Last night I went to one of Auckland’s two opening screenings of I Survived a Zombie Holocaust, written and directed by Guy Pigden. Although I’m not a huge fan of horror that’s actually scary (why would I put myself through that?), I do love horror-comedy. The League of Gentlemen is one of my favourite TV shows of all time, and if I didn’t enjoy Peter Jackson’s Braindead and Bad Taste I could hardly call myself a New Zealander.
The story is centred around Wesley, a painfully nerdy and naive film school graduate on his first day working on a film set. The director is a wanker, the lead actor and actress are in love with themselves, the props designer is a maniac, and there’s a method actor running about the place eating live bugs. If this isn’t bad enough, things get much worse when real zombies gatecrash the set and Wesley, along with his new-found love interest (the film’s lousy caterer) and a couple of others yet-unbitten, have to escape into the zombie-infested night.
This low-budget film was shot in and around Dunedin (my home town – I definitely recognised a few half-eaten faces) so that was one of my main reasons for going. But to be brutally honest, I had seen the trailer and had fully expected to hate this movie. It showcases big breasts, well-toned abs and a bit of well-executed gore (not to mention a vagina joke that doesn’t at all hit the mark), and all in all makes the film look cheap (not in a good way), Americanised and cheesy.
The trailer does not do the film justice. The movie is hilarious. I laughed pretty much the whole way through. It is pleasantly ridiculous, genuinely funny, not at all pretentious, and not cheesy either. Some of the montages are very cleverly put together, and although the characters are purposely clichéd I didn’t find them boring or derivative. Wesley, in particular, is a very sweet and likeable character. You can’t help feeling for him, and hoping his life will somehow turn out exactly as he wants it to. If I could re-write the trailer, I would forget the big boobs and concentrate on Wesley, who is the hero of the story after all.
The movie also has some great gory moments. Zombies eating their own guts; knives skewering eyeballs; heads exploding in a multitude of ways; zombie sexually transmitted diseases (who’d have thought?), and worst of all (shudder) the cauterisation of a mutilated wrist stump. It had me cowering into my seat with my fingers splayed across my eyes, whispering “oh no… not that…” Which is exactly what I’d hoped to do, of course.
For a low-budget film, I think it was made really well. I’ve seen some awful NZ films in the past, in which the script is rubbish, or the soundtrack is all off, or the bird noise is inordinately loud. In I Survived a Zombie Holocaust nothing stuck out to me as being amateur. There was one culturally cringe-worthy moment – when the movie’s only main brown dude performs the haka at the oncoming zombies… err…
I’d recommend seeing this movie if you can – and if you can’t see it in a cinema, find it some other way.