Due to unforeseen circumstances, Wednesday night's installment of the 2012 Easter Zombie Movie Marathon was postponed. So we doubled up last night to bring you a special unplanned double-feature that ended up being thematically tied together in unexpected ways. Essentially we have two survivalist bromances – one lighthearted and goofy, the other kind of mean and sexist.
- Last of the Living
- Writer/Director: Logan McMillan
- New Zealand 88 min.
This one is pleasant enough, with a tongue-in-cheek approach that owes much to Shaun of the Dead. Unfortunately, it lacks the comedy chops or the flair of that film. Instead, what we get is inoffensive and lacking in much personality. It's not a waste of time, but I wouldn't actively seek it out.
Last of the Living is written and directed by Logan McMillan from a story idea by McMillan and Ashleigh Southam, who plays Ash, one of our three slacker leads waiting out the zombie apocalypse in New Zealand. Ash is the sympathetic nice-guy character, Morgan (Morgan Williams) is the wise-ass slacker, and Johnny (Robert Faith) is the tough-guy rocker, and the three of them have spent the six months since the zombie outbreak crashing in abandoned mansion after abandoned mansion, playing video games and drinking beer.
It's not a bad life, to be quite honest; especially since it's all played very light-hearted, with zombies that are more of a joke than a threat.
On a trip in their moderately armored sexy car, the trio stumbles across an attractive young scientist named Stef (Emily Paddon-Brown) and her soon-to-be-deceased Dad (Mark Hadlow). Stef has a line on a possible cure to the zombie plague, but due to the incompetence of Morgan, she needs to get a new sample of zombie blood, run it through a centrifuge, and get it to a group of scientists for completion.
As far as zombie apocalypse movies go, this is pretty standard stuff, but the dramatic tension of trying to save the world never really breaks through the comedic set-up, even when people start dying. Which isn't to say that this is a bad film; it just doesn't really try to push any boundaries or really reach to establish itself as something special.
It's all just kind of bland and forgettable with no excessive gore or exploitation elements.
On the plus side, though, it was made on the cheap (around $50,000 US from I read) and is competently put together; particularly for a first film. The performers are all likeable enough and the director keeps things moving with occasional moments that are actually laugh out-loud funny.
The real heart of the movie is Johnny, whose childlike enthusiasm for rock and roll and killing zombies is infectious. His constant development of his Berserker Move to its final perfection were the best bits of the film.
All in all, it's a nice little piece of work, but it falls short of being essential viewing by a wide margin.
- Director: Jake West
- Writer: Dan Schaffer
- UK 89 min.
Doghouse, on the other hand, is not nice at all. It's enjoyable as hell, but not nice.
This is first truly professional, mainstream film of this year's marathon, with a bigger budget (an estimated $4,000,000), top-notch gore effects, and recognizable actors. This is another case, though, of a zombie film not really having zombies. We've got ultra-violent, man-hating mutant cannibal women – but they're not zombies.
This really doesn't belong in the zombie/undead category at all since the monsters aren't dead, but I'm not going to quibble. We watched it anyway and it was a lot of fun – although the whole St. Crispin's Day speech about not letting women emasculate men anymore was a bit hard to take seriously.
Doghouse tells the story of Vince (Stephen Graham – Snatch, This is England, Boardwalk Empire), a sad fellow whose wife has just filed for divorce. His buddies decide to take him away for a weekend of debauched drinking in the tiny village of Moodley, where the women outnumber the men 4 to 1.
Unfortunately, it's also the site of a government weapons test, where a virus is released that only turns women into homicidal maniacs. And then, once stage two is hit, they mutate into horrifying monsters. Oh, and they really hate men; hunting, murdering, and eating all the men in the village, but they're also not averse to attacking and fighting each other. Heh, women, right?
Our heroes are culled from a wide range of stereotypes, but the performances are good and every actor elevates the material as best they can. The main sexist pig is Neil (Danny Dyer – Severance), and he's pretty unlikable from start to finish; which means he did a good job with the role. We also have the more likable and only nearly as sexist Mikey (Noel Clarke – Doctor Who, Centurion), and the thoroughly non-threatening nerdy comic book geek, Matt (Lee Ingleby – Being Human, Luther). Keith-Lee Castle as stressed-out Patrick and Emil Marwa as gayed-out Graham round out our victims.
If the film wasn't so unapologetically misogynistic I'd recommend it without hesitation. The action is fast and exciting, the gore is impressive, and for the male characters there's a lot of good stuff here. The women don't fare as well.
They're all grotesque monsters retaining just enough intellect to hunt, using whatever tools they were handy with before being infected (i.e. the hairdresser is deadly with a pair of huge scissors, the butcher has a huge meat cleaver, the resident proprietor of the magical trinket shop swings a mean sword – wait, what?). Some of them are still decked out in sexy outfits that make the whole thing kind of kinky and weird. Luckily for our heroes, they're also very easily distracted and if the men get out of sight, the monsters forget about them quick enough.
So long as we don't spend too much time thinking about the barely submerged subtext, this is a good time from start to finish. Although the ending does leave something to be desired as it seems more like the filmmakers ran out of ideas or just stopped caring. There's no resolution and the film ends with a freeze-frame of our last survivors running from a mutated bitch-horde, laughing like schoolkids on a lark.
Quality-wise, this was very well done, but I can't say I really enjoyed the overall joke. But hey, if you think women are all out to take your power and ruin your life, then yeah, I guess it's pretty funny. Especially when the men have to wear dresses to escape a tight spot. That shit never gets old.
Paul Brian McCoy is the writer of Mondo Marvel and a regular contributor to Shot for Shot, Streaming Pile O' Wha?, and Classic Film/New Blu, all here at Comics Bulletin. His first novel, The Unraveling: Damaged Inc. Book One is on sale now for Kindle US, Kindle UK, and Nook. You can also purchase his collection of short stories, Coffee, Sex, & Creation at Amazon US and UK. He is unnaturally preoccupied with zombie films, Asian cult cinema, and sci-fi television. He can also be found babbling on Twitter at @PBMcCoy and blogging occasionally at Infernal Desire Machines.