Song of the Dead (2005) Movie Review

There really is such a thing as a movie that is so bad, it’s good. Something about the movie, whether it’s the presence of an obviously passionate and talented actor or a magical soundtrack. Even a cameo role by one or two well known celebrities poking fun at themselves makes the whole thing worthwhile. The essence that many bad movies have that makes them so enjoyable is a subtle, almost intangible coolness. Most quality bad movies just don’t take themselves seriously. Not for a single moment. It’s possible to go on and on about the questionable production value, lackluster acting, poor writing and a host of other things that don’t add up to a thing when you consider the fact that the whole production is just oozing with a kind of genius that makes it an enjoyable experience.

While watching Song Of The Dead you may find yourself looking for that undefinable, redeeming aspect but by the closing credits you’ll be praying that it ends before you have to claw your own eyes out to get away. It comes across as the end product of a bunch of rich kids who had enough money to rent a recording studio, a very expensive cinematic video camera and talked a bunch of their almost-but-not-quite-talented friends and family into making a student film so they could get an overly generous B- in film class. Even that would have made it okay. They have tried to bill this project as a political satire and a musical spoof and even called it a “rocking musical nod to George Romero movies.” It’s absolutely NONE of those things. The entire movie could have been whittled down to the first ten minutes, because the rest is simply repetition on a theme.

Surprisingly, the copious blood and gore were actually the most redeeming elements but they’re liberally spilled over deadpan dialogue, awkwardly uncomfortable acting (though that noun is stretching it a little), middle-school-choir-bad vocals over nauseatingly formulaic guitar licks and (to guarantee the high school kids who would probably enjoy it can’t watch it) women baring their breasts in between raucous swearing and the kind of insincere patriotic propaganda that would make Patton turn Communist. Ironically, the most animated faces in this movie are on the undead. One could only hope THAT was intentional. It just never seemed that way.

The story begins with a lone hiker stumbling onto a mindless zombie feasting on the entrails of a poor, faceless victim. The zombie quickly overpowers the hiker, who doesn’t even try to run away but just stands there and yells while the monster bites off his jugular vein (cue the buckets of red dye number two and corn syrup). The mindless zombie then disappears while the hiker breaks into song and runs for his life singing “I’ve Been Bitten By A Maniac” which then fades into the signature song from the movie (repeated several times) “Flesh & Blood” as he transforms into one of the mysterious undead. The hiker and his attacker, now mysteriously reappeared, stumble, dance and sing themselves towards an unsuspecting woman camper who manages to take off her top before the two grab her. She screams, they bite off her jugular and, off in the distance, a quitarist breaks a string ripping through a discordant guitar solo.

Cut to a couple standing over the grave of the girl’s mother in a quaint graveyard. It is a zombie movie, after all. The young woman cries (and sings) while her companion tries to comfort her and yet somehow manages to look awkward, uncomfortable and bored. They are suddenly attacked by a slow moving zombie and are miraculously saved by a kindly caretaker, who tosses his shovel away before grabbing the beast. The caretaker manages to get his jugular bitten off during the struggle (why do zombies always go for the neck?). Sandy (played by Kate Gorman) continues screaming, while Brad (Travis Hierholzer) grabs the shovel and caves in the cranium of the undead brute. All the while blubbering something about “not wanting to go back there.” One hopes he means the nuthouse but he could be referring to the fact that he played a zombie in the original short film this feature version is based on. The world may never know. The caretaker succumbs to his injuries and attacks Brad, scratching and vomiting on his arm, ensuring that he too will soon be among the undead.

The film lurches, shuffles, dances and sings it’s way through the standard George Romero zombie movie formula. The dead are rising from their graves because of a mysterious virus (the Jihad Resurrection Virus or JRV), but this one has been concocted by terrorists and is not the product of a passing comet or meteor. Hey, something had to be original. Most of the movie centers around Sandy’s family as she and Brad join her brother, Tommy (Steve Williams), an Air Force soldier, and her father, Howard (Conrad Gubera), a Vietnam veteran, at their family cabin, just down the road from the cemetary. News reports are interspersed throughout to explain everything including what America is doing to fight this terrorist threat.

There are several appearances by the singing, pony-tailed President (played by Reggie Bannister from the Phantasm movies) who turns out to lipsink almost as well as the zombies (but they’re better dancers). Early on, the family and the unstable and ill Brad are joined by a psychotic Arthur Bundy (Steve Andsager) who reveals that his “hobbies” are limited to a murderous killing spree while he does a soft shoe on the front lawn with a double sided axe.

It all sounds perfectly comical, of course, but most of it is so awkwardly awful that it makes you cringe just to watch. Truthfully, the most enjoyable scene in the film was a ballad performed by Howard while zombies stop, midway through barging their way into the cabin, to provide backup vocals and wave their arms. If the entire film had followed that kind of laughable ridiculousness then it would have been infinitely more enjoyable. As it stands, the film just seems to be the victim of some strange virus that has animated what really needs to be six feet under. If you do find yourself watching this DVD it would be best served up with a few college buddies, copious amounts of alcohol and the understanding that you’re all going to be MST3K-ing your way through this monumental stinker.

Chip Gubera (director) / Chip Gubera (screenplay)
CAST: Steve Andsager … Arthur Bundy
Reggie Bannister … President of United States
John Gilbreth … Backpacker
Kate Gorman … Sandy King
Conrad Gubera … Harold King
Travis Hierholzer … Brad
Steve Williams … Tommy King

Buy Song of the Dead on DVD