Aspiring screenplay writer Wesley Pennington obtains the position of a runner for a low-budget zombie film. Being at the bottom rung, Wesley is commanded to do everything without hesitation or question no matter how big or small the task. With the production already plagued with a slew of problems, the film’s cast and crew come under attack from real life zombies that swarm the forest location. Wesley, along with a handful of lucky survivors, rely on their zombie film knowledge to flee from the flesh feasting fiends, living in their very own zombie apocalypse movie.
Rare is it to come across New Zealand horror now-a-days and when the opportunity presents itself, one must jump at a viewing with great enthusiasm. New Zealand horror has been known to be eccentric and fun, while also being gory and smartly scripted. From the early prevalent work of Peter Jackson (“Brain Dead,” “Bad Taste”) to lesser known cult favorites (“The Locals,” “Black Sheep”), the tiny New Zealand horror catalogue has made an everlasting mark in a heavily saturated American and European market. Guy Pigden’s written and directed 2014 horror-comedy “I Survived a Zombie Holocaust” takes it’s place rightfully so next to niche brethren, elucidating that horror and comedy in an extremely over saturated genre can and will still be an effective and entertaining movie.
Simply taking the premise of a horror movie being overwritten by another horror movie and using it’s tropes to poke at itself, while also jabbing at the film industry’s detached reality that ultimately devours itself, conquers being just another run-of-the-mill zombie comedy. Pidgen sharply appoints an ensemble cast to go along with the wanton story, working side by side again with Harley Neville in the socially awkward Wesley Pennington role. The rest of the main characters are purposefully stereotypical, fine tuned by Jocelyn Christian, Ben Baker, Reanin Johannink, Mike Edward, Andrew Laing, and Simon Ward. The character comedy mimics Peter Jackson’s “Brain Dead” with developing persona’s through various types of characters such as Wesley’s nerdy-awkwardness, Reanin as the prissy spoiled actress in Jessica, Mike Edward as an egotistical and closeted gay body builder actor in Adam, and the overbearing, frustrated, and desperate SMP played insanely intense by Andrew Laing.
The gore is very similar to Jackson’s early nineties splatterfest film. Lead special effects supervisor Timothy Munro had worked under the modern era thumb of Peter Jackson, including box office blockbusters films like 2005’s “King Kong” and 2012’s “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.” Did this influence the effects team to explore the gore written in the screenplay pages in “I Survived a Zombie Holocaust?” I would say so. We’re talking about splitting heads in half, viscera spilling out from the waist side, limb detachments, and more sanguinary bits and pieces. The gore is sound and not as exploitive, as maybe “Brain Dead” comes across, smoothing out and around a well-balanced zombie comedy.
“I Survived a Zombie Holocaust” has faint issues of pacing that slow down between scenes, toning down a smidgen of my praise for Pidgen’s film. But the 38 Production’s freshman film goes above and beyond of being just another likable zombie comedy. The jest upon the horror community is well played and well received while also being a gory homage to an established horror community in New Zealand. “I Survived A Zombie Holocaust” has been released in the UK courtesy of distributor Matchbox films. However, I can’t comment technically on the audio and video quality due to the screener being a streaming link and nor can I comment on the extras as there are none. What I can comment on is that “I Survived a Zombie Holocaust” makes a killer first impression in the new era of Kiwi horror and will be at the top of the list for one of my favorite at home feature releases of the year!