"The whole village has come down with the same thing apparently." - Wesley Pennington
Wesley has just finished film school and arrives on set of Tonight They Come for his first day as a runner. He's armed with his own script for a zombie movie, Twilight of the Dead, but finds no one is interested and he's expected to do all the jobs that no one else wants to do. His first task is to drive one of the leads into town due to the actor coming down with what appears to be a spot of food poisoning. He discovers the local town is pretty much deserted, though the one person still hanging on can point out everyone's sick, which may be due to something nasty in the water supply. On the bright side of the boom mike Wesley falls for Susan, a caterer feeding everyone on set.
With filming continuing it comes as a surprise when real zombies invade the set and start eating the zombie extras, film crew, and actors. Come the hour come the man, can Wesley save the girl, get out of Dodge without becoming zombie chow, and will his script ever be taken for more than a ready supply of toilet paper? An effective zom-com ensues.
Guy Pigden starts his zombie flick off in effective fashion, though those with sharp eyes might pick up on the gimmick in use early. Two manly dudes and a hot chick are fleeing through the bush at night pursued by a mob of gross looking zombies. They take shelter in a barn, and allow their fake U.S accents full swing. The dudes drop really bad one liners constantly as the barn seems to be a beacon for the undead, while the chick has her boobs being felt up in what seems to be every second frame. Surprisingly it's all effective and proudly proclaims we are in "B" movie territory looking toward exploitation. The little twist in this barn that dripped blood is of course we are on set of Tonight They Come, the zombie movie within a zombie movie. I really dug the opening and then the quick introduction to the main characters. Director Pigden isn't beyond making under graduate humour work, all about the zombie goo, but equally uses it to point out one major character isn't the sharpest tool in the shed. There's some convincing time saving going down, which I applaud, though the characters initially appear paper thin.
Before continuing I should point out Zombie Holocaust, okay so I can reference just as well as Pigden, works on multiple levels. Sure it's a zombie flick, with enough gore to make Peter Jackson and Tom Savini instant fans, equally it's a comedy, insert your own early Peter Jackson movie comparison, but it also goes meta on horror flick tropes. While the great unwashed are celebrating Scream and The Cabin in the Woods as making statements about the state of the horror nation, they might just want to add Holocaust to the list. Pigden ranges from having stereotypical card board cut out characters hamming it up, which is the intent and not a distraction from the gruesome, making a statement on local Directors aiming too vigorously at the North American market, to script writing that jettisons anything like art for quick sound bites that attention challenged teens can groove to. There's probably a lot more going down but hey review site here; we have never claim to be critics. On the bright side of the incisor you can take what you like from Pigden's debut movie without losing anything in the way of having a fun time as the blood flows. Did I mention a "found footage" motif late in the movie?
There's naturally a lot of referencing going down that will have the ghoul in your life chomping at the bit. I got references to The Walking Dead, zombie television show, and Evil Dead, which isn't a zombie movie. Check out Holocaust to pick out a lot more winks to the audience, Pigden has this one working for the core horror fan as well as the odd walk up who is getting ready for the second coming of Shaun.
Pigden shows he has a deft hand at the whole horror thing, remember we have talked about it but for the challenged here's the good oil. Firstly we have likeable characters that we care about, adding to the tension, secondly we have a semi ordered world that is about to descend into chaos by the injection of the weird, and finally we have lashings of tension and atmosphere, roll the smoke machine Bro! I was rooting for Wesley, a reincarnation of Lionel Crosgrove, Susan, who doesn't get a gun, and Tane, who eventually lives up to his tales. The rest of the characters, and there's plenty, are pretty much zombie poo from the get go, but hey we knew that going in right?
And if that isn't enough the Director shows he has been doing his Romero homework. So the zombies invading the set of a zombie movie could have been worked out more thoroughly I guess, but eventually a small group of survivors makes it to an isolated farmhouse. Shades of Night of the Living Dead you may ask, and I'm replying in the affirmative. Where Pigden deviates is with his team actually developing a workable plan that does actually work, ah Tom and Judy - two American kids doing the best that they can, if only you had of had Tane in your corner.
Overall I was impressed by about every actor on set, with a couple of exceptions - but there's that Meta thing again - was Pigden playing with our expectations? The locations worked like brought ones, the movie crew are in an isolated location where their cell phones don't work, which actually doesn't explain the mass zombie invasion if I have to be honest. And Pigden looks like he was born to be behind a camera rocking it out in the director's chair. Okay there's no film shenanigans going down, but everything flows like cold beer on a hot arvo.
For those wondering, yeap bucket loads of gore, "don't put that in your mouth", so gorehounds will be baying at the moon. And yeap ample T&A, girls you do not miss out here, dig on in. Pigden even answers one question that probably didn't occur to you, can you catch the zombie virus via having sex with a zombie? Yes it's that sort of a movie, bravely going where cinema has never gone before. Actually does that make zombification an extreme STD?
Just like this review Pigden takes his movie through some twists and turns, the final scene crumbles up the rest of the movie, and tosses expectations into the rubbish bin, got to love a movie that throws something at you that is completely unforeseen. Yes catch the movie to get that line guys, I'm not about to spoil the party favour Director Pigden has ready for your enjoyment.
So clearly I had a good time with Holocaust and am going to give the movie a full recommendation for both horror and non-horror fans. While Holocaust might not be a Twilight of the Dead it certainly shows risk taking is still a strong part of New Zealand cinema, long may it remain so. As a successor to Braindead and Black Sheep Pigden's movie proves horror comedy is still strong Downunder. Mark down the name Pigden, if the dude keeps making horror flicks we sure are in for some good times in the coming years.
For additional information check out our brother in arms Charles for Kiwi Horror 2014 nzvideos.