The movie title alone promises piles of testosterone, plenty of intense action, and of course the living dead. However, 2015’s Navy SEALS vs. Zombies is a real letdown. It’s easy to point to the flick’s low budget, but the real problem with this movie is an apparent lack of imagination and the technical skills to create an action flick, despite a small budget.
All the elements are there for Navy SEALS vs. Zombies: There’s the requisite team of hard-ass Navy SEALS, there’s a zombie outbreak involving the United States Vice-President, and there’s the mission of rescuing said Vice-President in a city now surrounded by the living dead. What could possibly go wrong with such eat-a-baby scenario?
Well, it turns out that there’s plenty wrong with this zombie showcase, and it’s too bad, as some old-fashioned hard work would have done wonders for this film. There is no problem with the script by Matthew Carpenter (from a story by A.K. Waters), although a second polish would have ironed out some of the wonky dialogue. However, the ideas presented in the script must have made an impression, as the overall story arc presents a scenario dripping with action, a sense of mystery and menace, and of course a happy ending (a rarity in zombie movies, which have been modeled by Romero’s heavy influence).
The bulk of the problem lies with veteran stuntman and race car driver Stanton Barrett, who tackles directorial duties on this film. Barrett may have the stunt experience to pull off some great scenes, but the action throughout the movie is mediocre. Granted, part of the issue may be that there simply is not enough budget to pull off some really good and convincing sequences, but even the small stunts in the movie have no payoff. The fight sequences are pretty good, but overall they lack overt tension and are poorly edited.
The story centers on a fledgling zombie apocalypse that begins in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, where the Vice-President (played by NBA veteran Rick Fox) is giving a speech covered by a reporter (Sue-Lynn Ansari) and her “cameraman” (he uses a flip-out civilian camera). As the zombies begin attacking people in the area, the Secret Service gets the Vice-President to a temporary secure location and call for an extract.
That extract falls onto a classified SEAL Team made up of a new kid by the name of AJ (with a pregnant wife, natch), played by Damon Lipari, and some mossbacks. The team throws about the usual banter before getting serious about the mission, which proves successful. However, the team’s captain (Michael Dudikoff, who sees no action here) changes the mission at midpoint. It seems there is a team of scientists in a classified FBI building who are working on a possible cure for the zombie virus. It falls on the team to rescue and extract the scientists. With ammo running low and some of their team either dead and wounded, the SEAL Team must make their way to the building and face the onslaught of the zombie menace (with reporters along for the ride, of course).
Although the movie makes good use of military stock footage and CGI (it’s bad CGI, but it’s expected), the movie simply lacks the overt tension of even mediocre zombie flicks, particularly given the scenario. The actors playing the SEALS do not have the physical makeup or the rudimentary training to pull off the role of such military personnel. The actors have received some training in weaponry, but that’s pretty much it. There are some key sequences in which team members are taken down—these sequences aptly demonstrate that these are actors and not fighting men. There should have been explicit team tactics, the expert use of edged weapons, and close-quarter fighting techniques. Such techniques would have augmented the film’s action quotient.
The zombies are another problem. Some viewers may object to the fact that these zombies are fast and actually physically stronger than the humans, but I had no problem with this, as each zombie movie can manipulate their key monsters at will, so long as the characteristics remain consistent. The problem here is that the zombies are simply not that scary, coming off more as rabid people. The special makeup effects are practically non-existent and the gore effects are rare and do not evoke a visceral response. There are also not enough zombies to make for a credible threat. Sure, there are some scenes that show great swarms of the living dead (CGI shots), but the action shots make use of only a dozen or so zombies at a time.
Navy SEALS vs. Zombies is simply not worth watching, which is unfortunate. The idea has great merit, but its execution makes it hard to sit through all the way.