Tuesday, July 29, 2008


I hate writing reviews for movies like NIGHT OF THE LIVING DORKS, a 2006 German production from director Mathias Dinter; not really good enough to warrant a whole-hearted recommendation, nor bad enough to invoke my ire, the movie inhabits that gray area where so many others fall. It's got its moments, though the end result is mostly hit-or-miss, and I'm never sure just what to write about.

This horror-comedy about a trio of high-school losers who come back from the dead after an amateur-hour voodoo ceremony to get revenge on those who picked on them, certainly is rife with potential, and it's interesting to see how high school hell is portrayed in a different country (where the nerds are heavy into drugs, freely grope the female population, and look down their noses at the Goth crowd--but wedgie-happy bullies, it seems, are international). Problem is, the undead angle is just a plot device, a means to jump-start a wish-fulfillment fantasy teen comedy. Yes, there is a fair amount of black humor and gore, but DORKS's primary aspiration is to join the ranks of AMERICAN PIE, so much that I initially thought this was a dubbed copy of one of those generic sex romps that poured out of Canada during the '80s. And despite one of the characters' hunger for live human flesh, the zombie motif is treated more like Peter Parker's arachnid awakening, as the boys develop powers like superhuman strength (at least their increased drug and alcohol tolerance makes sense with them being dead, even if it is the cause of some really tired drug jokes).

All the well-worn teen cliches are present--the prim teacher who's really a voracious nymphomaniac, the overpopulated RISKY BUSINESS-style party that gets out of hand--as well as the most tiresome of all: the hero, who's so focused on getting with the popular bitch that he never notices his best gal pal's been in love with him all along. I don't know how common these movies are in Deutchland, but I've seen these plot developments so many times that I couldn't get into the few geuine chuckles DORKS had to offer.

The movie is consistently if mildly amusing, but the story really doesn't have enough gas in the tank to make it to the end, and the third act feels labored and strained. There's also some friendly self-sacrifice, as well as a reversal of the boys' zombie condition (and apparently their death too), for a schmaltzy feel-good ending that just doesn't sit well.

A harmless trifle of a picture, NIGHT OF THE LIVING DORKS might be worth a watch, but is by no means essential for any collection.

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