THE DEAD DON’T DIE

Cert 15 105mins Stars 3

This offbeat black comedy zombie apocalypse shuffles to the unique, intriguing and pessimistic rhythm tapped out by writer, director and all-round indie maestro, Jim Jarmusch.

A man-made eco-disaster has enabled the dead to rise and feast on the intestines of the living, kickstarting a very bad day for small town cops, Bill Murray and Adam Driver.

Seemingly engaged in a private competition as to whom can deliver their lines in the most deadpan and downbeat way, they’re among several Jarmusch regulars who appear, such as singer Tom Waits as a gravel voiced narrator, and Tilda Swinton’s samurai sword wielding Scottish undertaker.

Full of nods, winks and direct references to other movies, the self-aware script and knowing performances play on the audiences’ familiarity with the actors and situations, confounding expectations and adding layers of meaning to the most deliberately banal dialogue.

A lament for cinema as well as humanity, it suggests we’re all dead men walking and it’s what we deserve.

ANNA AND THE APOCALYPSE

Cert 15 Stars 4

Catchy tunes make the blood-splatting violence sing in this inventive and entertaining teenage zom-rom-com musical set in a Scottish school.

Ella Hunt, Malcolm Cumming and Marli Siu lead the bright, attractive young cast as they sing, dance and fight through a zombie apocalypse, which interrupts Anna’s plot to escape her humdrum small town life.

There’s evident glee at the volume of guts, gore, music and mayhem the filmmakers can squeeze out of the low budget, and it feels like a big screen version of the Buffy The Vampire Slayers’ musical episode, Once More With Feeling. And I mean that in a good way.

 

SWISS ARMY MAN

Cert 15 Stars 3

In this remarkably odd black comedy, former Harry Potter star Daniel Radcliffe takes on his most fantastical role yet.

He plays a farting corpse called Manny, who inspires a shipwrecked soul to use him as a jetski to the mainline. After this curious beginning, it all becomes a bit weird.

On his mission to return home, Paul Dano’s Hank utilises the cadaver as a host more practical devices, such as a compass and a gun.

There’s a wonderful chemistry between Dano and Radcliffe, even if the biology and physics are tested to their limits.

SEOUL STATION

Cert 15 Stars 4

Fast track yourself to the South Korean capital for this bloodthirsty zombie thriller. It’s an animated spin-off of the ferocious live action and must-be-seen Train To Busan.

As a father searches desperately for his daughter while fellow citizens are devoured by the undead, there’s no shortage of surprises, grit or gore.

Featuring homelessness and prostitution, it’s a far from glowing portrait of modern Korea. However the commitment to scathing and subversive social commentary never side lines the delivery of first class thrills.

With strong language and adult themes, this cartoon is not for the kids.

 

TRAIN TO BUSAN

Cert 15 stars 5

Book yourself a seat on this non-stop first class carriage of carnage. This inventive epic zombie thriller delivers express thrills straight to the jugular.

A businessman and his nine year old daughter are among the mixed bag of grannies, high school sports stars and pregnant women travelling to Busan in South Korea.

The journey turns into the ride from hell when an infected escapee from a failed biotec experiment causes a zombie outbreak.

They’re a ferociously rabid pack of hungry undead, though none too clever.

It’s a rip roaring thrill ride full of heart, muscle and nerve, most of it splattered over the seats.

REDCON-1

Cert 18 117mins Stars 1

Splashing around buckets of blood isn’t enough to give life to this brainless low budget British zombie action horror.

A crack army unit have seventy two hours to rescue a scientist from a quarantined London, which has been overrun by heavily armed criminal gangs and viral induced zombies whose lingering memories of their humanity means they can use automatic weapons.

The enthusiastic cast are drawn from the ranks of pro-wrestlers, martial arts champs, models and bring your-own-zombie-costume amateurs, but very few actors.

They stomp their way across a wretched wasteland of low level video game-style action scenes, agitated editing, saturated colours, cardboard characterisation and deathless dialogue.

Laughably poor from start to finish, the unintentionally funny line ‘we’re here to evacuate you’, carries far more threat than any of the bad guys manage to achieve.

A huge debt is owed to Danny Boyle’s magnificent, 28 Days Later, and I feel bad even mentioning the two films in the same sentence.

OVERLORD

Cert 18 110mins Stars 4

Zombie Nazi’s make a frontal assault on the senses and take the Second World War to a new level of hell in this full-blooded action horror.

With a knowingly uproarious tone, it’s a brain-splatting, gut-ripping blood-drenched thriller which isn’t for the faint of heart or weak of stomach.

British born actor, Jovan Adepo, is one of a team of paratroopers whose deadly mission behind enemy lines in France is to help enable the Allies’ 1944 D-Day landing goes to plan.

However the radio mast they must destroy is above a heavily-guarded church crypt, where Nazi scientists are attempting to create a breed of ‘thousand-year’ soldiers of super-human strength. 

Fortunately help comes from Mathilde Ollivier’s glamorous local who has the Germans hot under the collar and is burning for revenge.

Being produced by Star Trek’s J.J. Abrams gives this a big screen sweep and gloss, and though it’s arguably in bad taste, it’s also a great deal of over-the-top fun.

The Girl with All the Gifts

Director: Colm McCarthy (2016) BBFC cert: 15

Unwrap this British action thriller which flowers into a fresh take on the zombie apocalypse.

