Watching Zombie Night is like watching a five-year old bake a souffle; he may have all the right ingredients, but it comes out flat. Writers Amber Lynn Francis and David J. Francis have some good ideas, and obviously have a knowledge of the genre, but the movie doesn't come together in a satisfying way. The Francises realize that the best zombie films are ones in which there's tension among the living, and it's not just a living versus undead smackdown. Unfortunately, the actors and writing aren't up to the task, and the tension comes off mostly as macho posturing, sort of like in Zombie Planet.
The focus of the tension is Derek (Dwayne Moniz), a sullen, selfish guy who's the only interesting character because the rest are interchangeable cardboard, except one, Dave (Danny Ticknovich), who arbitrarily becomes the leader of the survivors. This movie is a striking contrast to Night of the Living Dead, in which the conflict between jerk and hero is much more believable. In Night, Harry is unlikeable, but you have to give him credit for having a valid point of view. The Francises take the easy route and make Derek reprehensible, so that even though he has some valid arguments, he's still scorned by the majority. I suppose that one could argue that the writers were trying to make the hero and his cronies more interesting by giving them the flaw of prejudice, but if so, it was a weak enough attempt that it wasn't very effective.
The story follows the general formula: zombies suddenly start appearing, and the rest of the world has to figure out how to survive. The one sort of twist is that in this movie, the zombies only come out at night. You would think that this would give the living a huge advantage, but it doesn't seem to make much difference.
Dave and his new friend Mark (John Carson) form a group that grows in spurts throughout the movie. Derek shows up toward the beginning and quickly makes enemies with Dave, and most everyone else. After some blundering around, the survivors hole up in some large building, and barricade themselves in. The drama unfolds from there.
I really can't recommend this movie, although it was far from tortorous, just unsatisfying. The twist with the nocturnal zombies isn't really enough to justify a viewing, either. Watch only if you have a couple of hours that desperately need killing.
Review by: Matthew Stephens Rating:
As is typical for zombie movie mythology, some kind of chemical weapon is unleashed, turning thousands of folks into zombies. This is all established in the first few minutes so we can get to the rest of the film, most of which follows a dwindling group of not-yet-zombies in their flight from one
unsafe haven to the next. But this is one directionless bunch. The fact that they survive as long as they do is plot enough. They seem to have no real
idea of how to protect themselves or how to avoid the slowest zombies on film.
The story takes place over way more than one night so I'm not sure why the
title. I would have called it "Zombie Community Theater". Really. The acting
is deplorable, even for the genre. I can just imagine the incredulous crew
standing around during "filming", holding cue cards. Very stilted cast. In fact, there's not much difference between when they're normal and when they
turn to zombies. The scenes are set up like a stage play, with precious little camera movement. The sound track, though much better than the rest of
the production, is brief and repeated over and over throughout the picture.
My favorite scene features the main character saying a prayer over the bodies of some of the zombified former group members. The writer took this
opportunity to scramble for something profound to say: lots of philosophical
platitudes and self-reflection in very broad strokes. God's eyes were probably rolling throughout.
My favorite line comes when the leader leaves a group to watch some zombie
chewed bodies they came upon. Why? I don't know. He tells them to be careful, and, not to "mess with them too much". I can only furrow my brow in amazement.
The saddest thing of all is that this piece is dedicated to someone's memory.