I SURVIVED A ZOMBIE HOLOCAUST
For starters, I would just like to quickly thank Zoe Hobson the producer of “I Survived A Zombie Holocaust”, for allowing me to watch and review the film while it’s still on the film festival circuit. The last film I watched with Holocaust in the title started with the word Cannibal and it was not a fun experience (eeek), thankfully Guy Pigden’s debut feature film “I Survived A Zombie Holocaust” was. Guy is a filmmaker from New Zealand, a place that has given us talented filmmakers like Peter Jackson and comedic talent like Flight Of The Conchords. I Survived A Zombie Holocaust continues the horror/comedy blend now know as horrody. Wesley Pennington (Harley Neville), is a young inexperienced student fresh out of film school who is given the opportunity to be a runner (fancy word for lackey haha) on a low-budget zombie film. He secretly has hopes of pursuing a career in writing and making movies himself but with an obnoxious director and self-absorbed actors making his life hell his determination to succeed is put to the test when real zombies take over the film set and a group of misfits led by Wesley himself must try to survive!
The film also stars Jocelyn Christian, Ben Baker, Mike Edward, Andrew Laing and the stunningly beautiful Reanin Johannink.
Given the low-budget of ISAZH, the production value is the first thing I want to mention. All the technical aspects of the film are as good as anything I’ve seen in the genre. The camera work is really professional and the cuts and edits are clever and snappy they help add to the comedic nature of the events depicted in the film. The audio is smooth and ultra-clear, the kiwi accent is one of those ones that grates on me so I like to make fun of it (haha). This seemed to have a lot of over enunciating on purpose almost like a bit of a nod to the low-budget splettttter films (see what I did there…), that Peter Jackson made back before he had money. I could definitely feel Guy channeling some of that and I thought it was cool, after all you can’t be a New Zealander and not have loved those early films like “Braindead” and “Bad Taste” and Guy applies that same kind of guerilla film making to this.
The cast has a lot of fun in their respective roles. Harley Neville has the job of carrying the misfit group throughout the attack and he is more than up to the task. He is one of those everyday kind of people that makes you feel like you could take his place. You can’t help but sympathise with the guy as he does everybody elses grunt work, says all the wrong things, ruins takes (haha shakes head). Some of the more comedic scenes suited him perfectly. He acts with a very natural blend of awkward situational comedy and a very dry sense of humour. I cringed and laughed at “It’s the hiiiiiinggge” which gets said several times throughout the film as he fails in the timing department again and again (haha). Reanin was a delight and looked absolutely stunning as Jessica Valentine, the lead actress in the movie within the movie. She plays the spoilt lead actress hoping for her big break with such great enthusiasm. The playful banter between her and the muscular military style co-star provided me with a few chuckles.
The comedy consists of mostly awkward scenes involving Wesley and other crew members, in particular the chef Susan Ford (Christian), whom he has a crush on. Poor Wesley just can’t seem to say or do the right thing around her. A few jokes started out funny but carried on an extra minute or two and lost their initial gag. It’s a predictable kind of humour for anyone who has watched a horror comedy before, but that’s all you can ask for with a film like this. The film poster and introduction to the movie are great. I thought something seemed a little off in the opening scenes but then of course I realised what was happening. It’s played out a little bit like a soapie and then when the actors break character you realise whats going on. There are some cool but cheesy blood splatter effects and decent prosthetics. The action scenes were lacking and to be honest I was kind of hoping for more. I realise this is a blend of two genres and not meant to be taken seriously but in that case why not make it sillier and more over the top?? I think being such a huge fan of those early NZ splatter films I find it difficult to view a film like this as its own thing.
The opening act starts pretty strong with good development in each of the characters personalities. Most of the comedy works best in those early scenes and once it becomes evident an experiment has gone horribly wrong we get to the zombie aspect of the film but in the middle the script suffers and stumbles in momentum with a lack of action important to the progress of the story. The zombie sound effects and attention to detail is also evidently lacking, now that could be due to the low-budget or Guy’s intentions may have been to keep it more comedic and not about the killing. The lack of detail is most noticeable in one of the main action sequences when the zombies in the film within the film are supposed to attack (naturally it turns into a real attack from real zombies haha). I took particular notice of the makeup effects on a lot of the extras and the crew didn’t seem to bother with giving them each their own style or look and that’s just either a time/budget thing or maybe a pure lapse in attention to detail, but in zombie film most people would expect a bit better.
I found Wesley’s daydreams about Susan pretty cliché/lame and unoriginal too. We have seen that type of thing done a million times. Bedazzled which is one of my all time favourite comedies used that in several scenes and it really worked but the awkwardness of Wesley and his interactions with Susan worked perfectly fine on its own without having to feel the need to spell the obvious stench of desperation out to the viewer, Wesley is just desperate enough!
I Survived A Zombie Holocaust was 100 minutes of pretty good fun and I think for the most part that was the main goal of the film. I think given the budget and experience of this cast and crew the film serves a purpose and has a place. Does it excel in either the horror or comedy department? Probably not, but that’s no reason to write it off remember it’s not an easy thing to pull off that perfect blend. Thankfully a technical success combined with the comedic timing of both Harley and Jocelyn and their ability to generate a chemistry that works for the most part makes this a good time! Keep an eye out for the film’s release next year.
My rating for “I Survived A Zombie Holocaust” is 6/10