One of the “8 Films to Die For” in the 2010 After Dark Horrorfest, ZOMBIES OF MASS DESTRUCTION attempts to use its familiar genre elements in the service of a post-9/11 political satire, depicting how people succumb to panic and prejudice in the aftermath of a massive attack. It’s a good idea, if a little bit on-the-nose in its presentation; unfortunately, instead of scathing satire, we get broad farce interspersed with the usual flesh-eating zombie cliches. The jokes fall flat, and the horror never hits a nerve; consequently, the film is never really frightening and seldom more than mildly amusing.
The best thing about ZOMBIES OF MASS DESTRUCTION is its title, which promises mayhem on a global scale – leading to the first of many disappointments when you realize that the entire story is going to be set in an isolated community. The set-up has the outbreak of the living dead blamed on a plague unleashed by terrorists, prompting local would-be patriots to cast their suspicion on a local girl of Iranian origin (who everyone keeps forgetting is not from Iraq).
It’s a nice inversion of the usual scenario, in which catastrophe justifies a lock-and-load, shoot-first-and-ask-questions-later approach, but it doesn’t come off. The film’s antagonists are a shooting gallery of straw-men (corrupt politicians, paranoid conservatives, a preacher who thinks he can convert gays to hetero-sexuality) who are obviously being set up just to be knocked down. Meanwhile, our heroes (the Iranian girl and a gay couple who have come home to out themselves to the conservative community) barely register. We know we’re supposed to root them because of the situation that has befallen them, but they don’t do much to earn our empathy.
Occasionally a joke hits the target, reminding us of what ZOMBIES OF MASS DESTRUCTION could have been, had it achieved its aspirations, but there are not even enough to fill up a good trailer: our Iranian heroine rescues a girl and tells her everything will be all right – just before a car careens down the street and flattens the tot; the shy gay man who could not out himself to his mother, finally finds his voice when staring down the barrel of a rifle, blurting out, “Don’t shoot – I’m gay!”
The l0w-budget production values are decent, including the photography, and ZOMBIES OF MASS DESTRUCTION does deliver several gory set-pieces, with splattery makeup effects that are wet and red, though not particularly memorable. The intention was apparently to create something hysterically over-the-top, in the style of Sam Raimi’s EVIL DEAD II or Peter Jackson’s BRAINDEAD (a.k.a. DEAD/ALVIE), but despite considerable effort, the film seldom reaches a critical mass that explodes into screams of fear and laughter.
The DVD, released through Lionsgate, features good picture and sound with a couple of bonus features: a promo for After Dark’s 2010 Horrorfest, a trailer for ZMD, and a making-of featurette. The later incorporates sound bites from cast and crew, including director Kevin Hamedani, who explains the political agenda underlying the film.
ZOMBIES OF MASS DESTRUCTION (2009). Directed by Kevin Hamedani. Written by Kevin Hamedani an dRamon Isao. Cast: Janette Armand, Doug Fahl, Cooper Hopkins, Bill Johns, Russell Hodgkinson, Ali Hamedani, Cornelia Moore, James Mesher.