Written by: STijs van Marle
Directed by: Martijn Smits and Erwin van den Eshof
Starring: Yahya Gaier, Mimoun Ouled Radi, Gigi Ravelli
Reviewed by: Brett Gallman
Meanwhile, in Amsterdam...
At this point, I know it has to be goddamn hard to do something fresh with zombies because itís become increasingly difficult to even write about these movies anymore. Even the comedic onesóitís hard to imagine, but there was once a time when making a goof out of the undead was a novelty. Now, itís an international cottage industry where it seems like each country is compelled to deliver its own zany riff on the genre. Enter Kill Zombie!: arriving dutifully out of the Netherlands, Martijn Smits and Erwin van den Eshof's film harkens back to modern zom-com progenitor Edgar Wright, whose influence here is so obvious that youíre surprised the film isnít titled Aziz of the Dead.
Obviously, Aziz (Yahya Gaier) is our Shaun: a listless but good-natured office drone who pines over his pretty co-worker Tess (Nadia Poeschmann), he does his best to eke out a decent existence. Meanwhile, his fuck-up brother Mo (Mimoun Ouled Radi) lounges by the pool and dreams up get-rich-quick schemes. When one of Moís pool parties ends in a scuffle, the two brothers wind up in jail and miss out on the big news involving a Russian space station crashing into Azizís office building and turning everyone into zombies. With the help of his fellow survivors, Aziz vows to return to the building in order to rescue Tess, provided he and his pack donít trip up over themselves along the way.
The cynic in me looks at Kill Zombie! and immediately picks apart the familiarity: obviously, Aziz and his band of oddballs have a similar dynamic to the bunch in Shaun of the Dead, while the generally glib tone also matches that film. Not content to just pilfer from one film in the Wright canon, the directors also inject some flourishes reminiscent of Scott Pilgrim vs. the World during some highly stylized bits where random characters intrude into the story to do battle with zombies. Hell, thereís even a bit that plays like the Dutch version of the Bill Murray bit in Zombielandójust in case this didnít already feel derivative enough.
But the optimist in me wants to say Iím being a little too hard on this scrappy little effort and feels that itís only fair to point out its other highlights: for example, Iím pretty sure this is the only zombie movie where a stapler is used as a weapon. Itís probably the only one to remind me of Lemon Popsicle due to a gut-punching twist towards the end, too. As youíve probably gathered, scrounging up the filmís distinguishing marks is pretty toughófor the most part, thereís hardly anything here you havenít seen done in other, better films. Even one of the more memorable characters (a police officer played by Gigi Ravelli) just sort of strikes me as a Dutch Jaime King (not that Iím complaining all that much about that).
My optimistic side continues to wonder if maybe itís unfair to judge a film based solely on its freshness; after all, several films have made the case that they need only be well-done in spite of any familiarity. And, in this case, the directing duo certainly could have been inspired by worse directors than Wright, who is one of the best talents working today. The problem is that itís a bit of a pale imitation, as the script doesnít exhibit the wit of Wrightís work. Kill Zombie! is much more broad and overtly wacky, filled with over-the-top characters and base humor. Save for Aziz himself, who is the milquetoast black hole threatening to drain the film of personality, the characters are at least funóif not predictableócaricatures. For example, thereís a guy who decides to wield basketballs as a weapon (but even thatís only going to conjure up memories of the superior basketball-related head trauma from Deadly Friend).
Itís not funny so much as itís kind of amusing in its ruthless amiabilityóthis is a very nice film, with predictably mechanical sentiment crammed in to keep it from being a total lark (a turn that results in some pretty abrupt, less-than-graceful tonal shifts). Even as itís splattering about gooey, slimy viscera, Kill Zombie! is a harmless enough copycat with seemingly no awareness of its predecessors: shit, its characters act as if they havenít even seen a zombie movie before, so weíve got to endure their slow realization about shooting them in the head and whatnot.
Making a zombie film is already a dicey enough proposition, but making one thatís both derivative and unwilling to engage its clichťs is downright toxic. Itís true: Kill Zombie! doesnít invite open scorn, nor is it even particularly eye-rolling. Instead, it doesnít inspire much more than an indifferent shrug to the end, where it teases a sequel involving another worn-out horror creature, as if it needed another moment to confirm how oblivious it is of its own staleness. I suppose it doesnít help that the film has languished for two years while awaiting North American distribution, so itís even been lapped by even more films in the meantime.
Well Go USA has imported the film to a mostly bare-bones Blu-ray, as only a trailer joins an otherwise fine presentation: the transfer is slick (if not a little sterile thanks to the flat photography), and the 5.1 DTS-MA track preserves the original Dutch soundtrack. Kill Zombie! is about as good-natured and square as its protagonistóitís the sort of film that notes how clichť and obvious it is to quote Scarface, yet it charges ahead with the reference anyway, which sort of makes it a zombie comedy for folks who donít mind reveling in familiarity. Who would have ever thought zombie films could become comfort food? Rent it!
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