"Half animal. Half zombie. All killer"
When a strange virus quickly spreads through a safari park and begins to turn the zoo animals into zombies, a group of new interns left in the park must stop the creatures before they escape and spread the infection into the wider city.
Ok I’ll give them a bit of credit with the title. Zoombies is a nice pun. In fact, I’ll give them more just credit for the title. I’ve been (deservedly) harsh on The Asylum for so long for their constant stream of utterly dire monster movies but with Zoombies, they’ve actually produced something that is at least watchable, even if it does succumb to a number of their usual failings. For a nice change, they have decided to play the material seriously here which might be why there’s no gonzo gimmicks attached (well if you don’t count zoo animals being resurrected as zombies to be gonzo).
As far as The Asylum and Sy Fy creature features go, Zoombies is more energetic than most, with plenty of fast-paced action sequences, a decent variety of set pieces and a diverse cast to whittle down…if you can get past the sheer ridiculousness of seeing zombie giraffes. The basic idea for the film has been lifted from Jurassic Park (or most probably Jurassic World which came out the year prior) with people being trapped in a theme park/zoo and being picked off by the inhabitants, only here they scale down the threat to more mundane animals you’d see in a normal zoo. What really helps is that it looks like the filmmakers managed to get access to a zoo to shoot in and this lends the film some really nice production values, giving the whole scope of the film a bit of a bigger feel than it should. You can’t question the ambition here even if the budget lets it down.
The one-line idea for the film is about all the plot you’ll get from Zoombies, which has so many unanswered questions hovering around that it’s best to forget about them and just see which animals they’ll zombify next. I’d bet they came up with the title first and tried to construct up a narrative around it, but at some point they just gave up trying to come up with scientific ways to introduce the virus and just shrugged it off. There’s no shortage of potential victims for the animals to tear apart either. Despite the zoo not being open to the public, there’s a lot of staff around including a nicely-timed bunch of new interns arriving at the facility. The script doesn’t bother to develop most of them as it knows they’re going to die a horrible death and so we get plenty of one-scene characters who turn up, say a few lines and then are swiftly attacked and killed. Lead actress Kim Nielsen is only fourth-billed in the cast but isn’t too bad, although this is arguably due to the fact she shares some sweet scenes with her on-screen daughter. LaLa Nestor is cute as Thea who has a special relationship with the resident gorilla Kiko and can communicate with him through sign language. Having a kid in a film like this can be risky, especially when the character is put in danger, but Nestor pulls off the role without going over-the-top and makes us care for both her and her mother.
One area where there is rarely any improvement is the special effects. They start off fairly well, with the zombie monkeys in the lab looking passable threats. But as the film goes on and the animals get bigger, the effects look rushed and lazy, in particular a sequence involving big grey blobs which I assumed to be elephants. Zoombies can’t be accused of lacking imagination though as the effects team bring to life a whole slew of zoo animals from monkeys, birds, hippos and lions to name a few. With the animals escaping from their own enclosures, there’s a constant threat from each type of animal – usually a film would have the characters encounter one type of animal, overcome it and then that would be it for the rest of the film for that animal. Not here and some of the more dangerous threats keep popping up, forcing the characters to rethink their strategies. Sadly, although there is plenty of gore here, most of it is of the CGI variety and looks feeble.
No amount of terrible CGI can make up for lazy writing though. It puzzles me how vegetarian animals, perfectly evolved through millions of years of evolution, suddenly develop a killer instinct for flesh when they die and turn into savage killers. The scene in which the survivors are attacked by zombie giraffes and being plucked out of trees by the towering giant zombies would rank highly in any ‘so bad it’s good’ moments from the past ten years or so. If you ever wondered what a zombie koala bear would look like, then this is your chance to find out. As bad as it sounds, I’m going to give the filmmakers props for at least choosing to go down this silly route knowing full well how funny it appears on screen. A bit of winking and nodding to the audience can go a long way, especially when the koala is this angry.
Zoombies could be The Asylum’s most entertaining film to date, a terrible concoction of bad writing and poor special effects with some decent vitality and ‘so bad, it’s good’ moments of pure cheese. Its far better than I was expecting, though I won’t be quick to add it to any recommendations list!
Director(s): Glenn Miller
Writer(s): Scotty Mullen (screenplay by)
Actor(s): Ione Butler, Andrew Asper, LaLa Nestor, Kim Nielsen, Marcus Anderson Jr.
Duration: 87 mins