Young Sennia Nanua gives an endearingly open performance as a teenager of prodigious mental ability. She and her classmates are prisoners in a military research station. Outside of lessons they’re kept in solitary confinement and under armed guard.

Gemma Arterton plays Helen, a gold hearted gun toting teacher who has a maternal bond with Melanie. Along with Glenn Close’s dedicated scientist, Paddy Considine’s gruff army sergeant and Fisayo Akinade’s dim squaddie, the five develop a dysfunctional family dynamic.

Outside the base the majority of the population are suffering from a fungal infection to the brain. This has turned them into fast moving mindless monsters, reminiscent of the manic ‘infected’ from Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later (2002). They are nicknamed ‘the Hungries’ and can be killed by the traditional bullet to the head.

The Girl With All The Gifts is based on the book of the same name by Mike Carey, and it was no surprise to learn the author is a former writer for the cult British comic, 2000AD. Still going strong it is soon to publish its 2000th issue and was recently the subject of a highly entertaining documentary, Future Shock! The Story of 2000AD (2014).

Like all British sci-fi of the last thirty years, this story’s roots are deep in the fertile soil of the self-styled ‘Galaxy’s Greatest comic’. The hallmarks of its best stories are all present here; extreme violence, sardonic humour, strong characters and a twist at the end.

Also the script mines Greek myths for inspiration and throws in baby-eating rats and mother-eating babies into the gory mix. Plus it draws on elements of John Wyndham’s evergreen novel Day Of The Triffids (pub. 1951) as well as William Golding’s The Lord Of The Flies (pub.1954).

The set designers have had great fun turning the West Midlands into an overgrown urban tundra. The make-up artists have a field day and the sound engineers go all out to scare us with an impressive variety of blood curdling noise.

Always keen to keep shovelling on the action, The Girl With All The Gifts offers sufficient rewards for those who dig zombie films.

@ChrisHunneysett

Scouts Guide To The Zombie Apocalypse

Director: Christopher B. Landon (2015)

There’s a bucketful of juvenile bad taste fun splashing about in this unsophisticated zomcom.

It’s a teenage boy fantasy of blood splattering adventure, available hot older babes, pneumatic policewomen and strippers.

After an incident featuring a janitor, a lab and a vending machine, the zombie apocalypse begins in a dull small town.

A trio of horny scouts find their outdoor skills come in unexpectedly useful.

Joey Morgan, Logan Miller and Tye Sheridan play the scouts and are respectively fat, loud and sensitive.

Loyalties are divided and the boys’ friendship is tested as they fight their way across town to gatecrash a secret rave.

David Koechner is their wig wearing Scout Leader whose Dolly Parton obsession extends to having her bust on his living room wall.

Sarah Dumont is a shot-gun wielding cocktail waitress in denim hot pants who offers leggy life lessons.

Cloris Leachman potters about as a secateur wielding senior citizen.

A vaguely mentioned viral outbreak is as much explanation as the script is interested in offering in explanation.

Instead the focus is on keeping the action brisk and the humour flowing.

It’s easy to imagine it as the spawn of the sci-fi biker sequence from John Hughes’ Weird Science (1985) stretched to a feature length.

Nor is it a million miles away from Life After Beth (2014) in tone, ambition or budget.

Teenage boys will love it but everyone else may want to avoid it like the zombie plague.

World War Z

Director: Marc Foster (2013)

Max Brooks’ brilliant zombie apocalypse novel has been crunched into an action movie template, given a tremendous blockbuster gloss and lit with Brad Pitt’s star wattage.

There is little humour and not much sentimentality but the performances full of conviction and provide an anchor for the action.

It keeps the real world sense of the book while shedding its multi-storied narrative.

Pitt remains a charismatic screen presence but beyond generic action man qualities, no great acting range is required of him.

He plays Gerry Lane, a UN investigator on a mission to save what’s left of the human race after a sudden, devastating zombie attack.

No one knows where or how the zombie pandemic originated but the globe’s cities are abandoned after the lightning fast and murderous onslaught of the undead.

Leaving his wife Karin (Mireille Enos) and daughters Connie (Sterling Jerins) and Rachel (Abigail Hargrove) in the supposed safety of a US aircraft carrier, Lane flies around the world looking for a cure for what is assumed to be a virus.

Moving swiftly from the US to South Korea, Israel and Wales, the blockbuster’s action sequences keep tumbling over one another like the many frenzied zombies at the walls of Jerusalem. That is one of the many thrilling sequences that are tense, violent and guaranteed to make you jump.

With much twitching, convulsing and moaning, the teeth-knocking monsters operate at two speeds: in the absence of prey they are in a moaning and shuffling semi-hibernation. When they attack they become a scary, swirling, swarm of flesh-hungry predators.

Some smart dialogue is scattered among the skin-crawling sound effects. This helps generate tension by hijacking your imagination to do the film’s dirty work for it.

Among the helicopters, transport planes and aircraft carriers, it unusually features soldiers who can shoot straight. Plus it presents sidekicks to provide fresh meat so we’re never sure who will survive.

Driven with a frantic energy and technical prowess, World War Z is is a exciting action adventure.

Though it’s preposterous by nature, the conviction of the players keep the spectacle grounded.

The plot holes widen alarmingly as the film struggles to conclude and though it struggles to maintain its ferocious pace, Z still keeps you interested until its surprisingly low-key ending.