In the world of horror films there is one name that transcends most others - George A. Romero. He single handedly invented the zombie film genre with Night of the Living Dead. He then went on to make what is in my opinion the finest zombie film ever made, Dawn of the Dead. However, Day of the Dead, his next release runs it a close second. Land of the Dead, his fourth zombie film, received mixed reviews but I thoroughly enjoyed it. By the time he released Diary of the Dead a few years ago, many critics were questioning whether it was time for George to hang up his hat. Not me. Although I consider Diary to be his weakest offering that does not mean it is a bad film. So, when I learnt that George was going to direct a new zombie film and that it would be a modern day Western, I was very thrilled and was hoping for the best.
THE STORY. The film follows a group of army deserters (who were briefly seen in Diary of the Dead) seeking shelter from the zombie apocalypse on scenic Plum Island off the east coast of America, only to become caught up in a bitter feud between two warring families. Sergeant Crocket (Alan Van Sprang) and his motley crew of military dropouts are searching for a safe place to rest when they cross paths with Patrick O'Flynn (Kenneth Welsh). O'Flynn has been banished from Plum Island, where his family is locked in a long-time quarrel with the Muldoons, led by Seamus Muldoon (Richard Fitzpatrick). The O'Flynns see the flesh-eaters as subhuman, never hesitating to put a bullet between their eyes; the Muldoons baulk at the prospect of killing their gut-munching loved ones, instead opting to care for them until scientists find a cure for the zombie plague. As the division between the two families grows deeper and wider, Crocket and his men realize that on Plum Island, the zombies are the least of their worries.
THE EXTRAS. Nothing. Nowt. Nada. Zilch. Not a thing. Not even trailers of the movie or other films. This goes back to the bad old days of video releases when all you got was the film. Even the Blu-Ray DVD is bereft of extras. A crying shame that I hope will be rectified in the future.
THE VERDICT. I'd read some mixed reviews of this film before I saw it. Both critics and fans seemed divided on its merits. Ah well, I thought, there's only one critic who counts... and that's yourself! And my verdict is that it is a hugely entertaining film. What surprised me greatly was the amount of humour in the film. Okay, some of it is black humour but it is humour, nonetheless. Zombie kill of the week goes to the irrascible Patrick, who hands a zombie a bunch of dynamite as he leaves a wooden shack before slamming the door in its face. The zombie just looks at the dynamite in total bewilderment as his undead colleagues gather around him. Two seconds later - KABOOM! Hey, it made me laugh.
What I liked a lot about this film is that I got to care about the characters, and that is the first rule of film-making. Make the audience care. In Diary, Crocket and his soldiers were a bunch of arseholes, who you hoped got devoured by the zombies. But in here, right from the offset, you feel an affinity with them and hope they'll all survive but knowing they'll suffer casualties. By the time the film comes to its bloody climax a lot of the major characters end up as zombie food. Despite the fact that this film is set in contemporary times it is indeed a Western, and all the better for that. The O'Flynns and the Muldoons step straight out of the pages of the American Wild West. The big question of which side is right is an intriguing one. By the time the credits rolled I was still wondering which side had the right attitude and even now, I can't decide. Watch it and make up your own mind. I promise you this, the film offers you food for thought, characters you care about, a simple story and some great zombie kills and human deaths (although the CGI effects don't work all the time). Despite its shameful lack of extras and short running time (just 86 minutes) I rate this film 8 out of 10. When it comes to making zombie films, George is still the master!