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Tuesday, February 3, 2015


If you're a Billy Zane fan, then you know how glorious it is to see him even in the worst movies, which is what he is often in these days. But what if you could see him in an honest-to-goodness zombie apocalypse flick? With Dee Wallace as his leading lady? You'd plotz, right?

ZOMBIE KILLERS: ELEPHANT'S GRAVEYARD (2015) is probably as close to that as you're going to get (this year, anyway) although it's not quite a Romero-level living dead epic and Dee Wallace spends all her time in bed playing someone's dying mom. But, hey--Billy Zane.

We join the continuing adventures of the makeshift rural community of Elwood, a haven for the still non-zombified, already in progress. The story comes off at first like a sequel, partly due to the compound title and partly due to the opening voiceover cramming about a movie's worth of exposition into the first five minutes.

But all of that is mainly just stuff zombie-movie watchers already know, especially if they've seen the last few seasons of "The Walking Dead"--that a rag-tag band of survivors have barricaded themselves from the ghouls behind fences and walls, with alpha male Doc (Brian Anthony Wilson, LAW ABIDING CITIZEN, THE POSTMAN) as their leader (who may or may not go off the deep end at some point), and are trying to make the best of things under the circumstances.

It's all pretty familiar, as is the knowledge that this fragile attempt at preserving a microcosm of civilization has about a snowball's chance in hell of not being totally overrun by zombies before the fadeout.

The film is rather low-key compared to most movies of this type, with lots of soulful dialogue scenes accompanied by borderline-maudlin music. Young Ian (Michael Kean) has to take care of his aforementioned dying mom (Dee Wallace) and little brother while fretting about the future of his relationship with true love Nikki (Gabrielle Stone).

There's old timer Rory (co-producer Brian Gallagher) and his young, pregnant wife Toni (Mischa Barton, who played "Kyra" in THE SIXTH SENSE), whose fetus may or may not be infected. Various other interpersonal dramas intertwine to make this one of the more introspective of the "surviving the zombie apocalypse" flicks. In fact, it has enough of this kind of character interplay to be stretched out over the course of an entire season if this were a TV series like "The Walking Dead."

However, we also see the usual conflict between the weaker live-and-let-lives and the inevitable bully-boy types, like the eternally hostile and trigger-happy Dero (Dan McGlaughlin) who just can't get along nicely with everyone else. Some of the most emotionally wrenching moments occur during the dreaded "evictions" when those found to be infected are either forced out the front gate or, if they so choose, executed by Dero and the rest of Doc's personal guard.

To top that off, there's Felissa Rose (SLEEPAWAY CAMP, CAESAR & OTTO'S SUMMER CAMP MASSACRE) as the stereotypical "religious fanatic" and her cultish followers gumming up the works with their perverted interpretations of the Bible. Felissa does her usual fine job in the role but it's a pretty dumb character.

For me, some of the best parts are when laidback military vet Sgt. Seiler (Billy Zane, TITANIC) and his zombie-killer trainees go out hunting for either animated corpses or meat for their own dinner tables. One expedition to a nearby fracking facility--where Rory believes he may find evidence of what started the whole plague in the first place--results in some welcome action when a gunshot alerts an entire herd of undead humans to their presence.

(The fact that fracking may somehow be the root cause of the zombie contagion, by the way, is apparently the film's big political statement. Yikes.)

Probably the most amusing comedy relief comes when the guys start trading familiar movie lines on their way into the facility (the script is particularly self-aware when it comes to zombie movies). Unfortunately, the same sequence yields one of the movie's dumber moments later on, which I will describe simply with the following phrase--"zombie deer stampede." Another such moment comes later when female zombie killer Kennedy (Ashley Sumner) gets bombarded by flying zombie fish.

Direction (by Harrison Smith of CAMP DREAD) and camerawork are capably done, while performances range from adequate to good. The bases that count the most in a movie like this are fairly well-covered, with cool makeup effects and a final humans-versus-undead battle that, while somewhat confusing at times, still manages to make good on the film's slow build-up.

The DVD from Anchor Bay is in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen with Dolby Digital 5.1 sound and subtitles in English and Spanish. Extras consist of three featurettes--"Bloodbath & Beyond" (a YouTube geek trio visit the set), "The Look of Zombie Killers: Elephant's Graveyard" (makeup, set design, etc.), and a behind-the-scenes featurette.

The comparison of ZOMBIE KILLERS: ELEPHANT'S GRAVEYARD to a condensed TV show season along the lines of "The Walking Dead" is especially apt when it ends with a huge, jaw-dropping cliffhanger which leaves us totally wondering what the hell happens next. While the movie's entertaining enough on its own, I'm not sure that's enough to make me seek out the rest of what appears to be an ongoing series. Unless, of course--Billy Zane.

Buy the DVD at

The Blu-ray edition of this movie will be exclusive to Best Buy until May 4, 2015

Other HKCFN reviews featuring Billy Zane:



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