Remember when Anchor Bay Entertainment was a trusted, reputable source of uncut European classics on VHS and DVD? Well, ever since film-procuring Bill Lustig struck out on his own with his Blue Underground label (as commendable a venture as AB was in its heyday), whenever I see the Anchor Bay logo anymore it's usually preceding some bijou-bypassing time-waster like DEAD AND BREAKFAST. Though no masterpiece, 2006's THE QUICK AND THE UNDEAD is a pleasant exception to the rule.
Writer/director Gerald Nott gets things started well with a stylish opening credits sequence (a rarity these days) that establishes the movie's backdrop: in an unspecified future--that somehow looks remarkably like the romanticized Old West--a zombie virus has transformed the majority of the world's population into the living dead. Clint Glenn (who also produced, and with a name like that how could he not star in a Western?) stars as a zombie bounty hunter--that is, a bounty hunter who goes after zombies--who's double-crossed and left for dead by a rival hunter (Parrish Randall, acting like a poor man's Dennis Hopper). Having survived his gunshot, as well as being immune to zombie bites (an interesting twist that goes unexplored), Glenn heads out to reclaim his bounty and get revenge.
With washed-out photography giving the movie a bleak, post-apocalyptic feel, Nott shows a sharp directorial flair and keeps things visually exciting during this rather rote tale of outlaw vengeance. (Any fan of horse operas has seen this story a time or two, the zombies just being a gimmick here.) Glenn's mysterious loner owes a little from Snake Plissken, a little from The Man With No Name, though without the oomph of either, making up in screen presence what he sorely lacks in acting ability.
Even with its relative familiarity, THE QUICK AND THE UNDEAD makes for compelling viewing, moving along at a decent clip (at 78 minutes it doesn't wear out its welcome, either). Nott's clearly influenced by the zombie classics of yore, thankfully keeping the homages to a minimum (though he does sneak in a groan-inducing "Choke on it!" reference). It isn't until the zombie stand-off at the end that things start to feel a little tired, though some later character interaction prevents it from being a total waste. There's also a refreshing downbeat ending that reminded me a bit, at least in tone, of that from Carpenter's THE THING.
A mixed bag for certain, it's at least good to see some horror films done on the cheap that don't resort to tired retreads or unfunny in-joking. I'd like to see what Nott does with his next film.