Apocalypse of the Dead (2009)

Apocalypse of the Dead (2009)

The Dead Will Rise Forever!

Experimental gas which can reanimate the dead is accidentally released at a train station in Serbia, turning anyone who comes into contact with it into ravenous zombies. Meanwhile, a dangerous prisoner is being transported to Belgrade by a group of Interpol agents when they come into contact with the horde, forcing them to team up in order to stay alive.

 

It’s not every day that you get the chance to watch a Serbian film, let alone a Serbian zombie film, and so Apocalypse of the Dead makes for interesting viewing for genre fans. Don’t expect anything fresh or original from the Slavic country however as the film willingly helps itself to a slew of familiar material, with everything from Return of the Living Dead to Assault on Precinct 13 being pilfered for ideas that horror buffs can recognise a mile off, not to mention the obligatory Romero influence. However, just because film makers are happy to acknowledge their inspiration by referencing genre classics does not guarantee a good film. It’s a growing trend in low budget horror films that they all see fit to quote, reference or simply rip-off the classics of the past in some bizarre attempt to legitimise and give authorship to their work.

Apart from the obvious change of country and setting, there’s nothing to separate Apocalypse of the Dead from the slew of low budget zombie films of recent times. All have visions of grandeur. All attempt to punch above their weight. Most fail dramatically and this one follows suit. Zombie clichés come thick and fast including the token character in the group who is bitten and slowly turns, and the scene in which the characters finally realise that they have to shoot the zombies in the head to put them down for good. There are plenty more where that came from and it’s rather tame to see them all wheeled out again. But this is a film which plays it safe from the outset and never takes any chances.

Apocalypse of the Dead is low budget. The small cast, bargain bin production values and general lack of scope (it never really feels like an apocalypse, only a local incident) continually hold the film back from achieving any form of greatness. Not that it would be remembered as a classic in years to come but the film isn’t terrible. For every cliché that is thrown to the audience, there are moments of horror fan lip-service which strike a bit of a chord (zombie dispatch by harpoon?) and promise more than the film ever has any hope of delivering. Though the film is dialogue-heavy, there are enough action scenes peppered throughout to keep the film from ever descending into monotony, though at times the film pushes your limits before unleashing another zombie attack.

The zombies look good and it’s clear that the majority of the budget went into the make-up department. From zombies with entrails hanging out, to naked female zombies who look like they just came out of the shower, they’re a step up from the usual standards one expects from low budget horror flicks. The gore is plentiful too and whilst the zombie attacks don’t come too thick and fast, the ones that do generally provide gleeful pleasure, with intestines, limbs and other internal organs being munched and savaged by hordes of ravenous monsters. Apocalypse of the Dead at least nails it’s prime attraction down to a tee, even if everything else around it falls apart.

Presumably to add a bit of ‘genre cred’ to the film, the producers managed to rope Ken Foree, star of original Romero zombie masterpiece Dawn of the Dead, into playing a lead role. In order to give credible storyline purposes for an American to be living in Eastern Europe, the character is given a clichéd ex-CIA operative back story who left the States for personal reasons is now ‘one job away from retirement.’ Gee, it sucks that his last job is one rife with zombies! Foree is usually solid, rarely phoning in performances and once again he does his best here with the material given. He even gets another line like his legendary “when there is no more room in Hell, the dead will walk the Earth” line and it is delivered in similarly-preacher like fashion.

The same can’t be said for the rest of the cast, bogged down by thick Eastern European accents who garble the dialogue worse than the script unintentionally garbled anyway. Some of them are dubbed over but most just plod on ahead, faltering over a language which they’re not entirely comfortable with.

 

Whenever a film calls itself ‘something’ of the Dead it inevitably attracts comparisons to the best of the genre and it’s obvious that the majority of the innovation went into producing a rather kick-ass front cover which insinuates …. well … an apocalypse! It’s something that never materialises and you’ll end up feeling a little ripped off. Apocalypse of the Dead does some things right but not enough of them, ending up as just another undead face in the horde as a result.

 

 ★★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

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