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Sunday, October 30, 2011


Director Ryan Thompson took a bunch of his favorite things about movies, mashed them all together into a low-budget, high-energy conglomeration, and called it ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE: REDEMPTION (2011). 

In a by-now standard vision of a dystopian post-nuclear future, good guys and bad guys battle for what's left of the ravaged world.  Knox (Johnny Gel) escapes from the marauders, a group of ex-military scavengers led by brawny psycho Rome (Jerry Lynch), and is taken in by the benevolent followers of Moses (Fred Williamson).  Former soldier Knox proves himself worthy of their trust and becomes a valuable member of the group while eventually winning over tough girl Sarah (Alicia Clark) who initially hates him. 

After the marauders attack their encampment and kidnap whoever they don't kill, Knox must lead his new friends Robert (Joseph Scott Anthony) and Lucas (Tommy Beardmore) into the bad guys' fortress-like cathedral hideout on a desperate rescue mission.  In order to help compensate for being vastly outnumbered, the heroic trio cleverly manipulate a roving horde of zombies into becoming their unwitting allies.

The fact that the zombies themselves seem to be guest stars in their own movie is explained by director Thompson in the making-of featurette.  "We decided right away we didn't want it to have anything to do with the original ZA film," he reveals.  "I really wanted to do a post-apocalyptic movie... with zombies in it."  Thus, this sequel often comes off as a poor man's "Mad Max" flick which also owes a lot to ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK and various other grungy action movies.  (Anthony's character even seems to morph into Snake Plissken before it's over.) 

During the many action setpieces that take place throughout, the emphasis is on gunplay and physical combat between the human foes, with the zombies eventually butting in and turning the tide in favor of the good guys.  While the staging and choreography often appear rather shoddy, these sequences are done pretty much as well as can be on such a low budget and tight schedule, with plenty of action.  The CGI blood splatter and muzzle flashes are particularly good, and some of the not-so-hot digital effects can be overlooked. 

The undead look pretty convincing, with several of the "hero" zombies displaying above-average makeups.  Straight horror elements are few--we never even get the usual scene where someone dies and comes back to life--but there's one moment that's as shockingly horrific as anything you'll ever see in this type of movie.  During a good old fashioned zombie shoot-em-up scene midway through the story, we also get the classic bit where an unlucky individual gets disemboweled and feasted upon by the ravenous undead.  More such mayhem ensues when they intrude en masse upon the final free-for-all battle and get in on the fun.

As for the acting, the skill level fluctuates wildly among the cast although all are enthusiastic performers.  Old pro Fred Williamson comes off best, as you might guess, making the most of both his dialogue and action scenes.  Johnny Gel is adequately "cool" and heroic as Knox and co-stars Anthony and Beardmore hold up their end well.  As Sarah, Alicia Clark's winsome looks help compensate for her lack of acting talent (especially when clad in a slave-girl outfit a la Princess Leia in RETURN OF THE JEDI) and her climactic catfight with villainess Angelique Sky is fun. 

The most hilariously arch performance comes from Jerry Lynch as Rome, who tells Sky in one scene: "If I want your opinion, I'll rape it out of you!"  He's so wildly overwrought in the role that he makes DAY OF THE DEAD's Joe Pilato seem mild-mannered in comparison.

The DVD from Pacific Entertainment is in 16x9 widescreen with Dolby 5.1 sound and subtitles in English and Spanish.  Extras include a genial commentary track with Thompson, Gel, and co-writer Matthew O'Day, a "making-of" featurette, deleted scenes, image gallery, and trailers.  Be sure to stay till the end of the closing credits for a final tag scene.

While ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE: REDEMPTION suffices as passable grade-B entertainment, it still must be appreciated mainly on a "so bad it's good" level, and if you can't do that then this is definitely a movie you should avoid.  But if lively little low-budget flicks are your thing, and you can appreciate the efforts of indy filmmakers doing what they can with extremely limited resources, you should have a pretty fun time with this.

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Anonymous said...

I was fortunate enough to see this at its premiere. It was a blast and the cast had as much fun making it as I did watching it! A great review, here. You really get what I loved about it!

Porfle Popnecker said...

Thanks, Walking Dad! I can imagine this being a fun audience flick.

Anonymous said...

This is a great review. Everything you said was exactly right. As if you read the minds of the film makers and everyone else involved. Amazing.

This movie is what it is. Just like you put it in your review. A low budget fun film that people can enjoy.

The actors were great, the crew was amazing. Considering the resources. Everyone worked their fingers to the bone.

I think everyone involved in this project will appreciate your review.

Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Nice review, I did enjoy this one for the exact reasons you stated , it really looks like everyone had fun doing this film and the effects weren't bad at all. I've seen films with higher budgets that couldn't keep my attention like this indy one did. Good job all involved!

Anonymous said...

i really like the character billy shame he died to soon anyone know anything else that guys in

Ray Jewhurst said...

Billy was played by Didrik Davis. He is an excellent actor and I hope we get to see more of him soon.