Confession: The only reason I decided to give the German-lensed horror flick "Beast Within" (aka "Virus Undead") a chance to shine and sparkle on my wonderful little television screen is because the name Wolf Wolff appears directly above the title on the DVD artwork. My theory is that anyone saddled with this unfortunate moniker probably has something to prove to himself, his peers, and the world at-large, which could result in a splendidly gory independent motion picture and an evening's worth of mindless, lowbrow entertainment. After all, ambition, passion, and drive often produce some truly interesting cinematic endeavors, even if they are unbearably goofy and frequently hard to look at.
Given the large number of horrible reviews Mr. Wolff and co-director Ohmuthi's overly familiar zombie opus has received from various genre-related websites, I was expecting the absolute worst. Wretched acting, diseased direction, special effects akin to something assembled during a kindergarten art project -- in other words, typical straight-to-video Lionsgate-distributed fiddle faddle masquerading as a movie. Surprisingly, "Beast Within" isn't nearly as poorly-executed and wholly unwatchable as others would have you believe, though it does sport several show-stopping issues that may drastically decrease the quality your own personal experience.
The film's threadbare plot is an unholy amalgamation of mad scientists, disease-ridden birds, and legions of putrid zombies that are frequently perplexed by cellular phone calls. The reason for this perplexing outbreak is unclear, though it may have something to do with a medical student's grandfather and his penchant for unorthodox experimentations. Beyond that, I haven't a clue as to how this deadly infection started or where it came from. Odd, really, considering Wolff and Ohmuthi spend the vast majority of their picture fretting over needless exposition and dozens of lines of inconsequential dialogue. Declaring the film verbose would be an understatement.
If you're in the market for specifics, I'll do my best: A trio of good-looking German college students trek into the middle of nowhere to investigate a creepy old mansion that once belonged to a reclusive scientist hell-bent on discovering the source of a strange bird-related illness. The scientist's grandson, an ambitious bloke who escaped his tiny hometown for the big city, must face a number of personal demons during his visit to the homestead, including psychotic bullies armed with sledgehammers, arrogant law enforcement officials, and a decidedly unstable ex-girlfriend who's quick to fall back into old habits. Needless to say, spending time with these characters is nothing short of unpleasant.
Once the prerequisite sex, interpersonal bickering, and binge drinking have all played out, the film turns its attention to the impending zombie apocalypse, which, considering its limited screen time, almost feels like an afterthought. This is truly a shame, as the film sort of comes to life during the final 30 minutes. Stunts are abundant and surprisingly cool, as are a few of the picture's brutal moments of tense hand-to-hand combat. Why the filmmakers decided to spend the majority of their time on clichéd silliness to baffling. If I wanted to watch vapid interactions between uninteresting twenty-somethings, I'd watch MTV.
Trim roughly 45 minutes off the front end of "Breast Within" and you'd have a fairly snappy little zombie short, or, perhaps, the first half of a feature-length film with a hint of promise. Wolff and Ohmuthi are, collectively, relatively talented filmmakers, that is, when they're not forcing us to spend time with characters who are the very definition of uninteresting. That being said, "Beast Within" ultimately has too many problems for me to hand out a generous recommendation to those looking for inspired zombie-related entertainment. A valiant effort nonetheless.