Sunday, June 21, 2015

Zombie Army (1991)

Zombie Army (1991) is an American shot-on-video horror film, directed by Betty Stapleford and written by Roger Scearce, filmed in Pennsylvania and Delaware (as per the credits).  It takes as its influence popular eighties zombie films, Redneck Zombies, Return of the Living Dead, and Day of the Dead (the former 1989, the latter two 1985).
Zombie Army begins with a classroom scene where a young scientist gives a lecture on the psychology of a serial killer, showing an adeptness at his subject.  In a nifty twist, at the conclusion of his lecture, a gentleman in a white coat reveals that he is not the lecturer’s colleague but his doctor; and this lecture has been a form of therapy for his patient.  The patient at the end of his lecture becomes violent and refuses to leave and is forcibly removed to the patients’ ward.  At the ward, the young scientist attempts to start a fire with one of his textbooks and audaciously tries to fuck one of the female patients in his room.  The orderlies escort both he and his consort to seclusion.  The instant the door closes upon the patient couple, the director of the asylum informs his workers that the government is shutting down the facility and moving the staff and patients to a new one. 
After the asylum is abandoned, soon after the United States Army arrives to prepare to occupy the facility.  Soldiers are divided into pairs and ordered to reconnaissance the facility.  An inventive pair of soldiers, with a fondness for bending the rules and smoking a little bit of weed, lumber through the asylum, playing with the patients’ abandoned toys and opening the seclusion room.  The smell emitting from the room is fetid, and the duo scatter while leaving the door ajar.  The patients locked in seclusion are still alive and are now free to roam to the facility with impunity.  The two soldiers, undaunted in their task, stop at the local tavern and pound a few beers.  They return to the facility to fuck around a bit more and are killed by the newly-loose patients.  The patient with the aptitude towards science rigs a makeshift reanimating unit and creates the first in an army of zombies.
Zombie Army is an artifact of its cinematic era; has a distinct charm in its DIY enthusiasm; and benefits from being truly focused and displaying its strengths well.  One has to bear in mind, at the time of the video release of Zombie Army, zombie cinema was scarce (unlike today’s saturated horror market).  Despite a huge desire from horror fans for more zombie films, Hollywood and its elk was silent.  Unsurprisingly, as the nineties progressed comics like DeadWorld, novels like Brian Keene’s The Rising (1999), and the emergence of new zombie films, like the famous trio of Japanese films, Wild Zero, Junk, and Versus (the former 1999, the latter two 2000) were heartily enjoyed by horror fans, opening the current tidal wave in today’s horror market.  Zombie Army, like a lot of DIY, shot-on-video films, was created by horror fans for horror fans.  In fact, almost the entire ethos of the direct-to-video horror genre was driven by horror fans who made films that they wanted to see.  Zombie Army does not shirk from the staples of the zombie genre:  the practical makeup effects are quite good.  The zombies have a blue tint to their faces, ala Tom Savini’s special effects work in Dawn of the Dead (1978).  However, one can see in Zombie Army the prosthetic detail in and around the eyes, making the zombie army look more like monsters.  There is plenty of intestinal chomping and exploding body parts, all of which look quite professional.  Once the army gets hip that soldiers go missing every time a unit patrols the hospital, they emerge with weapons and vehicles in tow, ready to do battle.  There is a standout scene where the army mows down a group of zombies in an underground tunnel with really excellent red lighting.  All of the weapons, vehicles, and fatigues look genuine and totally add an authentic feel to the film.  Zombie Army even includes a quite a sexy seduction scene where a hitchhiking soldier gets picked up by a sexy lady.  After becoming aroused, instead of fucking on a pile of trash, the two decide upon a classier place, the abandoned asylum.  The pair meet their end in the style evocative of the ending of George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead (1968).

Zombie Army is recommended for fans of the original shot-on-video era of horror and old school zombie flicks.

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