Reviewbr> "Don't scream, don't run, and don't freak out" - Alice
Steven isn't like other boys. His room is full of the sort of artwork that would have the moral majority frothing at the mouth, he seems to prefer live rats for dinner, oh and he's deader than disco. Yeap Steven would be a zombie, and even worse he is patient zero is a possible zombie apocalypse scenario. Now it's all cool as Mom has him tied down on his bed where Steven is reduced to snapping and snarling, and devouring rodents.
Steven's mother Alice is faced with a decision, she doesn't want her son to continue on his present career course but there seems only one possible solution. Calling together the family for support, I guess, Alice decides a meat cleaver may be the solution to her undead issues, but can she do the deed, can the zombie apocalypse be adverted, and will her decision really matter in the wider scheme of things?
The Brothers Smellin get the whole zombie genre thing, as stated before it's not so much about the monsters as the survivors living amongst the shambling dead, and with Zero manage to deliver an entirely original vision to what has become a pretty moribund sub-genre. Every now and again in the reviewing game you run across something that makes it all worthwhile, Zero could well be the best zombie short since I Love Sarah Jane (2008), which actually put a smile on my face after enduring six months of a seemingly never ending deluge of half arsed yank outings. Okay lets head shoot this bad boy, there's a lot to like about the short.
Firstly this is ground zero, we're talking the zombie apocalypse hasn't happened yet; patient zero has reanimated and been subdued. Team Smellin get this across with the handy use of radio, no reports of the recently deceased going velociraptor on anyone's arse, and the fact that focal character Alice has no idea what she is dealing with, beyond a son who is ever so bitey. We gradually learn that Steven suffered flu like symptoms, for want of a better description, gave up the mortal coil, and then in a fit of bad manners reanimated and tried to eat Mom! Now okay we don't expect this sort of behaviour in the leafy Australian Suburbs and the parental units are pretty much trying to get up to speed with recent developments. What's cool here is the whole patient zero thing, we normally have the zombie apocalypse in full swing by the time our main characters start fighting for their lives. I was more than bouncing with the whole shenanigans on my screen, and even better than patient zero, the Smellin Bros nail the whole tension of the situation, just exactly what would you do if a family member karked it and then went happy meal on Fido? It's at once an entirely original idea and something that makes you wonder why no one has really explored it before, always a good sign of script writers who know their craft.
The movie kicks off with a static shot down a typical Aussie tree lined suburban street, slightly shaky cam warning there. We next cut to a typical kitchen, except in this kitchen there is someone in full hazmat gear holding up a mutilated rat. Okay they can get pretty desperate out in the suburbs, but from memory ripping into Willard isn't a part of the Aussie home ownership scheme. It does however present a wonderful juxtaposition shot that is going to shock some viewers; we keep the zombie apocalypse behind closed doors in the 'hood, so as not to upset the neighbours. I pretty much knew we were in good hands from the word go with the opening; it does exactly what it should do, puts you into normality and then adds a liberal slice of chaos. The Smellin Bros have their shocks ready to roll and have their ducks all in a row when it comes to dishing them out.
There's a bit of homage being paid to Night of the Living Dead for those with their Romero radars on. In Stevens bedroom, which is wonderfully decorated with a whole bunch of fantasy and horror related drawings, there's a representation of the zombie chick that adorns some DVD releases of Romero's ground breaking indie. I was also wondering if George, who spends most of the movie in a state of shock on the living room sofa, was a subtle nod to Barbara who spends the second stanza of Romero's movie in catatonic shock. I might be stretching things there to be honest, as George plays a specific role and by movie end looks like he might be feeling slightly peckish in due course.
What will bring big smiles to Readers faces, besides the excellent script and superb camera work, are the excellent zombie makeup effects. I was generally shocked when Steven was revealed in all his glory, talk about a face only a mother could love. You are not going to get any better zombie in a Hollywood multi-million dollar movie or for that matter any given episode of The Walking Dead . Two thumbs up, nice and gory for the hounds out there who might find the whole dramatic thing cutting into their blood and guts viewing time.
There was the odd plot point either myself or fellow reviewer Robbie had a problem with; we went duo on this one. Firstly why weren't the authorities involved, besides that not making for good tension - except if you add a time factor with the imminent arrival of paramedics or the police. And secondly we didn't immediately make the connection between the various characters. A final point I guess is just what help Alice is hoping to get from Wendy and Kelly, they don't appear to do much besides forcing an explanation for the current situation from Alice. Some niggly points I know, but hey I never said we weren't pedantic around here. /p>
Okay got to say the Smellins got stellar performances from a pretty much unknown cast, with Lisa Treloar (Alice) the obvious standout. I could readily believe these folk were faced with a nightmarish situation due to the strong acting on display in this short. If you want to check out a cast giving it everything they have then Zero is something you need to catch up with.
Before wrapping I would also like to point out the excellent score delivered by Luke Goldfinch, here earning his first screen credit. There's something chilling working in the score that operates in its sparseness without overly intruding on the events being shown on screen. Surprisingly I was reminded of Jerry Goldsmith's work on Ridley Scott's Alien score.
So we did find a couple of faults with the short, because we nit-pick like your demented grandmother, but they didn't stop either myself or Rob rocking out to Zero. The movie is full of tension, drama, and characters making hard decisions, exactly what one wants from a good zombie outing that isn't afraid to take things to the limit. I personally loved the unique view of the zombie apocalypse and can't recommend this one enough. If AMC want to expand their Walking Dead universe Downunder then they should give the Smellins a call, they could do a hell of lot worse, with the only danger being the Smellins might knock out a better series than the Producers are doing State side. Jot down the names Chris and Robert Smellin; the Bros are the next big thing in horror if they stick to the dark genre. I simply can't wait to see what they do next; for sure it's going to be a surprise.