Description (from the DVD insert):
In post-World War III America, where the walking dead outnumber the living, a determined band of mismatched survivors scour hostile terrain in their quest for shelter and community. But not all the living they encounter are benign… Chockfull of gore and dripping with suspense, ZOMBIE ALLEGIANCE presents “a sometimes scarily accurate metaphor regarding the current state of affairs here in the good ole U.S.A.”
Jennifer Kimmerle as Jen, Brandon Luis Aponte as Josh, Richard Tretheway as Saul, Andre Boudreau as George, Stephanie Castaldi as Deanna, John Sheppard as Don, Michael Reed as Sean, Shanette Wilson as Lauren, Carlos Brum as Teach Sarah Nicklin as Fishscale, Rachel Knutton as Tulip
Written and Directed by Tony Nunes
I have to say, I was expecting this flick to be bad. No, let me re-write that… I was expecting it to be BAD. I know you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, and therefore you shouldn’t judge a DVD by its insert, but when I got this one in the mail and saw the cover I’m pretty sure an audible *groan* came out of me. The cover has a zombie – I guess – with photoshopped gore and a photoshopped background that has the silhouette of 9 more zombies… except 8 of them are the same outline. Upon seeing the CGi mayhem as I got ready to watch ZOMBIE ALLEGIANCE, my mind immediately went back to the spectacle that was THE SUMMER OF MASSACRE (review here) and there was a much louder *groan* forced from the very depths of my movie watching soul.
You can’t judge this movie by its cover; thank you literary clichés for being true! ZA is much better than the cover art would lead you to believe. I am a big fan of zombie movies – over 10% of my reviews here are zombie flicks of some sort – and I think it is a genre that can do a lot. You can have funny zombie movies, scary zombie movies, sad zombie movies, loving zombie movies (that’s a tough one), shallow zombie movies, and deep zombie movies are one of the very best genres for satire (look at DAWN OF THE DEAD).
Zombie movies come in a few polar opposite varieties: before/during the outbreak and after the outbreak, mysterious cause and known cause, slow zombies and fast zombies, dumb zombies and smart zombies. ZA is an after the outbreak, known cause, slow dumb zombies kinda flick, which is on the traditional side of the genre. Zombie movies are almost always gory, to the point that zombie fans are often up in arms when a zombie movie does not dish out enough of the red stuff; I personally don’t care if a zombie movie is gory or not, if it is a good movie and there is no gore at all that’s fine by me. ZA is pretty low on the gore content… there’s a bit here and there, and the requisite “gut munching” scene makes an appearance, but overall ZA is more of a drama set in the zombie world than a true zombie movie. This film is a lot more about people’s reactions to the apocalypse, how they deal with life after the end of real civilization, and how they treat each other more so than being about running from dead things. For those of you that require buckets of blood and unending hoards of undead, ZA is not the movie for you. The effects in ZA are mostly pretty low-key, and didn’t bother me too much (other than the occasional CGi squib); my biggest peeve with the makeup was that the zombies had blue faces (while not very accurate, not uncommon), but normal arms. Please, zombie makeup artists of the low-budget world, if your zombies are going to be a certain color, make ALL of them that color!
ZA really is an intelligent film. It is obvious in the writing (I can’t think of any other zombie flicks that reference Milton, Poe, and Shakespeare all in one movie), and it is obvious in the subtexts. I don’t want to get too much into the subtleties of ZA, but there is more than one level to this movie; there is the surface “we’re scared of zombies” level, and there is the subtext, which is satirical and even a bit political. Zombie movies have long been a platform to discuss things other than zombies, and ZA falls into that mold.
The production side of things has its ups and downs. While the video quality is certainly digital in its nature, and at times some of the shots are a bit too shaky-cam for my tastes, overall this is a beautifully shot movie. Richard Griffin is a talented DP, and his talents make for a flick with interesting composition, nice framing, and good camera work overall. I just wish that they had either a higher quality camera (I’d love to see what he could do with a RED), or better editing software… somewhere along the way the film ended up being very obviously digital. The lighting is decent overall, though I felt way too many shots were way too “orange,” and if you’re wondering what I mean you’ll understand when you see ZA. The sound quality overall was pretty good for the budget level; there was obviously not a lot of ADR done after the fact – most if not all of the film is from on-camera sound – but it was done well enough to not detract from the movie. The sound’s not great, but it’ll do. I had pretty much the same feeling for the soundtrack; there was nothing that I felt was really awesome, at the same time there was nothing that was so bad as to draw my attention away from the film.
The acting also had its ups and downs. Both Josh and Saul were strong and believable throughout the film. George was almost a bit too hammy, and when he should be frightening, I was closer to laughing than screaming. Some of the minor characters (Don, Sean) were much better than some of the others (Tulip, Lauren), but that is to be expected. Overall the acting was decently solid; there was no one that I thought was just god-awful horrible, while no one blew me away either.
Overall, I’m really glad that ZA was not the movie I judged it to be by its cover. It is an intelligent spin on the zombie drama, a decent character study set after the fall of man. It doesn’t do anything I haven’t seen before, but conversely it isn’t bad at what it is doing. There’s many a better zombie movie out there – even at this budget level – but there is also a ton of flicks that are much worse. Overall, it was ok. Not great, not horrible, but solid. As the first feature from Tony Nunes, it makes me anticipate what he will do with a little more experience under his belt.
Overall 5.5 / 10
ZA on the IMDB: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1754935/