Tuesday, January 15, 2008


Obstacles abound in the paths of filmmakers outside the Hollywood system, and it's no surprise that these obstacles--time and money, or lack thereof, being the two favorites--often compromise the finished product. So it makes a certain degree of sense that directors will make their movies deliberately "bad," thus utilizing what are normally liabilities for fringe filmmakers. Such is the case with today's entry, 2003's ZOMBIEGEDDON.

A Baltimore-based production from writer/director Chris Watson, the film (one of Troma's many pick-ups) opens with a warning from Uwe Boll, who proclaims it to be a piece of shit best kept away from. An admonition not to be taken lightly for sure, but then the intro segues to news reporter Trent Haaga, who further hammers home the fact that ZOMBIEGEDDON is indeed a piece of shit, turning a simple self-deprecating gag into a desperate, transparent plea for cult-movie notoriety. Yes, the movie is bad, but unfortunately not bad in the fun-spirited manner that many low-budget horror flicks often are; it's almost as if by declaring his movie a shitbomb from the start Watson felt relieved of the obligation to deliver a somewhat watchable pic.

And that's a shame, because his script shows several flashes of creativity and imagination that it isn't much of a stretch to see this as a viable, serious movie. The premise--that zombies are Satan's version of humans and sent to Earth to interfere with God's creation--isn't half-bad, but instead of exploring its potential Watson saddles the movie down with dumb, sub-Troma humor, cult film references standing in as jokes (a practice I really wish would go away), and lazy filmmaking technique. Even the opportunity for feverish lunacy, the saving grace of the bad B movie, goes unplumbed, like using Tom Savini in a cameo as Jesus--an inspired casting choice but is ultimately wasted in favor of a few limp chuckles. Nor does Watson go all out with the gore, a conceit that made a howler like BONE SICKNESS tolerable.

Also, for an idea with a fair amount of originality, Watson does a good job of botching the execution. Told as a secondhand flashback (Brinke Stevens relates this as a post-coital tale by Savini-as-Christ), the plot is complicated enough to have a lot going on--switching between the hilariously somber William Smith as Satan and his sidekick Joe Estevez, a trio of goth/punk college students, and a pair of cops so corrupt they'd make Vic Mackey blanch--yet still feels as though nothing is happening. Most of the "action" that does occur is performed and filmed without much energy, making even its supposedly exciting moments unbearably sluggish. The story's climax is also astonishingly weak, with the all-powerful Satan felled by a single blow to the chest (something tells me that Smith's paycheck wasn't quite substantial enough to get him to actually move, since he sits in the same position throughout the whole film), and the movie's final payoff is overextended, muting its admirably grim tone.

Watson achieved a rather dubious honor with ZOMBIEGEDDON, failing to make his intentionally bad movie sufficiently atrocious. Perhaps when he was filming Boll's cameo he should've asked for a little advice on the proper technique of movie-fucking.

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