Undead or Alive (2007)

Undead or Alive (2007)

Guns don’t kill people. Zombies kill people.

Army deserter Elmer Winslow and local cowboy Luke Budd find themselves on the run after breaking out of jail and robbing the sheriff. With the sheriff and a posse in hot pursuit, the duo cross paths with the niece of the great Apache warrior Geronimo. She warns them of a curse that he put on the white man which has turned all of the local people into zombies!

 

The zombie circle is coming around full once again. The circle always starts off seriously with one landmark film bursting onto the scene in a blaze of glory. Then the fad slowly fades as the genre saturates itself. Once there is nowhere left to go, it turns itself to comedy, self-parody and goofiness before dying a slow death for a few years. It resurrects itself again with another landmark film before the circle starts again. It’s happened before and plain to see. Romero kicked things off with Night of the Living Dead but the market quickly became stagnant with countless rip-offs and Italian clones flooding the market. Along came Return of the Living Dead to shake the genre up with its comedy horror approach before the whole thing died out in the late 80s when guys in masks killing teenagers became the norm. Then along came 28 Days Later which made zombies popular again and got the genre back on its feet (come on, it is a zombie film in everything but actual zombies). Every hack in Hollywood and beyond then cashes in on the popularity with scores of clones, rip-offs and straight-to-DVD rubbish. The sub-genre is on its downward spiral again so the best way is for the genre to poke fun at itself and turn to comedy to stop the rot. There’s been Shaun of the Dead, Fido and now Undead or Alive. Where does the genre go from here? Well it’s about time it had its rest period as I’m just a little tired of watching the same old shindig every time I slap a zombie film into my DVD player.

Thankfully Undead or Alive is not your typical zombie film. It’s a zombie film set in a western and the two unlikely genres make a quality pairing. It’s fresh, original and definitely not something you’ll have seen before. There isn’t a lot you can do with zombies anyway but at least this film gives it a go by giving us the western spin. You’ve got the hallmarks of a great western – a mysterious stranger, a bad ass sheriff, bank robberies, jailbreaks, shoot-outs and saloons. However this isn’t played straight in the slightest and what you get is a goofy, cornball movie which works as well as it has any right to be.

The film looks gorgeous it has to be said. Shot in beautiful 16:9 widescreen, it looks like a multi-million dollar western with blistering wastelands, dusty desert plains, rolling mountains, creeks and streams stretching for miles in some of the backdrops and, of course, a very bright and hot sun. But once the film starts rolling and the characters begin doing goofy things, it turns into Blazing Saddles with zombies! The zombie element isn’t meant to be scary so you get the zombies talking, thinking and acting like normal people, only with a taste for flesh instead. The make-up effects for the zombies are a little cheap and a lot of the gore is CGI and a bit cheesy at times. But the splatter and gore aren’t the main focus of the film – this isn’t meant to be scary in the slightest, it’s meant to be fun and that it is.

Chris Kattan is annoying. He plays the same whiny character in all of the films that I’ve seen him in and it grows old fast. His smart-ass wisecracks just aren’t funny and soon begins to grate on your nerves. For some bizarre reason, his comic relief character is the one to get the love interest side plot usually reserved for the main hero. James Denton (from TV’s Desperate Housewives) is great as the straight man hero or at least that’s the way he appears to start the film. His deadpan performance to everything that happens easily works in his favour as the comments and observations that he makes are genuinely funny.

Navi Rawat kept me watching with her gorgeous looks. The character was a bit throwaway but who cares when you are this smoking hot? The three main characters all work well together and play off each other. There is this ‘odd couple’ chemistry to the pairing where they shouldn’t click but they do. And it is to the film’s credit that you do want to see them all get out of their predicament alive. That’s a much harder task than you’d think given that Kattan is in it!

 

Undead or Alive is refreshingly original with a decent slant on the rather stagnant zombie genre. It may be a little too silly and goofy for it’s own good at times but the western setting really gives it that added kick. I wonder what John Wayne would have thought if he knew that the genre he helped make popular has become overrun with zombies!

 

 ★★★★★★☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

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