Zombie Cinema: Dead Things Can Only Get Better

This week I’ll be discussing zombie films that I’ve watched recently, and we start with a couple that are borderline risible.

House of the Dead (2003)

This was adapted from an arcade game that I have fond memories of playing on visits to the seaside last century, though I can’t recall seeing it recently. Invariably I ran out of ammo and got chopped with an axe. A group of teenagers take a boat to an island to attend a rave, only to find that everybody is missing and that they are now the target of zombies led by an immortal Spaniard. Fortunately the crusty sea captain who brought them to the island is also a gun smuggler, and before you can say “I’ll be back” everyone is toting heavy artillery and ready to blast zombie butt. Yes, it is all rather silly, with a plot that doesn’t stand up to a moment’s scrutiny, and has been roundly panned by critics. I feel quite bad admitting that I kind of liked it in a pass the time sort of way. Ignore the absurdities of the plot and the characters who struggle to attain two dimensionality, and just look at all the zombies and the bright lights as various guns are fired and explosions go off. It is a video game made into a film, and that’s about all it is, with all the simplicity of its inspiration, but all the sound and fury virtues as well. Regardless of which, I won’t be in a rush to watch it again and certainly won’t be looking at any of the sequels. I wouldn’t mind another go round on the game though. Zombie nostalgia.

Osombie (2012)

Okay, this was bad. What with Abraham Lincoln hunting vampires and Queen Victoria killing demons, I guess somebody thought it would be a great wheeze to have Osama bin Laden come back as a zombie, and hope to make a killing on the back of popular dislike of the twenty first century’s leading bad guy. The plot is blindingly simple – a woman in Afghanistan searching for her brother, a conspiracy nut who thinks that OBL is still alive, falls in with an elite American military unit charged with killing zombies, and of course you can guess who the lead zombie is (the title is a big clue). The characters are unmemorable, while the basic premise is as absurd as it sounds. Even the zombie shooting is undermined by the way in which it is presented – there’s a flat and completely deserted landscape, and then suddenly one zombie pops up out of nowhere, and then two, and then a whole horde of them, seemingly materialising out of thin air, while they’re so slow that the soldiers literally have to stand there and wait to be attacked. It’s hard to believe that any self-respecting military unit would be so inept. In fact, even actors playing at soldiers could have made a better showing. How much this will appeal, probably depends on how much satisfaction you’ll get out of seeing OBL as a zombie who is blown to smithereens. I can’t think of any other reason to watch it.

I’ll be back on Wednesday, with more substantial zombie fare.

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