While I am sure this is true of most genres, it seems especially true with zombie movies in that there are three distinct tiers. The upper tier, aka the "Romero" class zombie movie, manages to put out decent movies with often microscopic budgets, unheard of actors and a plotline that does not appeal to the average movie goer. The middle tier, which I will call the "Fulci" class zombie movie, tends to step back from characters and up the camp a little and tosses in some more gore, traditionally. They get the "They like zombies" part down, but somewhat miss the classic aspects that make good zombie movies good. The bottom tier would be the Boll/Lommel (from Uwe Boll's House of the Dead and Ulli Lommel's Zombie Nation) class. Sometimes these barely even have a zombie. They tend to be filled with really crappy characters, gore that still has "Jello-Mold" on the bottom, and well, I could go on. The problem with these bottom tier movies is that George Romero's Night was made with comparable budget, time, equipment and whatnot. But somehow he pushed through the cheese into something that has become a classic. These Boll/Lummel class films seem to be trying for street cred (or maybe I am naive and they are just trying to be really shitty) by keeping it "early Romero real". Ugh.
There is another class, the "Sheets" class, but the only movie that goes in that one is Zombie Bloodbath. The first one. The sequels are in the Boll/Lommel class. Where the Sheets class fits in is that rare horrifically bad flick that someone pulls its ass all the way through the profane back around to something that the sacred might at least use as an urinal. George Battaile in a zombie discussion? You're damned right.
The Quick and the Undead is a Fulci class film with B/L class sensibilities, or maybe it is the other way around. It straddles that fence. I think on purpose, trying to cop in on the best of both world. The microbudget of the B/L class. The sense of actual earnestness from the F class. It does seem earnest. Heck, for a movie whose budget was probably 80% spent on DVD-distribution, it is not half bad. It is tolerable. The main character (Ryn, played by Clint Glenn trying to be a slice more badass than he can honestly pull off) is tolerable. The "quirky" sidekick (Hans, the Italian-French-German Euromutt with a Jewish last name and who is cowardly and concerned with money...played by Nicola Glacobbe) is less tolerable but passing. The zombies are overall tolerable, though too many are wearing what I suppose is "skull masks" on the outside of their face, giving them a strange "bloated/scrawny" look. The gore is tolerable.
Alas, quite a few things aren't that tolerable. Parrish Randall just refuses to build up any sort of real menace, even when the script makes him about as inhuman as this movie can get. Erin McCarthy's Hunter, the "almost caring" bounty Hunter, says a good number of lines too quietly to be picked up by the human ear and her attempt at quiet/strong woman brings to mind something akin to reading cue cards off camera. Neither of these are deal breakers, but they are deal weakeners.
The overall worst thing about this movie is the potential it wasted by its relatively unique backdrop. Old west zombies have been done before. I'm sure Joe Lansdale could write them all day long with his eyes closed and a big old bag of popcorn in his lap (Lansdale blames some of his stranger stories on his habit of giving himself nightmares through overeating on popcorn). Anyhow, it is not new to make a movie about the "old west" and zombies, but it is still fresher than making one about a family hiding out in a Mall, let's put it that way.
When you try and make sense of the backplot of "80 years since a viral zombie outbreak, bounty hunters..." blah blah blah it just doesn't work. At least Romero, in his "weakest of the four" Land of the Dead let us know the structure of the new humanity. Here, we just get it implied. There are no frontier towns to give flavor...at least none that are alive. "Discarded" technology ranges from everyday things to things most definitely older in feel, leaving some confusion as to when this outbreak was supposed to have occurred. The bounty hunters collect pinkies (as opposed to, excuse the pun...brains) though it never seems to occur to them to cut off BOTH pinkies from a zombie. Also, though at least 1.5 billion people have survived, humanity seems to be still confused at how to turn back on telecommunications (but not gasoline or electricity).
And zombies rot away, with clear indication that the fresher zombies are the worse ones, but people don't live with zombies anymore so it seems that fresher zombies refer to bounty hunters that get caught? and, despite this "rotting" effect, the presumably 80-year old zombies are mostly ok and their clothes have taken the "elements" pretty well. It ends up being an excuse to allow some zombies to stay "inactive" until dramatic moments.
And, as cool as chumming for zombies actually is, the way it is handled makes it seem that zombies prefer dead meat to live meat. Also, zombies seem to take forever to actually bite you. They are mostly content to just hold you down.
It seems as though I am saying this is a bad zombie film, that is not true. It is a fair/middlin' zombie film that I actually think is worth watching, I just find myself annoyed by the oversights all the more because they obviously had some feel for what they wanted to accomplish. Almost all the complaints I have about the movie are mistakes of execution as opposed to limitations forced on them by a budget (like, zombies sometimes retain aspects of themselves and sometimes don't...and they dropped it instead of using it. Why even bring it up if it does not make it past there?).
This film crew could go either way (up to a fully F class movie, or down into a fully B/L class movie) and I hope they polish their act a little and catch the glaring issues. Because their heart is in the right place most definitely. They have a gas-mask wearing zombie confused how to eat in one scene. They have the humor down. I say they should call do-o'er and try again.
Written by W Doug Bolden
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