Wednesday, March 26, 2008


Films from the micro-budgeted, shot-on-video camp usually fall into viewers' disdain, and for good reason. While most of us--at least I can, anyway--overlook such pitfalls as shoddy production values or non-professional actors in the hopes of finding an unearthed gem, too many of them fail due to a lack of imagination and creative thrust. So when an indie movie comes along that tries to be more than just a backyard flick I try to cut it some slack--which makes watching George Bonilla's ZOMBIE PLANET doubly frustrating, since it believes an overextended running time is all that's required in making an epic.

This Kentucky-based 2004 effort reveals its limited budget in its opening shot, a cheesy digital effect introducing an unnamed southern city in flames, yet still makes a go of establishing the apocalyptic near-future of a society ravaged by disease. Bonilla does an adequate job of achieving an end-of-the-world setting on a tight budget, but chooses to populate it with a staggeringly bland and uninteresting cast (props to Bonilla for assembling a surprising number of actors, even if they're not exactly skilled thespians). Worse yet, the living dead take a backseat to the exploits of long-haired badass T.K. Kane (Frank Farhat, looking more like a Harlequin cover model than the Snake Plisken type the script believes him to be) who gets mixed up in a war between two camps of survivors. The end result plays like a third-rate WALKER, TEXAS RANGER episode tossed in with some MAD MAX-inspired misfits.

This neccesarily wouldn't be bad, except most of this film's two-hour length is devoted to long-winded expository speeches, peppered liberally with flashbacks that provide even more unneeded backstory and hallucinations that serve no purpose. Bonilla attempts to break up the talk with several fight sequences, though they're so laughably choreographed and lacking in immediacy that they quickly become just as tiresome. The zombies make for a better adversary than the pitiful band of human villains Bonilla's put together (a group of chuckleheads as fearsome as a playground bully), yet they're mishandled as well as they spew ridiculous dialogue and fist-fight (?); the few traditional zombie attack scenes Bonilla does provide are as limp and pedestrian as the rest of the film.

After dragging its feet for most of its duration, ZOMBIE PLANET ends with an open-ended climax, setting up the sequel (entitled ADAM'S REVENGE). While not intentionally a cheap ploy to double-dip the audience--the initial cut ran long enough that cutting into two parts seemed feasible--Bonilla would've been well advised to trim the excess fat that made the movie so long in the first place; though not without its flaws, it would've been at least a tighter mess, and had a better shot of capturing the viewer's attention.

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