Hit and miss
A zombie woman tries to find her place in the world of the living.
When zombies rise, the living and the undead must tread an uneasy line of cohabitation. There’s an anti-zombie gang out to “kill ‘em all”, a zombie support group for those trying to cope with being undead and a faux-religious zombie cult out to embrace their “inner zombie” by chowing down on all things human.
Sound awesome so far? The concepts in this movie are wonderful, though we’ve seen them fleshed out a little more in David Gebroe’s ZOMBIE HONEYMOON (2004) and later in Grace Lee’s AMERICAN ZOMBIE (2007). However, all three movies have one thing in common: They were all hit and miss. Concept-wise, their story paths were interesting and intelligent since they moved far beyond the cliché of mindless zombies wanting nothing more than brains to consume, but the final execution, when the movie was in the can, was off, like they couldn’t drag out a one-trick tale.
In ZOMBIE’S ANONYMOUS (originally entitled LAST RIGHTS OF THE DEAD), writer/director/producer/editor/composer Mark Fratto works hard to weave a story centered around Angela (Gina Ramsden), who, after being murdered by her hot-headed misogynistic boyfriend Josh (Joshua Nelson), begins life anew as a walking, talking, lost in the world of the living, zombie. As we follow Angela, we learn that this strange new world is working hard to come to terms with all things undead: Do they have rights? Should they be allowed to work? Should they be destroyed?
Angela simply wants to find out where she belongs and her journey brings her to the in-denial therapy group that wants to fit in with the human population by trying to eat doughnuts, and a cultist zombie group hellbent on fighting – or biting – back. She also has to deal with Josh again, since he’s now part of a militia group out to destroy zombies because they don’t belong. Fratto’s story deals with some important questions about alienation, group fantaticism, self-esteem and independence, as well as bigotry, but he tries to cover too much ground and only scratches the surface, while indulging in some cheap laughs and tongue in cheek dialogue. No, this didn’t need to be a serious piece weighed down with pretencious musings and monologues, but since much of the acting was over-the-top, it was hard to take anything seriously.
In the opening scene, Angela’s hunkered down in the bathtub, doing her best to avoid boyfriend Josh’s wrath and 9mm on the other side of the door. Here, Ramsden shines. Sure, we can tell it’s a low budget movie, but Ramsden’s acting and Fratto’s camera angles add much to the scene. However, Nelson was instantly on and off. Sure, he was acting tough and hostile, but he was simply trying to play the part. Like the Commandant (Christa McNamee) Nelson muscles for, neither actor embraced their respective roles and became the characters. They simply acted as best they could and came off as disingenuous because they didn’t go that extra step to lose themselves in their respective roles.
Besides Ramsden’s consistent work of the freaked out Angela, Kevin T. Collins rocked as Louis, the zombie who left the therapy group for something far more visceral and violent. Richie (J. Scott Green) is equally wonderful as the zombie killer wannabe, and his final segment in the movie really grasps at the heartstrings. All three actors were solid and consistent, embraced their characters and let their emotions ring true. The rest of the cast, fell sadly short.
Anthony Pepe, the special effects man on the crew, at times delivered some excellent make up work, while on other occasions one wondered if he cared at all about his creations. The visual effects of exploding heads thanks to shotgun blasts, were fast, cheesy and far removed from worthwhile, and will most often bring a little laughter from the audience.
Original music supplied by Fratto, as well as Andy Ascolese and Frank Garfi, leaves much to be desired. Once again, some of it works well within the scope and atomosphere of the movie, while other tracks are simply awful and distort the scenes they inhabit. Most often, the soundtrack proves distracting.
The acting, at times spot-on and perfect, is also off the mark at far too regular intervals. The same as the special effects make-up as well as the music. So why is the entire movie “hit and miss”? Because the director, Marc Fratto, didn’t follow through. Because he often went with one take instead of asking for another. Sure, money and time played a role, but it’s clear many parts are rushed, even in the overly elongated sequences where Fratto’s editing needed to be put to better use. Fratto tried to do way too much on his own. Ambition is fine, but he could have used the assitance of others to get the job done. Granted, Helena Inno was his second assistant director, but he needed more help from his producers. Hell, maybe he shouldn’t have left all the casting to Brandi Metaxas, who was also in charge of makeup. For a zombie flick, Fratto clearly bit off more than he could chew.
In the end, ZOMBIE’S ANONYMOUS is a “could have been”. Great moments of social commentary are often lost in the comedy, and at times, bad acting brings the entire movie to a halt, undermining everything Fratto worked so hard to accomplish. Many fans tote this as being one of the greatest zombie treats of all-time. But if you favor a complete package of writing, acting, cinematography and special effects to weave a mesmerizing and original tale of quality, ZOMBIE’S ANONYMOUS falls short – and this is one of the reasons why the movie’s a direct to video feature and didn’t appear in a cinema near you. Still, it is definitely worth a look for its ambition. However, the true disappointment is that Gina Ramsden has not been part of another feature in six years, and that’s sinful.
2 out of 5 stars