Tough to tell who is living, who is dead in lifeless flick
You know a movie is on the wrong track when you spend much of it thinking about how everything in it looks like something else. In "Undead," a dead-on-arrival zombie...
Seattle Times movie critic
You know a movie is on the wrong track when you spend much of it thinking about how everything in it looks like something else. In "Undead," a dead-on-arrival zombie movie from Australia, the blood looks like cranberry juice, the ominous clouds look like shaving cream, and the leading lady looks like a very down-on-her-luck Kate Winslet. Felicity Mason, making her feature debut, surely deserves better than the sickly blue lighting and corpse makeup that she gets here — she's supposed to be among the living, but the filmmakers have nicely succeeded in making her look dead.
And with the way this movie is lit, getting darker and darker as it goes on (perhaps they ran out of money to replace light bulbs in the course of production?), it's hard enough to tell the living from the dead. Everyone sort of fades together into the dim blueness, zombies and survivors and aliens alike, and you get tired of squinting to try to guess who's who.
Midway through, the filmmakers, in evident desperation, have the cast strip down to their skivvies, because smoke is rising from their bodies for some weird meteor/alien/zombie-related reason. Usually, the prospect of an attractive group of people doffing their clothes can at least cause a bit of interest, but it doesn't matter here — you can't see them anyway. (Early on, for the same reason, poor Mason has to dump an enormous bottle of water onto her body, as if she's in some sort of do-it-yourself wet-T-shirt contest. It's the kind of B-movie touch that should at least be enjoyably trashy and silly, but here it's so perfunctory as to be pointless.)
Written and directed by the brother team of Peter and Michael Spierig (who clearly spent too much time in their childhood watching zombie movies in the basement), "Undead" feels as lifeless as the zombies who wander the streets of the small fishing town of Berkeley, Australia. The plot's standard-issue, owing much to zombie movies that have staggered before this one: A local beauty queen (Mason), formerly Miss Catch of the Day, is horrified when a meteor shower creates an army of living dead. (Yes, I hate it when that happens, too.)
Fleeing them, she ends up at a remote farmhouse, owned by a strangely hollow-eyed fellow (an actor with the excellent name of Mungo McKay), and is soon joined by a small band of survivors: a pregnant waitress (who's still bitter over not winning Miss Catch of the Day), her hapless husband and a pair of constables. They battle the zombies, hide in basements, get semi-naked and shriek a lot. By the time the aliens show up ... well, I didn't care any more. Maybe zombie-movie aficionados would, but I doubt it — better to see "Land of the Dead," now in theaters, or rent the wonderful "Shaun of the Dead," from which "Undead" would have done well to borrow even a tiny fraction of its humor.
The film contains plenty of cheesy effect shots, such as a fist going through a woman's head, or a pair of severed legs — in pants — tottering about, with a spinal cord protruding. You wish the legs would do a few dance steps, or anything of interest, but they just stagger a bit and then die. As does "Undead." Alas, the movie takes 100 minutes to do it.
Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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