Halloween Horror 2013 (pt. 1): Better Off Undead (2007)

Description (from the DVD box):
Marcus, Chris and Evan find themselves stuck in any normal day, when, without explanation, zombies begin to infest the city. Not knowing exactly what to do, the three attempt to seek shelter at Marcus’ house, but first they have to get there. Facing the undead, Marcus, Chris and Evan try to survive the zombies and each other.

Major Cast:
Drew Schuldt as Marcus, Dale DeVries as Chris, Jordan Brown as Evan

Special Features:
Gag Reel, Photo Slideshow, Cooking on Set, Shopping with Satan, Better Off Gay, Teaser Trailer, Before and After, Drinking Game, Good Thing I’m Undead, 4 Commentary Tracks

Written and Directed by John Pata

 

I first became acquainted with the work of John Pata when I reviewed his amazing (and amazingly different than this) DEAD WEIGHT (review here), one of my favorite films of last year. In doing an interview with Pata and DW co-director Adam Bartlett (here), Pata told me that DW wasn’t his first zombie movie. His first zombie flick was this one, BETTER OFF UNDEAD. So I decided for Halloween Horror 2013 that I would feature Pata’s earlier film.

So just to set the bar early: BOU is a very, very low-budget film. This is a “let’s make a movie with our friends” sort of film, but it embraces that aesthetic quite well, and if as a viewer you don’t mind the more-heart-than-cash sort of films, this shouldn’t be a problem. If you’re expecting DAWN OF THE DEAD remake quality production, you can probably just turn around right now and be on your way.

BOU starts off with a nice selection of wide walking shots that works as a good intro, leading up to the introduction of the zombies. You think you’ve got the main character, and then he’s zombie food, so there goes that. The zombie makeup is nothing to write home about, actually it’s pretty poor: white face and black eyes. The gore the comes out of the attacks has more time and effort behind it, and for those who are enamored with the red stuff the gore effects in BOU are quite decent. Especially noteworthy, is the Romero-like “ripped in half” effect that comes much later, which was done with particular aplomb. This initial opening and attack is followed by a very simple, yet very effective, opening credit sequence set to some original punk rock for the film.

Thanks Romero for this zombie trope!
Thanks Romero for this zombie trope!

The acting in BOU is very decidedly of the “your friends and neighbors” level, which does detract a little bit as the dialogue is actually really witty and well written. There is a very Kevin Smith slant to the dialogue, and I could see Brian O’Halloran, Jeff Anderson, and Jason Mewes easily stepping in as the leads. Unfortunately for BOU, the CLERKS guys are not available, so you get what you get. The leads are not bad per se; they just are your friends and neighbors, which leads to a more uneven performance. There are times where the comedy falls a bit flat because of delivery, while on other lines they hit it perfectly. One of my favorite bits of dialogue was the explanation of “the Nerd Funk,” a reality that my wife pointed out to me recently when I made her go with me to a local gaming shop to get a new controller for my NES. “It smells like a boy’s room in here,” she says, “a sweaty, stinky, un-showered boy.” That’s the Nerd Funk.

Getting drunk is always the answer.  ESPECIALLY during a zombie apocalypse.
Getting drunk is always the answer. ESPECIALLY during a zombie apocalypse.

The composition of the shots in BOU is really nice, and Pata and cinematographer Colin Crowley do a lot to make sure that we’re not seeing the same ol’ same ol’ over and over again. They vary angles, depth, etc., to keep the movie visually interesting and I really enjoy that, however he doesn’t take it so over the top as to be annoying. Too many filmmakers go too far to extremes, either the same tripod shot over and over or let’s move the camera a million times a second and shoot it from the oddest angles out there; Pata has found a nice middle ground with BOU. The camera itself is a decent quality digital from six or seven years ago, so this is not HD. They did a good job with what they had at the time, but it is not nearly as crisp and beautiful as some other films, and never will be just because of the limitations on that technology.

Zombies, zombies, everywhere!
Zombies, zombies, everywhere!

Overall, I really enjoyed BOU. Is it a masterpiece of horror cinema? No. Actually, it’s more of a comedy than a horror (which is why this years Halloween Horror will be a two-parter), though it does have some horrible sequences. Is the acting anything that’s going to win a ton of awards? Again, no. The actors are friends, and they do their best for non-actors, and in doing so are more successful than not. Is the video quality something that will blow you way? Certainly not, especially by today’s low-budget standards. Does any of this make BOU a less enjoyable film? No; a resounding no. It was a fun film that I greatly enjoyed, and shows a glimpse of the awesomeness that will come a few years later from Pata.

 

Overall 6.5 / 10

BOU on the IMDb: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1571195/

BOU is not for sale, but bug Pata here and see if you can buy a copy: info@carryingdeadweight.com

BOU used to have a MySpace site, but that was long ago…

Better Off Undead (2007)  DVD Cover
Better Off Undead (2007)
DVD Cover
BOU Poster
Better Off Undead (2007)
Theatrical Poster

 

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