Unlike what some other reviewers have clearly tried to establish, ZOMBIE HUNTER is not the worst zombie movie ever made. In fact, there are times with its quite entertaining. Mind you, it lacks the consistent polish that would’ve elevated it to at least the level of a modest crowd-pleaser. It’s also more than a few quarts low in the intelligence department: it can never quite figure out what and/or how its particular version of the undead are meant to behave and/or suffer whatever cruel fate our heroes might have in store for them. But as a one-time viewing? I enjoyed it well enough in the first half to give it a few stars; it’s the lackluster, hands-off-the-continuity handling of its second half that’ll probably destine this flick for the trash heap of cinema history.
(NOTE: The following review will contain minor spoilers necessary solely for the discussion of plot and/or characters. If you’re the kind of reader who prefers a review entirely spoiler-free, then I’d encourage you to skip down to the last three paragraphs for my final assessment. If, however, you’re accepting of a few modest hints at ‘things to come,’ then read on …)
Ok. It’s the Apocalypse, and all of this has apparently happened as the result of some street drug that turned its users and abusers in creatures not unlike zombies. Into this wasteland comes Hunter (played with some hard-boiled delight by Martin Copping), and he’s having a really bad day. It started out fine, but then he took a bullet to the arm, crashed his car, and was spit on my some backwoods Looney Tunes dragging him back to his compound. If what’s left of the crumbling society isn’t careful, Hunter’s likely to rise up and prove he’s the last thing to be feared on planet Earth!
Now, if you’ve seen the product packaging, I’d imagine the first thing you’re asking yourself is, “Hey, wait a minute, what happened to Danny Trejo? Isn’t he the star of this?” Well, the short answer is, “No.” The longer answer is that, obviously, Trejo’s name and image was probably used to get this thing off the ground by writer/director Kevin King. To his credit, Trejo plays a significant role in the first half of the film – the half that actually works and feels like it had a script – but he disappears midway, and the picture is not best served by his departure. Instead, audiences are left with somewhat of a narrative mess that sounds like it was entirely made-out on the fly.
But that first half?
Well, it’s surprisingly good. It had just the right balance of Grindhouse charm – the kind where you could easily tell no one was meant to take this all that seriously – and an auteur’s vision. King knew that he wanted to serve up something a bit more tongue-in-cheek than the usual Zombie fare, so he keeps the action light, the mood witty, and even some welcome bossoms (not fully bared!) on display from actresses Clare Niederpruem and Jade Reiger. It’s Armageddon, but it’s somehow tepidly reassuring women keeping themselves in shape well enough to pole dance.
Sadly, Trejo’s departure almost signaled the coming of a new AntiChrist, one who apparently burned the shooting script. From this point on, dialogue sounds entirely made-up on the spot, situations descend from weird to just downright bizarre, and one man who is de-pantsed shows up in the next seen absolutely fully clothed.
I’ve got it: those zombies ate the continuity person!
What could’ve been a contender quickly spools out of control in the final scenes, leaving ZOMBIE HUNTER not so much with a trail of brains in sight.
ZOMBIE HUNTER (2013) is produced by Arrowstorm Entertainment and The Klimax. DVD distribution is being handled by Well Go USA. As for the technical specifications? Well, the video and audio looks fairly solid, though there’s some laughable CGI special effects on some kind of intelligent Zombie Overlord that are just plain awful at times. The practical, in-camera splatter effects are quite good, and it’s given a whole ‘Grindhousery’ feel that certainly complements much of the narrative. Lastly – much to my disappointment – there are no special features to speak of, and that’s a big miss on something that tries to be this clever.
(MILDLY) RECOMMENDED. What’s exceedingly disappointing about ZOMBIE HUNTER is that, mostly during the first half, it’s actually not half bad. Really! It’s quite good. Granted, the best it has to offer is that those high points feel very much like a heavily watered down version of the vastly superior ZOMBIELAND, but it’s saying something when you can take a concept as well worn these days as zombies and still serve up something that’s smart, funny, and relevant. However, the latter half truly smacks of a production that either fell completely apart, lost funding, or (worst case scenario) lost its shooting script.
In the interests of fairness, I’m pleased to disclose that the fine folks at Well Go USA provided me with a copy of ZOMBIE HUNTER by request for the expressed purposes of completing this review.