Right now, the world is flooded with zombies. Everything from Movies; TV shows, novels; comic books; and video games, zombies are not only in the horror genre, but in pop culture everywhere (it’s only a matter of time before the inevitable cereal box and Saturday morning cartoon). If the living dead offerings from the past decade weren’t enough to make all but the most die hard horror fan jaded, then nothing will. That is why I applaud writer/director Benjamin Roberds for trying something fresh and new in A Plague So Pleasant, the latest offering from Wild Eye Releasing.
The film opens up in black and white, a la The Wizard of Oz, taking place just after the zombie apocalypse, where the dead have risen from the grave, hungry for human flesh. Sure, we know the drill, but what sets this movie apart from the rest is that the humans won the war (sort of), realizing that if you stop shooting them in the head, that the lumbering corpses would cease feasting on living meat and become docile and calm, walking around with blank but curious looks on their faces. The living dead are now all over the place, and it becomes part of the morning routine to avoid hitting one with the car on the way in to work. There is a tongue-in-cheek jab at PC workplace politics which I found to be sadly plausible, with companies holding mandatory zombie awareness and safety training meetings.
David Chandler plays our main character Clay, whose sister Mia (Eva Boehnke) has an unhealthy relationship with her rotting, drooling, undead boyfriend, whom she visits regularly at the local “cemetery,” which is nothing more than a fenced-in zombie preserve/habitat. One day, Clay decides to do something about drastic to help his sister, but as soon as one of the ghouls are harmed, their hive mind kicks in, and all hell breaks loose as they go into a murderous feeding frenzy, and the film slowly switches to color as it seeps in, signaling that the movie has truly just begun…
Whenever I talk about a zombie movie, the very first question I am usually asked is whether the zombies are the slow, Romero-esque type, or the fast running 28 Days Later variety. Well, in A Plague So Pleasant, they are both. You see, when they are docile, they are of the slow motion, lumbering Romero flavor, and when agitated, they flip out, and go into full-on running, clawing, and biting berserker mode.
While the film does not offer a large amount of gore, what there is is done well. The zombie makeups were just gruesome enough, the obligatory gut munching scenes were there, but my most favorite had to be the scenes involving jagged glass, which had me cringing more than a few times. The camera work had some very good creative shots, like when the camera was high up over the actors looking down, and in some interior scenes showing just enough of the view we were supposed to see. There was also a fantastic scene done in one long take of Clay walking outside in a zombie filled street, and the lack of music in key scenes added to the atmosphere of paranoia and isolation.
I admit that I did not care much for the first twenty minutes or so of the film, as it seemed to me like it was trying to be an “art house” picture, of which I am not a fan of, and much of the opening scenes reminded me of the mistakes that Kevin Smith made in shooting Clerks, such as the camera sitting still, and the strange dialogue that Clay’s roommate Todd (Maxwell Moody) gives at the breakfast table about being a morning person. It just struck me as needlessly weird, and not showing Clay throughout that long scene made me unsure if he were speaking to a zombie or a live human being. in his dining room. I was also not a fan of the music used during the black and white scenes, as I am loathe to hipster coffeehouse style folk music, but that is just my taste.
All-in-all, once you get past the beginning black and white bits and jumps to color, the film becomes an exhausting yet entertaining thrill ride, which includes one particularly ballsy scene which I will not discuss here, due to spoilers, but I can say that you will be thinking about it even after the movie has ended.
The acting is decent enough, but the characters themselves are all unlikable in my opinion. I wasn’t exactly rooting for Clay to die, but at the same time, I didn’t particularly care if he died, either. Todd was especially nasty, and Moody played him quite like Christian Bale in American Psycho, and a scene I thought was smart was him talking on the phone to Clay after being romantically rejected and sounding quite calm, while behind him you can see the apartment trashed. A very nice touch.
The DVD special features include promo videos and trailers. You can buy a copy at the Wild Eye Relasing website.
I give this film three out of five stars.