Wednesday, May 7, 2008


A film with a title as generic as NIGHT OF THE DEAD usually gives me pause, but when I learned it was distributed by Asylum Productions--the knock-off assembly line responsible for gems like SNAKES ON A TRAIN, ALIEN VS. HUNTER, and I AM OMEGA--I knew it was really in for it. This 2006 release, written and directed by Eric Forsberg, manages to occupy ninety minutes of screen time without actually telling a story.

The movie--originally produced under the working title LEBEN TOD, a German term roughly translated as "Living Death"--lays bare its stupidity right in the first scene as a German scientist, played by Louis Graham, injects a candy-pink serum into a frog(what is this, GAY RE-ANIMATOR?), only to beat it to a pulp when its innards start to revolt. (Note to the director: frogs don't let out high-pitched girlish screams, even when they're re-animated.) This hilariously pitiful scene is immediately followed up by the funniest vehicular homicide ever as the scientist's wife and daughter, or their mannequin facsimiles thereof, are accidentally run down in the middle of a quiet street. Comedy gold, so far.

Unfortunately, after this introduction the movie abandons the yuks but keeps the stupidity coming as Graham continues his unorthodox experiments in his private clinic. His pet subject is his pregnant niece (Joey Jalalian, who can expect a career of this sort of dreck unless she can find a soap opera that'll take her), who somehow fits into his scheme to bring his family back to "real" life (They're currently living in a zombie state, secreted away on the grounds in rooms that're lit like a Jaycees haunted house).

There could've been a real movie here, had Forsberg written a better script without semi-dimensional characters. Instead he gives us a mash-up between THE DEAD PIT and RESIDENT EVIL slapped with a thick veneer of mediocrity. As slow-moving as the zombies Graham keeps in the basement--for no other reason than to have a, ahem, full-scale zombie attack at the end--with an emphasis on gore over story, which would've been forgivable if the grue effects had been more than twelve gallons of Karo syrup. Forsberg even dares some bad digital trickery that's as laughable as it is cheap, so primitive it probably doesn't count as CGI.

The kind of movie that conveniently lets its zombies disappear without explanation so its protagonist can escape, NIGHT OF THE DEAD is about as fun as watching 7-Eleven surveillance footage (and not even the ones where someone gets held up). Somebody give Forsberg a vial of that Pepto-Bismal-looking stuff from the beginning, maybe he can jolt some life into this turkey.

(I'm guessing this is a working version of the trailer, as it contains voice-over directions and uses "Tubular Bells" as its soundtrack.)

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