The whole month of October is like one big celebration. Oktoberfest brings beer, the fall harvest brings pumpkin-y goodness and Halloween brings ghouls and goblins. Nothing is more fun than bundling up on a cool fall evening, sipping some pumpkin ale and watching a scary movie… unless that scary movie features Danny Trejo as a zombie killing priest! Well thanks to the good folks at Well Go USA, said movie, “Zombie Hunter” hits Blu-Ray on 10/8. While it isn’t exactly scary, the film promises plenty of zombies getting their butts whooped.
And who can resist seeing Trejo kick ass for the Lord?
The film opens in a post apocalyptic world, where a deadly street drug called “natas” (that’s satan spelled BACKWARDS!!!) has turned junkies into full-blown zombies. The Zombie Hunter (Martin Copping) is just a man tearing through the wasteland in a beat-up Camero with an arsenal in the trunk. A loner on the run from his past, The Hunter chases down the undead – partially for sport, partially for redemption. After suffering an injury/car wreck, he’s taken in by a small group of survivors led by Father Jesus (Danny Trejo). When they find themselves ambushed by a zombie horde, the gang must flee to survive. Will The Zombie Hunter live up to his name and help them fight their way to safety?
Directed and Co-written by Kevin King (surely no relation to Stephen), ”Zombie Hunter” is, at best, a “grindhouse”-style low budget action movie that leans on Trejo’s involvment like a crutch. While there are a few decent moments, the film suffers from a weak story and even more inexcusably, from a lack of exciting zombie attacks. There is a crazy chainsaw wielding clown (who I’m not even sure is undead) and some sort of monster that looks like it was made on an xbox, both of which shake things up a bit. However, I wanted huge gangs of zombie coolness and that constant state of high tension that makes the best of the genre so great. All too often there will be long stretches of poorly acted out dialogue and when the flesh eaters do strike in their limited numbers, it looks cheap with CG blood and hokey effects. This isn’t always a sin in my book… I can tolerate bad CG if the story is at least engaging, but naturally this isn’t the case here.
Sadly, what were likely King’s strongest ideas during the movie’s conception are probably it’s weakest points. The film uses voiceover throughout in an attempt to nail a gritty, bad-ass vibe. After the first few minutes, I got V.O. fatigue… and when other characters provide narration over the film, it just got absurd. Always show, never tell; and if you must tell, do it sparingly. Of course, this isn’t helped by Martin Copping’s gravelly half-baked attempt to impersonate the original “Man With No Name”, Mr. Clint Eastwood. It’s so weird seeing a guy who looks like Brandon Flowers on his “Battle Born” tour acting like the spawn of Mad Max and Blondie. Copping isn’t bad really, he’s probably the best actor in this thing, but he just feels like a poser. Every other actor seems like they could be reading from cue cards, except for Danny Trejo, who’s basically being Danny Trejo for pretty much a cameo appearance. If King intentionally directed his actors to “dumb down” their performances to be more like an authentic B-movie, it was a mistake. Oh, and of course there’s too much CG.
Surprisingly, no fake scratches were added to the picture to make it look like an old print. That’s a little refreshing, seeing as how the effect has been way overused in low-budget movies of recent years, but I still found myself wishing for pops and crackles. The movie looks cheap, but for some reason the “all too clean” picture made it feel more so. If you’re going to go through the trouble of making all of your blood and gore in post-production, how hard could it be to add some scratching?
That said, the Blu-Ray looks pretty good. The colors are vibrant in some of the trippier scenes, though somewhat muted during most of the picture. The imagery is sharp and clean, without looking too much like video. The 5.1 DTS HD-MA track makes good use of surround particularly with ambient music and during creature attacks. The synthesized soundtrack is reminiscent of John Carpenter, until the main theme when it becomes Moroder-esque 80′s dance pop. The dialogue comes in crisply. There are no extras on the disc aside from the film’s trailer.
“Zombie Hunter” scores 1.5 out of 4 devils. It’s certainly not the worst zombie movie out there and I’m sure there’s an audience out there for it, but it should’ve been much better. When you promise Danny Trejo as Father Jesus hacking up the undead, you need to deliver. Part of that delivery requires practical effects and gallons of Karo syrup blood. The other part requires more Trejo. Story optional.