Zone of the Dead

[a.k.a. Apocalypse of the Dead]
Dir: Milan Konjevic and Milan Todorovic
Star: Kristina Klebe, Ken Foree, Emilio Roso, Vukota Brajovic

Early on, this didn't look likely to merit even a passing grade, as it starts off looking like an ultra-cheap, badly-dubbed piece of Euroschlock - we chortled heartily at massacre of the word "manoeuvre," committed by the secretary to the president, which rivals any genocide from the Slobodan Milocevic era. For this is set in Serbia, where an incident at a train station in an industrial town releases a cloud of toxic gas; exposure to the toxin turns the infected into flesh-eating ghouls and revives the dead. Meanwhile two Interpol agents, grizzled veteran Mortimer Reyes (Foree) and rookie Mina Milius (Klebe), have to escort a prisoner (Roso) back to Belgrade. They get stuck in the middle of things, and have to hole up in a police station, fend off the besieging hordes and work out what to do. Meanwhile, a heavily-armed religious lunatic (Vukota Brajovic) is in his element, believing it's the end of days which he has long prophesied. Turns out the prisoner knows a bit more about what's going on that his captors, as his father was present during a previous incident in Russia, covered up by the Chernobyl incident.

I'm not quite sure at what point the switch happened, but somewhere in the middle, I realized I was genuinely enjoying this, and the more proceedings unfolded, the greater the sense of entertainment. Technically, it seemed to improve, and the presence of genre veteran Foree - fending off zombies as he did more than 30 years previously - is an undeniable and massive plus [amusingly, his character disparages a suggestion that they go hide out in a shopping mall: "Too hard to secure," Reyes says. There's also a remix of the old, "When there's no more room in hell, the dead will walk the earth" line]. He gets good support from the other characters, and if there's not much new here in plot (though I did enjoy the explanation for why there are both fast and slow undead), it delivers a couple of genuinely creepy moments - most notably, Reyes having to pick his way through a concourse of apparently sleeping zombies. I wasn't too impressed with the shaky-cam approach to the actual attacks, and neither their make-up nor the attacks are anything to write home about. That said, it follows the basic rules of the genre with admirable passion and focus, and if you can get past the initial issues, for a low-budget entry, it pushes all the buttons needed.

[February 2011]

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