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American Zombie [Import]

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American Zombie

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Amazon.com: 18 reviews
8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
One Of The Best Zombie Movies In The Genre Oct. 6 2008
By Steech - Published on Amazon.com
Format: DVD
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 audience March 26 2009
By S. Horwatt - Published on Amazon.com
Format: DVD
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
By THE MOVIE GUY - Published on Amazon.com
Format: DVD
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.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Excellent in every way Nov. 28 2008
By Amazon Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: DVD
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").
Oddly addicting Dec 6 2012
By S. Banzhaf - Published on Amazon.com
Format: DVD
Scary? No - fake documentary, yes. Take the assumption that zombies, from low function and almost feral, to high function that can almost pass --and a movie idea, is born (or unborn, as it may be). First, you really gotta like what they call Mockumentary just for the twist they have fun putting on a thing like that, and I do. I liked it, good plot out and nicely set up, I felt well and realistically acted - and I will pop it in from time to time and find it a nice way to kill a few hours and still keeps me entertained. One of the nice things about the expanding Independant film world is that you get these little oddities, that you will find faves, and they will just stick with you.