Zombie Bloodbath (1993)
When Peter Jackson's The Two Towers came out, I have to admit that I had some problems with it. Without going into details, I just want to relate that at one point a friend of mine said "Could you have made it better?" My answer was no, of course not, but then I didn't have Peter Jackson's training or resources, the implication being that if I was somehow magically granted Peter Jackson's knowledge and experience, I could have stepped into his shoes and done the job just as well or better. I've gained enough wisdom since then to know that this is hooey.
Sure, there are a lot of technical aspects to making a movie, but it's also about obsessing over countless details, working long, hard hours in unpleasant conditions, doing take after take when it doesn't come out quite the way you want it, and countless other unpleasant aspects of the process. That's not the kind of thing you can be taught; you have to want to do it.
I was initially going to start my review by saying that director/writer Todd Sheets must not have put much effort into the film, given the flaws that I could see in it. On an impulse, though, I listened to his commentary, and it reminded me again what a massive undertaking it is to make a feature film, even a low-budget one. So I have to ask myself again, "Could I have made a better film?" The answer is still "No."
However, while I tip my hat to Todd Sheets and all the other writer/directors who made low-budget labors of love, that doesn't mean that all the flaws in their films are excusable, and I have to say that Zombie Bloodbath definitely could have been improved.
The storyline is fairly simple, which is what Sheets was aiming for. He wanted to make a "one-dimensional slasher flick," as an homage to the drive-in movies he loved as a kid. The movie opens with the meltdown of a nuclear power plant, and the people trapped inside get transformed by the radioactive steam into zombies. Years later, a suburban development is built on the site, with the new owners being told nothing of the history of the area. Zombies show up; chaos ensues.
There are a couple of different subplots, but the biggest one centers around two friends, Joey (Chris Harris) and Mike (Auggi Alvarez), and their families. Casting was one of the weak points of the film. I think Joey and Mike were supposed to be in their teens, but the actors are clearly in their twenties. Joey's father Larry (Jerry Angell) looks to be barely older than Joey himself. From the commentary we learn that Angell is Sheets's best friend, which might explain this casting decision. Angell has a very distinctive mullet and mustache, which is unfortunate because he also gets used a lot as a zombie extra throughout the latter half of the movie (and not as zombie Larry, just as random zombies). This causes quite a bit of confusion as we see what looks like zombie Larry popping up in places where he couldn't be.
There are other issues with the movie that are common in films like this, like subpar acting and large plot holes. I mention the casting as an example of how I think Sheets's heart was in the right place, but he made some poor decisions as a filmmaker. I'll give him credit for imaginative special effects, but even there he makes a misstep, since he spends way too much screen time making us watch the slow dismantling of victims by the zombies.
I've seen worse movies, as those who have read my recent review of Zombie Nation know, but I still can't recommend Zombie Bloodbath to my readers. In this movie Sheets is obviously still working on his craft, and fans of the genre need not watch. Since I'll likely be watching them at some point, here's hoping the sequels are better.