Saturday, August 9, 2008


LIVING A ZOMBIE DREAM begins with a production company logo: Borderline Entertainment, which is probably the most accurate moniker I've ever seen. This 1996 shot-on-video feature from director Todd Reynolds tries to be something more than a run-of-the-mill living dead flick, even daring to be artsy, but faces too many hurdles--be it budgetary, technical, or creative--that it just can't overcome.

Encapsulating the plot will be no easy task, since throughout most of the movie I had no idea exactly what was going on, but I'll give it a shot: a young man--played by Amon Elsey, who looks suspiciously like he'd be Arch Hall Jr.'s secret love child--catches his girlfriend and his brother mid-coitus (though, as ridiculous as this sex scene is, I'd be more embarrassed for them than angry). As retribution, Elsey takes his brother for a ride and leaves him stranded in the middle of the night in a well-lit, properly maintained suburban neighborhood (that'll teach the bastard, I guess), only to accidentally leave him for a local serial killer, a killer who likes to dress in a loincloth--no reason, must be a comfort thing--and make snuff movies in his basement. Elsey kills this Tarzan-wannabe psycho, only to find that he won't stay dead, returning again and again in what is either grossly unmotivated revenge or an increasingly potent hallucination.

And while the above synopsis sounds like an interesting enough movie, I'm afraid it really isn't, since the film's as lively as a kid on the first day of school. It's bad enough that the story lags, but Reynolds needlessly jumbles the chronology of events, making it confusing as well. We're then treated to a parade of strange, David Lynch-flavored sequences that may or may not be in Elsey's head (we're made to question what's real and what isn't, but never in a tantalizing or absorbing way); though I appreciate that Reynolds is trying to do something different, even if I can't understand it, without any knowledge of who these characters are or what they're after, these scenes end up merely as bizarre window-dressing (even at his most obtuse, Lynch never abandons the viewer in the imagery). And that's a shame, because this might've been an engrossing film if it'd had the right energy, but DREAM lies on the screen, lifeless, with no impetus or conflict to propel it.

Despite a few surreal flourishes here and there, LIVING A ZOMBIE DREAM suffers on a technical level too, hampered by muddy, grainy videography and poor audio (yet, as we've seen from previous reviews, crappy sound can be your friend with such inferior acting on display).

Reynolds has his heart in the right place, but his movie feels like those terrible softcore skin flicks that popped up during the mid-'90s, the ones that interspersed repetitive flashes of random objects with lingering images of nude women (who got off on those damn things is beyond me, since I've seen more erotic fare on The Learning Channel). LIVING A ZOMBIE DREAM is a painful lesson in style vs. substance.

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