Well, frugal fright fan, today we have a classic good news/bad news scenario. On the bad side, we have a visit from directionless ambition from a couple of friends who set out to make a horror film with nary a budget. I applaud their drive but not so much what they produced. On the good side, we have an overused plot device (zombies) used in an unexpected, original way.
So, as is normally preferred, let’s rip the bandage off the bad news first…
Blood: A bit in black and white.
Budget: Very little, if any.
You can’t really fault this film too much. Despite being a nonsensical mesh of silent horror and some José Mojika Marins-esque abomination made with consumer equipment, little talent and less budget, it’s also just the product of a couple of friends, a camera, and a working knowledge of Windows Movie Maker making their own entertainment, and not hurting anybody.
That said, the filmmakers did feel the product worthy of sending in to the RM House of Horror, therefore I will review this flick as I would any other.
Starting off a lot like a death metal video, this digitally shot, faux-silent endurance test centres upon a dark, bearded, long-haired figure who wanders around the wilderness looking solemn and tormented. However, unlike a metal vid – scored with the dulcet tones of a band such as Napalm Death or Morbid Angel – the images are accompanied by some overused classical cues that haunt the public domain, namely a section of Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake that’s been featured in more movies than I can name.
After a lot of aimless wandering set to these tired musical clichés, our protagonist comes upon a cave that talks in a scary voice and drives him over the edge of sanity.
The movie then continues going back and forth between silent and on-set sound, more characters are introduced (a quartet of religious hikers, some other guy who wanders around woods, who might be one of the hikers but at a different time – it’s unclear), story elements are brought up only to be left unresolved (we never really find out what happened to all the hikers), and of course a finale that comes out of nowhere that’ll have you scratching your head for days.
I’m sure these guys are solid dudes and had no real pretensions in making Curse of the Revenant but the production quality is akin to high schoolers using their parent’s camcorders, the story feels like a jumble of ideas placed in an arbitrary order, and the final product is just plain stale and unexciting.
It’s films like this where a little more budget and even a minimal work-shopping of ideas could have done wonders.
Blood: A whole lot of splatter from living and dead alike.
Budget: Unknown, probably under $10,000
Zombies seem to be the go-to subgenre for low-budget filmmakers looking to make a high-concept piece with a pre-built fan base. You can be as tired of zombie flicks all you want but they certainly don’t seem to be going away anytime soon. But if we have to suffer through another shambler picture show, we’d like it to be helmed by Channing Lowe, the director and co-writer of this rotter romp, who has finally done something original.
This talky micro-budget chamber drama mostly takes place in a single warehouse where a team of freelance crime scene cleaners are assigned to a messy five-body job. Of course this is not your average clean-up but rather the “Ground Zero” of a zombie infestation.
Though all four of the main characters are more or less shady criminals, a lot of effort is spent to normalize them. A pair of them are geeky goofballs who tell bad jokes and quote films, another is a relatively cool operator who’s regularly tele-harassed by his wife at the most inopportune times, and the last one is a no-nonsense lady who must periodically whip the others into shape.
While the first zombie attack doesn’t occur until approximately 37 minutes in and the too-cool-for-school dialogue grows occasionally dull, Ground Zero is a pretty solid effort. The team’s chatter encompass life, death, and the dark side of human nature, which leads to a fair amount of foreshadowing (e.g., a discussion is had about whether or not the characters possess the grit to kill themselves if need be). The characters’reactions to the situations that arise are fresh and quite realistic (one of the aforementioned goofballs breaks down in tears after being attacked by a supposedly dead guy, which I’ve never really seen in a zombie flick before).
Another plus for Ground Zero is that very few CG effects were used. Instead, the director opted for practical effects whenever possible – a factoid divulged in the informative making-of featurettes included on the DVD.
Released by Shock-O-Rama, one has good reason to be wary of Ground Zero, but it turns out to be pleasantly atypical, full of insight and, of course, splattered in blood.
Curse of the Revenant is currently only available to watch through select video-on-demand services, on the other hand Ground Zero hits DVD August 14 through Alternative Cinema and other major retailers.