenovitch both play off him very well and have a good chemistry with each other as Andy and Sarah's illicit love inches toward consummation.  With her intense performance, Stenovitch in particular adds weight to the more serious side of the story.

Action-guy Frank can't resist loading up his shotgun and making a nocturnal foray into zombieland, resulting in some cool kills and an amusing passage in which he makes like Babe Ruth on a few skulls to the tune of "Take Me Out to the Ballgame."  (Elsewhere, Grieg's "In the Hall of the Mountain King" is also well used for comic effect.)  More human-type drama ensues when he runs across Jeffrey (Lew Temple) hiding out in his attic after his family has been killed.

Writer-director Sean Cain solves the eternal "fast zombie-slow zombie" dispute with some blah-blah scientific exposition that allows him to feature a pleasing combination of both.  The faster and smarter zombies are led by a snarling, leisure-suit-wearing used car dealer whose roving pack of voracious marauders supply much of the film's giddy menace.  The other zombies are nicely played with a variety of individual attributes in both appearance and behavior, all boasting some excellent makeups which make good use of prosthetics, airbrush, and contact lenses.

Vernon Wells ("Wez" of ROAD WARRIOR fame) and Felissa Rose (SLEEPAWAY CAMP) ramp things up big-time with their late appearance as part of a heavily-armed rescue group locating stray survivors.  Frank, naturally, manages to piss off even these good Samaritans, and his altercation with Felissa gives her an opportunity to deliver some of the best acting I've seen from her in years.  As for Wells--any time Wez shows up in your movie is a good time.

Sean Cain keeps the dramatic scenes interesting and the action scenes full of splattery fun, his lean directorial style perfectly complimented by the no-frills camerawork and editing.  Aside from some quick cuts of exploding heads, nasty bites, and a dismemberment or two, there really isn't a whole lot of over-the-top gore for its own sake, but the film is so suspenseful and the characters such fun to watch that I barely noticed.  Or maybe I really have become desensitized after all these years.

The DVD from Pacific Entertainment is in 16x9 widescreen with Dolby sound and subtitles in English and Spanish.  Extras include a commentary with director, producer, and cinematographer, deleted scenes, bloopers, trailers, and a brief Easter egg featuring Vernon Wells.

Neither exceedingly downbeat nor wisecrackingly frivolous, SILENT NIGHT, ZOMBIE NIGHT hits just the right tone from the start and just keeps getting better.  If you can appreciate the ambiance of a good B-movie with its heart in the right place, this lively zombie romp should be on your Christmas list.

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