Thursday, September 24, 2015

Horror Film Review

Battle of the Undead (2013):  Zombie flick from Israel, land of the original zombie (a four-day dead Lazarus).  Originally entitled Cannon Fodder, it's unfortunately dubbed instead subtitled.  Not that I understand Hebrew, mind you, rather it's my experience that the majority of dubbed foreign horror is done so quite badly (nothing wrecks a movie quicker than hearing a guy from, say Tokyo, speaking with the voice of a guy from Brooklyn).  In this case, they at least found voice actors with suitable accents, so from that standpoint, the film doesn't suck.  But what about all other standpoints?  Well...

Legendary operative Doron (Liron Levo) is called back from his honeymoon by the shady, one-eyed Gideon (Amit Leor) to lead a special mission into Lebanon to extract a scientist who created a virus (supposedly at the behest of a terrorist group).  What Gideon forgot to mention to Doron is that this bug transforms folks into zombies and that the bug has a toehold in Israel.  Doron is teamed up with three soldiers.  I'll just call them the geeky one, the black one, and the asshole.  Once they reach the scientist's compound, they discover in a big damn hurry how screwed they are.  The only survivor is the scientist's daughter Noelle (Yafit Shalev) who explains it was actually Gideon who forced her father to create the biological weapon.  So now the five of them must not only dodge hordes of ravenous and speedy zombies but also obtain a sample of the scientist's blood as he is patient zero.  Things don't go very well for three of them.  In the end, they reach the seaside and by some crazy coincidence, the only yacht in the harbor happens to be that of Doron's new bride.  Even more unbelievable is that the evil Gideon somehow escaped from a zombie-overrun Tel Aviv, knew where to find the boat, and also knew Doron would find it, too.  This is the definition of "contrived."  All just to set up the final confrontation that, if I'm honest, doesn't pay off.

Complaints?  The opening credits and the closing credits.  In the opening, they play music that's goofy and inappropriate for the montage of somber images shown.  The closing is a panel discussion TV show that is so badly written and acted that it's jarring.  Be like showing a Tom and Jerry cartoon at the end of Shindler's List.  I think someone in post-production was either drunk or had a grudge against the writer and director.  Nothing else makes sense.

The Skinny

Acting:  Levo is above average, Leor below, and the rest somewhere in between.
Story:  Military missions and zombies isn't a new idea, but making it intimate and personal was clever (and probably cheaper).
Direction:  A bit of floundering around, like a teenage boy fumbling with a bra clasp.
Production Values:  I have no budget data, yet I'd wager it was well under a million.  Just has that feel.  Lots of exteriors.  And whether the film stock or via technical manipulation, there's a high contrast grittiness.  See this a lot in foreign horror.
Gore/FX:  Blood a'plenty, to be sure.  The gore, however, was pervasive and at times quite icky.  The CGI could have been better.
Scares:  There are, actually.  Don't see this a lot in zombie flicks.
Ending:  Closing credits aside, the final confrontation on the yacht is short and not terribly satisfying.
Verdict:  Should you see Battle of the Undead/Cannon Fodder?  There are worse ways to spend 93 minutes.  And it's always interesting to see how other countries and cultures do zombies.  It's not always awesome, but it's at least interesting.

Rating:  3 out of 5

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