Originally released back in 2006 under the slightly more interesting, if nonsensical title “Automation Transfusion”, writer director Steven C. Miller’s debut feature now arrives on region 2 DVD via Momentum Pictures as “Zombie Transfusion”. The film is a low budget slice of independent horror, planned as the first part of a trilogy, a fact which gives a good indication as to the level of ambition behind the project. Certainly, although somewhat hampered by its obvious lack of resources and inevitably a bit rough around the edges, the film is a cut above the usual kind of nonsense that has made the direct to DVD market a virtual no-go area for genre fans.
The plot is pretty basic zombie apocalypse style stuff, following a group of three small town high school friends who decide to head into the city one night for a rock concert rather than attending a jock party. En route, they notice that the road is a little too empty, and start to suspect that something might be wrong. After they arrive at the bar, they are soon proved right, as a gang of howling, sprinting undead attack. Showing a bit more common sense than the average zombie film characters, instead of holing up and trying to keep the flesh eaters out, they break out and head home in a desperate bid to save their friends and families.
The good news is that “Zombie Transfusion” really does deliver the gore groceries, with some surprisingly impressive special effects and makeup. Miller manages to cram in a good number of mass feeding scenes, hearts and guts being torn out, and eviscerations a-plenty. The film has several standout scenes guaranteed to please genre fans, including a couple of spectacular shotgun blasts to the head, and a girl having the bottom half of her jaw torn off. Wisely, Miller keeps the carnage coming thick and fast, and the film never outstays its welcome, clocking in at just 75 minutes, very few of which are wasted on filler material. Although the film is too unfocused to be truly gripping or intense, it is exciting, and lurches between bloody set pieces in an entertainingly enthusiastic manner.
The film’s weak points are as pretty much as expected, namely a lame script, amateurish acting and some scenes where Miller’s vision was clearly outstripped by his lack of finances. This having been said, he certainly deserves points for effort, and some innovative camera work and shaky visuals do help to distract from the low budget look. Miller does make good use of what he has, switching between a variety of different, if familiar locations, and employing a reasonable number of extras to add some weight to the mass zombie chase sequences.
Sadly, the film’s plotting is a little ham-fisted and meandering, with a supposed explanatory twist during the final act is what most genre-savvy viewers will likely have simply assumed all along. The ending itself is annoyingly open, and doesn’t really seem to suggest that the next instalment will be anything more than a direct continuation, something which doesn’t work particularly well since the viewer never actually cares about the thinly sketched characters or their fates.
In the grand scheme of things however, these are relatively minor criticisms, and “Zombie Transfusion” offers gory fun for those still brave enough to explore the low budget genre fringe. Miller shows himself to be a reasonable talent, and it will certainly be interesting to see what he can do with a little more money behind the camera.
Steven C. Miller (director) / Steven C. Miller (screenplay)
CAST: Garrett Jones … Chris
Juliet Reeves … Jackie
William Howard Bowman … Scott
Rowan Bousaid … Tim
Ashley Elizabeth Pierce … Simone
Kendra Farner … Melissa
Joel Hebner … Lance
Kevin J. O’Neill … Dr. Swartz