Zombie Planet (2004) Movie Review

The most interesting thing about “Zombie Planet” isn’t that it’s a shabby production utilizing low-rent actors who aren’t really actors, but that it’s shot on digital video and the filmmakers still didn’t use on-location sync sound. I could understand the presence of dubbed-in voices if the movie was shot on film, but we’re talking about digital video here. Little inexpensive tapes that can be shot with a handheld camera? One would think that dubbing in voices in post would be the last resort, since the effect is, to put it mildly, somewhat distracting. Not to mention the fact that most of the time the sound doesn’t even match the character’s lips. And when you add non-actors to the equation, you have the makings of a MST3000 feature waiting to happen.

Granted, allowances must be made to extremely low budget films, but even so one does expect some measure of competence. If not in the directing, then in the writing or acting. “Zombie Planet” has its own agenda, apparently, and gives us none of the three. Even though I’ve come to expect almost nothing from my no-budget zombie films, there is something to be said about trying to make a semi-decent piece of forgettable entertainment. Populating your film with people who can barely walk and talk at the same time without looking like marionettes being pulled by strings is not the way to go.

Having said all that, at least “Zombie Planet’s” auteur, one George Bonilla, was decent enough to make an epic post-apocalyptic movie on a hobo’s budget. I suppose you have to give the guy some credit for that, if not much else. Then again, you would have to be incredibly generous, since “Zombie Planet” is as low-rent as you’ll get. Still, that whole attempt at epic is pretty impressive, if ultimately an ill-advised decision.

Our latest zombie opus opens in “A Southern City” somewhere in “The Near Future” (or so the superimposed titles informs us) that has been overrun by zombies. The survivors live in groups, hiding at night and coming out in daylight to scavenge for anything they can trade in for food. Apparently these zombies aren’t like the ones we’re used to. For one, they can talk, and some even knows martial arts. I kid you not. As the film opens, our hero, laconic wanderer Cain, finds himself surrounded by zombies in a dead alley. Before you can say, “Idiot, didn’t you know there were zombies around?” Cain is engaging the zombies in a kung fu battle to the death. Or, er, after death death. Or some such.

In any case, Cain is saved by a group of survivors who call themselves the Dregs, led by Warren. Warren and company are under the thumb of a local warlord name Adam, who spends his time with the “Upper Class” in a loft somewhere setting up “Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome”-type fights. When Cain shows up and displays his impressive fighting prowess (these guys are really, really easy to impress), he stirs up a whole lot of trouble. Adam wants the Mad Max clone (in this case, the “Thunderdome” Max, not the “Road Warrior” Max, if that streak of white in his hair is any indication) to either join his ranks or die. Or maybe he just needs someone with Goth-like fashion sensibilities and a pair of shin guards to talk to. Hey, just because he’s a warlord doesn’t mean he doesn’t need friends, you know.

It’s all very silly, of course, and writer/director George Bonilla’s grandiose ideas and eye-rolling attempts at social parallels are the stuff bad screenwriting is made off. The acting, as expected, is atrocious across the board. Even when someone in the cast manages to be somewhat decent, they just remind you how awful everyone else is. And while it’s no big surprise that the actors are terrible, I think it’s not too much to ask that Bonilla find some part-time actors at the local community theater who can manage to stand in one place while delivering their lines and not, you know, see-saw back and forth like they have ants in their pants.

As with most low-budget zombie flicks, the focus seems to be not on hiring people who can remotely act or even writing a decent script that can be shot for the budget at hand, but rather on making the gore as plentiful as possible. And yes, there is plenty of gore to be had, if you’re into that sort of thing. The zombies themselves are pretty strange. Sometimes they run, sometimes they walk, and if Bonilla ever explained why the zombies are afraid of sunlight and has to hide out in houses during the day, I must have missed it. Although I have a question: did these zombies learn kung fu after they died and become zombies, or did they know kung fu before they became zombies?

Alas, complaining that “Zombie Planet” has the technical craftsmanship of an elementary school play is akin to beating a dead horse. In fact, Bonilla and company are so sure of their movie’s success that they even promise a sequel (“Zombie Planet: Adam’s Revenge”!) at the end of “Zombie Planet”. You gotta admit, these guys are really gung ho about their product. If nothing else, you have to give them credit for being extremely enthusiastic, even if that enthusiasm seems wholly unjustified.

A sequel, huh? Hmm, I wonder where Bonilla is going to get that $500 he’ll need to make the sequel?

I’m just being facetious, of course. The budget is probably more like $650.

George Bonilla (director) / George Bonilla (screenplay)
CAST: Christopher Rose
Mari Stamper
Karl Gustov Lindstrom
Rebecca Minton
Jon Shelton
Matt Perry

Buy Zombie Planet on DVD