The Italian Zombie Movie, Part 2: Zombie Atrocity (Movie Review)
I’m not going to lie, I wasn’t exactly looking forward to watching this movie. Last week, I reviewed the first film in the “Italian Zombie Film” saga, “Zombie Abomination”. Despite being able to get that unique Italian horror vibe right for some stretches in the film, I ultimately walked away unimpressed and disappointed. Worse yet, due to the horrible pacing problems and the totally unsatisfying ending in the first film in the series, the sequel, “Zombie Atrocity” really had to deliver to make up for the weaknesses in the original and to turn the series around. Given that all 100 minutes of the first entry were simply a lead in for this film, I hoped that there was going to be no filler in this film. It had to have non-stop, tight, cohesive and concise action and plot development, right? Wrong.
“Zombie Abomination” was a flawed, but somewhat promising film. While I was angered by the ending, I thought the filmmakers were able to successfully spoof on a genre of films I love, while simultaneously emulating the style enough to still be entertaining in of itself for parts. Shockingly, the sequel has seemingly all but done away with the Italian horror vibe. The over the top gore is gone and replaced with slapstick zombie crotch shots. The synth-driven Italo-disco has been replaced with generic guitar riffs. It’s truly puzzling. While the series is still called “The Italian Horror Film”, there’s absolutely nothing Italian about this, except for the character names. It was the one thing I was looking forward to seeing the most, and it’s painfully absent here. What we have instead is a just an unfunny spoof movie, which has a lot of ridiculous names when it but no real laughs or style.
But, this movie could have still succeeded without that vibe. If some of the other positive aspects of the first film could have been expanded upon, this could have been a pretty enjoyable little flick. There was enough humor and heart that there was a chance that this could be an improvement with a little more growth and development from the filmmakers. That didn’t happen. Everything here is worse than in the first film.
While the plot of “Zombie Abomination” was meandering and poorly paced, the plot of “Zombie Atrocity” is an absolute disaster. The pacing is all over the place. We start with an extended fist fight between a chubby hillbilly and some zombies that goes on for what feels like forever. The rest of the film then bounces back and forth between someone trapped in a closet (sadly they aren’t R. Kelly), some people trapped in a trailer, some aliens trapped by a zombie Terminator robot in the woods (you read that right), some dude running through the woods and another hillbilly kung-fu fighting some other zombies on some weird-ass “Tree of Life” looking thing. There’s very little variety to the scenes in this film as we’re watching a perpetual sequence of “trapped” scenes, fist fights and then guy running through the woods for most of the movie. It’s boring, repetitive and gets old real quick.
In addition, there are even more characters jammed into an already bloated series. Joining the cast this time we now have some ESP-enabled bees, a lucha zombie/long-lost brother character, the “Queen of the Zombies”, a monster made out of the head and lungs of another character I don’t remember from the first film, a giant Kung-Fu zombie and lucha zombie’s girlfriend. It’s absurd. There are so many different subplots and side stories going on, that any one of them could be spun off into their own separate movie. And they should have been. As it stands, very little of them connect in any meaningful way and none of them succeed because they’re all so poorly developed. Even worse, they had to retcon plot lines from the first film to accommodate the characters in the second one. Hell, even the “Saw” series went a solid four or five movies before anything had to be retconned.
There’s an art to making a good sequel. Filmmakers need to realize that not every viewer will remember every detail from the original film, and they need to find a creative way to refresh the viewer. To go back to the “Kill Bill” example I used last week, Tarantino was able to begin his second volume with a flashback scene that not only reminded the viewer of who all the key players are and what happened in the last installment, but it simultaneously fleshed out the backstory of the film’s world. This film literally starts immediately where the first finished, with no refresher whatsoever. Given how flat the dozens of characters were, I had a hard time remembering who everyone was and what their relationship to each other was. And I’m only coming into this with a week long break. Good sequels will also add something to the story that will allow the viewer to see the original film in a new light. Knowing that Darth Vader is Luke’s father, adds something to their interaction in the original “Star Wars” film. Here, all we have is a chronological extension of the first film, that adds nothing.
Simply put, “The Italian Zombie Film, Part 2: Zombie Atrocity” is an absolute mess of a film. This movie fails on every level. The plot is a convoluted disaster. The characters are flat and lifeless. The pacing is non-existent. The special effects are laughably bad. And, even worse, the filmmakers had the gall to end this film with yet ANOTHER cliff hanger, and the announcement of a third film in this series. Why? After spending 180 minutes with this story, I still have no idea what the hell is going on. I don’t know who any of these characters are, their motivations or why they’re doing anything. I’ve seen no progress towards clarifying or tying up any of these plot threads, and have no faith that they will be when the third (and hopefully final) entry in this series comes out. And honestly, I’m not going to waste any more of my time with this series. It’s done absolutely nothing to deserve another minute of my time, or yours.