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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
One Of The Best Zombie Movies In The GenreOct. 6 2008
- Published on Amazon.com
At this point as a society, we've coupled zombies and comedy. I'm sure there are a myriad of compelling psychological reasons why this is so. But whatever our complex need to attach comedic value to something as existentially horrifying as reanimated corpses, it manifests itself in an equally complex milieu. The zombie/comedy dyad operates within a very wide spectrum. Zombie movies can be hilariously funny, a la Sean of the Dead, or stark and terrifying, as in the original Night of the Living Dead (which uses only a sprinkling of comedy to balance the effect).
I think the other reviewers may have expected this movie to be a lot more screwball than it was. The fact that it wasn't doesn't constitute a failure. The slapstick zombie movie is only one type of a surprisingly complex subgenre of cinema. And this ain't it.
American Zombie asks viewers to suspend disbelief to its very limits, and assume that zombies are both real and that they are deserving of deeper consideration. For anyone who ever spent more than an hour in discussion of zombie physiology, cause, and social consequence, this movie is like candy.
The movie (which is conducted like a documentary) follows four "high-functioning" zombies living (also dating, consuming, and working) among regular humans in Los Angeles. Each subject has his or her own take on his unique "condition."
The general feeling of the film is the same as that of a documentary following people diagnosed with an untreatable medical condition. Ivan begins with the statement (paraphrased), "I don't know how long it will be before my body decomposes, so I'm living each day at a time." A second character, Lisa, is first seen wandering (a little plaintively) in a cemetery, admiring funerary bouquets and wondering if she'll ever know who she was in life.
The film plunges into the cause of zombiism: namely that some people carry an inert virus in the brain that isn't activated until the host is the victim of violent death. American Zombie then quickly investigates other compelling ideas like the implication of being an adult with essentially no identity and how the families respond to a loved one who was first a victim then a reanimated corpse with no memory of their past.
The film also investigates how the civil infrastructure manages a zombie population existing in tandem with the human population, from city government census agencies to a not-for-profit advocacy group working to avoid sweatshop-type exploitation of zombie workers.
There are a number of secondary themes, from zombie sexuality to zombie art. The effect is of a fully fleshed out scenario that lacks the gaping continuity holes that characterize 95% of zombie films. It gives the considerate viewer ample material to chew over and provides plenty of meat for discussion (pardon the necrophagy pun). Which, for an audience who groans at every inconsistency and implausibility that plague the genre, proffers a film that addresses our core hunger for a socially responsible zombie movie.
Finally, the film also follows the "filmmakers'" creative and production process. This is actually a little annoying for the first half of the film, and feels a little Lisa Ling (National Geographic)-ish. However, when the filmmakers disprove their own thesis statement, and find that their subjects are not the same as a cancer patient and cannot simply assimilate into the human population, the coverage of the filmmakers takes on a much more urgent life.
The climax of the film is a complete shock, which alone is rare in a well canvassed subgenre of cinema such as zombie movies. I won't ruin it. So I will conclude by saying American Zombie is as much unlike a George Romero or Sean of the Dead movie as one can get and has what it takes to delight and surprise veteran zombie aficionados. More casual audiences might lament it's lack of visual one-liners and lack of back to back gore scenes. But fans of the genre should seek this one out, as it's an infrequent example of a film doing something different with the zombie theme. It's a welcome addition to the canon.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
A film with a very narrow audienceMarch 26 2009
- Published on Amazon.com
I think the number of people that fall into the target audience for this film is really, really small.
First off, let me say that it is a very well made film, a very slick production that captures the feel of a documentary exceptionally well (as I suppose it should, since Grace Lee apparently makes documentaries). I also think the concept of the film is very clever (that zombies live among us, but they're just another misunderstood and downtrodden subclass...or are they?).
Having said that, it's kind of an odd mix of styles and I'm not sure who will ultimately enjoy the film. I'm not sure how many people who are attracted to the zombie film genre will also be interested in a film which is at its heart a media and identity politics satire. And I'm not sure how many people looking for a media satire will be interested in the zombie subject matter.
I see there is a bit of a debate raging as to what this film actually is: mockumentary, faux documentary, horror movie, etc. I don't really know what the difference between a mockumentary and a faux documentary is. If the difference is that mockumentaries are comedies and faux documentaries are not necessarily comedies, I have to say I think this is intended to be primarily a comedy (or at least, as I said, satire...and my understanding of satire is that it's generally intended to be funny). True, it's a relatively dark and low key comedy, but still a comedy.
Part of the film's problem may be how it is promoted (to the limited extent that it has been promoted); the Netflix capsule review of American Zombie opens: "Part mockumentary, part unabashed gore-fest..."
