Reviewbr> “The war graves people haven't been here in twelve years.” - Mayor Ransom
In order to entice a Japanese corporation to build a Robot Man amusement park in their district, the corrupt local council have destroyed a memorial to the soldiers from the district who died during the Vietnam War. Strangely the memorial is built over the graves of the soldiers, who are buried twelve miles out of the local town of Lizard Gully, rather than in the local cemetery. Before you can say “Poltergeist” the Soldiers are resurrecting as blood thirsty vampires intent on punishing the town for it's transgressions.
After a night of bloodshed, and fearing worse the following evening, the locals search for a way out of Dodge. Unfortunately for Jimmy, our hero for the evening, and his crew, the military have cordoned off the district with fields of landmines as they seek to contain the outbreak rather than rescue anyone. Jimmy's uncle Charlie keeps to the old Koori ways and devises a plan to resurrect the old warriors from the town cemetery, hoping they will defeat the undead Vietnam hordes. Now that's not something you write everyday! So it's vampire versus zombie, with Lizard Gully's fate resting on the outcome. Let's see what's going on down the local pub.
The Directors open their movie with a flashback to Vietnam where we find the Viet Cong have unleashed a plague of vampires on the unsuspecting diggers, (Aussie Soldiers). Naturally since this can't be made public the resulting vampire diggers are buried in the outback, under a monument, with only dynamite likely to disrupt their eternal prison. Mayor Ransom and his fellow corrupt Councillors do just that, which I guess is the first of the messages flying around this movie. Other messages would be Koori rights and respect of traditional beliefs, a tad of xenophobia toward the Japanese, and of course the place of women in society. When the movie isn't beating it's own self conscious drum over various issues, it has very little to say on the horror front, falling into the typical “B” grade half arsed effort. And no we aren't talking so bad it's funny, this one is simply bad from first to last frame.
While there are certainly some interesting ideas floating around in the mix, a Koori spear can down a vampire, vampires aren't concerned with religious icons, Zombie Brigade is so poorly made that nothing is given a free rein to fully explore it's context. The Audience is in fact left wondering why some plot developments are left hanging, while others make no logical sense at all. Guess on the bright side of the fang, those who deserve to get their just deserts certainly do end up with cream on their faces, along with about everyone else.
One of the stranger aspects of the movie is the almost 1950s feel to it. Considering the movie is circa 1986 you have to wonder what film stock was being used, the decision not to use filters during daytime outside scenes, and an at times chaotic sound recording. Of course there could have been huge problems with the digital transfer, but I'm guessing anyone hitting the video version isn't exactly going to have a good time either. Strange on the filter front as some of the night scenes look like blue filters might have been in use, though that could have just been a trick of the light as the Directors don't look like they controlled that aspect in any shape or form.
For connoisseurs of Aussie filmdom, no this isn't ozpliotation there's no respite to be had, one of the cool scenes in Zombie Brigade is a car chase Oz style! Tarantino would have needed a new box of tissues if he caught this bad boy. One of the yobbo elements is trying to get out of Dodge in a ute, only to be chased by the heroic Jimmy in a land rover. This all takes place down a dusty rural road with associated bush noises on the soundtrack. Awesome high speed stuff that had me high fiving, well no one, as everyone else gave the movie away pretty much after the first ten minutes. The scene finishes with the Ute coming off second best against a landmine. Actually the follow up scene where Jimmy, for no apparent reason, checks the damage looks to me to be a slight nod to Speilberg's Jaws (1975).
Unfortunately the thrilling car chase is about it for the movie. To be perfectly honest, and remember this movie features an epic battle between vampires and zombies, the rest of the flick drags it's sorry arse between half constructed scene after disappointing scene. While there was certainly room for some tension and chills, the Directors steadfast refuse to get their horror on, leaving the viewer wondering how exactly the Production company ever planned to make money out of this release. It's simply terrible stuff wrapping up in self congratulatory social messages.
While Zombie Brigade may contain more flannelette shirts than one could reasonable expect to cringe at during a Lowes sale, thus ensuring we know it's more ocker than a hat full of Crocodile Dundee stereotypes, it fails in comparison to other movies hitting out at the same time Downunder. Actually it fails if compared to movies made at any time but lets not be snarky little bitches here. Worth a look if you are completing your Aussie dark genre report card, otherwise Razorback might be a better option for outback dark genre shenanigans.