& ZOMBIES (aka THE DEAD AND THE DAMNED)
DVD. Left Films.
of the defining film movements of the last decade, alongside remakes,
sequels, reboots and porn parodies, has been the ‘vs’
film. Freddy vs Jason, Alien vs Predator,
Alien vs Ninja, Cowboys vs Aliens,
Strippers vs Werewolves… movie battles
seem to be the order of the day. Left Films seem determined to
corner the market in such movies, with their first two releases
– Ninjas vs Vampires (reviewed shortly!)
and this film, which although replacing ‘vs’ with
‘&’, is still aimed at much the same audience.
In fact, this film was shot under the title The Dead and
the Damned – a much better name, but presumably
thought too subtle for the target audience. It’s a pity,
because I imagine a lot more people would be willing to give the
film a chance under that title – as it is, plenty of potential
viewers will dismiss this out of hand, and that’s a pity.
Because to my surprise, this really isn’t that bad.
It doesn’t seem like it’ll have much to offer at the
start – the film opens with a hectic but strangely lifeless
gun battle between bounty hunter Mortimer (David Lockhart) and
assorted villains. Fresh from this success, Mortimer is sent out
to capture a renegade Indian (Rick Mora) who is accused of rape
and murder (you’ve probably seen enough westerns to know
he’s innocent, so I won’t say this is a spoiler),
and he takes along Rhiannon (Camille Montgomery), who is being
sold as a bride, to act as bait. Meanwhile, the townsfolk have
discovered a strange glowing boulder, which, when cracked open,
emits a toxic gas that turns them into hideous, flesh hungry mutants.
Soon, Mortimer, the Indian and Rhiannon will have to put aside
their differences to fight for survival as a seemingly endless
stream of cannibal mutants attack.
You’ll note I’ve said ‘mutants’ –
these green-blooded monsters are not zombies in the usual sense.
I can only assume that whoever retitled the film was working on
the belief that the word ‘zombie’ was a sure-fire
selling point, though I’d beg to differ. I might be splitting
hairs, of course…
& Zombies is cheaply made, has variable acting, some
terrible CGI, rotten music (available on a download that you’ll
probably be able to resist), some bad editing and a crushingly
dull scene where the two male leads sit and share their feelings
that drags the film to a halt just when it should be revving up
for an action-packed finale. Yet despite these faults, this is
actually a fairly decent tab at breathing new life into a moribund
genre (or two genres, if you consider the dire state of the western
these days). The aforementioned scene aside, it moves at a decent
pace, has some solid action scenes and actually creates real tension
with one scene involving a particularly disturbing female mutant
and our heroine who is locked in a building with it. The physical
gore effects are generally impressive, and director Rene Perez
crowbars in some gratuitous topless scenes too – it’s
been a while since I saw a horror film in which a woman flees
from a monster with her top conveniently torn open and tits jiggling,
but here one is, and the film is all the more appealing for these
brazen moments of exploitation.
I don’t want to suggest that this is some sort of overlooked
masterpiece – it’s clearly far from it. But of all
the modern zombie films I’ve reviewed recently – and
it feels like a lot – Cowboys & Zombies
is by far the most entertaining. Faint praise perhaps, but if
you are looking for some empty-headed blood, boobs and beasts
action, you could do a lot worse than this.
IT NOW (UK)
IT NOW (USA)