Well, we can argue about whether or not it's a mockumentary, and it's a matter of personal experience whether it's scary or not, but I don't think anyone could honestly describe this film as "part unabashed gore-fest." So to the extent that that tag would draw the core audience for more typical zombie movies, I think those people will be disappointed.
On the whole, I found it worth watching for its novelty, and I think the film makers hit exactly what they were trying to hit (I'm just not sure how many people are out there waiting for a film to hit that).
My favorite moment: John keeps insisting that the film explore whether or not zombies are eating human flesh. Grace, in irritation, lashes out with the question: "Why do you insist on essentializing zombies to their biological functions?"
If you don't think that's funny, don't get this movie.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
CLEVER, ORIGINAL, AND BADJuly 19 2010
The Movie Guy
- Published on Amazon.com
This is a mockumentary on the zombie community. In many ways it is a parody on the gay community. Unfortunately in order to capture the feel of a real documentary, the movie is very boring.
The low budget made for very few special effects or zombie make-up. The zombies they follow live boring if not pathetic lives. The real action in the movie starts at a festival called "live dead" which reminded me of a Grateful Dead parking lot. At this point the movie is well past the half way point. Feel free to tell people the surprise ending.
Interesting mash up of Zombie films and DocumentariesSept. 30 2012
- Published on Amazon.com
Due to the social commentary so easily found within movies about zombies as well as budget restraints as the undead are such an easy 'monster' to create the whole 'shaky cam' or first person styled zombie movie has been on the rise so it should be no surprise that this was released in the same year as Romero's own documentary styled film "Diary of the Dead." However while Diary bills itself as a documentary maker who doesn't want to face reality, hides behind the camera, and as a social commentary on how the news works in general this film is slightly different. In the world of American Zombie the undead are not Romero's slow moving mindless zombies after their next tasty treat, in fact in American Zombie we get one of the earlier movies of the 'intelligent zombie' being fully in place. Not only are these zombies self aware but much like in the novel Breathers by S.G. Browne these zombies are known to exist and treated like second class citizens.
The saying of "We're Here, We're Dead, Get Used To It!" is the motto by which the undead of this documentary live by while trying to become the equals of the living that they once were. The 'documentary' starts as just a rough idea of the two filmmakers Grace Lee and John Solomon (who play themselves) that show how John sells Grace on the idea that they should work together to make a film about zombies. He wants to explore the culture of the living dead and while he is very much under the belief that they do live on human flesh and are the stereotypes of horror films he has seen she wants to show how they actually survive in society and are taken advantage of and abused.
This being the case they find four zombies that are some what connected to follow around. All four of these zombies are either directly or indirectly involved with each other or the Z.A.G. (Zombie Advocacy Group) which is the group that follows the slogan I mentioned earlier. These four zombies are Lisa (Jane Edith Wilson) who is a florist that wants to live a very zen like peaceful life, Joel (Al Vicente) who is the founder of Z.A.G. and clearly in charge, Ivan (Austin Basis) who is working a dead end job as a convenience store clerk and is clearly meant to be the comedic relief as someone we can make fun of, and finally Judy (Suzy Nakamura) who just wants to find someone who can love her that she can also love.
As many complaints as I do have about the film I have to admit that on the social commentary portion of things it really does hit the nail on the head. From sexism to bigotry the film really does capture some of the worst parts about humanity that are deemed "OK" against minorities in various social circles of the United States. While not as prominent as they once were all of these are still issues that come up and the documentary found a great way to address them - through putting zombies through them.
If you are a fan of documentary styled films you'll easily find quite a few aspects of this to enjoy. Watching it through the eyes of a zombie fanatic, making it a combination of a documentary AND adding in intelligent zombies just didn't feel right. The zombies being interviewed were portrayed as both too close together as well as too far apart socially, just didn't feel right. Still it's something zombie related AND a semi-original concept even though there were a few documentary styled films around at the same time it definitely did it in a different manner than the others. Again this one is only for the documentary lovers and hardcore zombie fans as there is little to no action, gore, and does involve the intelligent zombie which is still not fully accepted by lovers of the living dead.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Excellent in every wayNov. 28 2008
- Published on Amazon.com
An excellent, intellectually stimulating film, much needed in a sub genre full of dross. It engages on many levels and you can really get into the people they meet, they are very interesting.
This is a film that starts light and fluffy, even funny and amusing in places then by the end is deadly serious, those sweet friendly zombies are suddenly clearly as sweet and friendly as a rabid rottweiler. It scared the pants off me and made me worried about the topic - one that doesn't even exist!! Excellent effort. Especially the closing scene.
The one star review here on the page by another reviewer is undeserved. Mockumentaries are not always comedies and don't have to be comedies. They can be comedirs (e.g. Spinal Tap and the other reviewer mentions Zelig) but they can also be deadly serious. There are many serious examples (like the recent post apocalyptic one set in San Francisco- "Ever Since the World Ended").