In Corsicana, Texas, Sam’s a zero-budget horror filmmaker whose trying to make it big in Hollywood, submitting every garbage zombie movie he can muster. When he receives a letter back from a film festival, he immediately calls for a party with all his friends and family in attendance, but the letter is actually a rejection letter, proving once again, that Sam’s still a filmmaking loser. In a stroke of turnaround events, an actual zombie apocalypse breaks out and the undead are knocking at his door. Jumping at the opportunity of top-notch, free special effects and a horde of zombie “actors,” Sam delegates his friends as the production crew, going out into a zombie infested Corsicana, Texas to shoot his legacy, non-Hollywood zombie epic.
If there was ever an American political and cultural lampooning zombie film, “American Zombieland” is it. Originally titled “Fat Ass Zombies,” the George Bennett written and directed horror-comedy nixes the original title, albeit keeping the rubric for Sam’s movie, and seemingly goes hot off the coattails of the Woody Harrelson and Jesse Eisenberg crowd-pleasing and long awaited sequel, “Zombieland 2: Double Tap.” As Bennett’s freshman directorial, he co-writes the feature with Christopher De Maria and Brave Matthews that’s has little to do with the loveably gory Ruben Fleischer riot. Instead, “American Zombieland” is a none-politically correct satirical farce that’s sticking a hard poker at red state, gun-toting conservatives and the morbidly obese American subsociety lifestyle, sporting the red, white, and blue as if being patriotically proud being 300+ pounds. Brother and sister, George and Karina Bennett, co-founded company, MagicBullet Media, and Summertown productions fund and serve as the production company.
As a running joke, the story continues to deface one of Sam’s zero-budget films, “Dead Beat Zombie Dad.” In reality, “Dead Beat Zombie Dad” is a zero-dollar budget short comedy by David Slayter who wore multiple hats in the cast and crew of “American Zombie” and was not, in fact, a film directed by MagicBullett Media executive product and lead actor of the film, Dave Mussen in his first horror-comedy performance as the downtrodden, piss-poor director Sam. Mussen’s resembles the average joe; he bares no chisel chin, he’s balding, and does a good enough job being a mediocre individual so pretending a hectored filmmaker for his obscene and schlocky small horror ventures didn’t perceive challenging. One of the more memorable characters is the flagrantly perverse, yet harmless Poppers, played by FX’s “The Bridge’s” Johnny Dowers. Dowers dons a Joe Exotic-like green dyed hairstyle, handlebar mustache, and a slippery slope into unfashionable redneck garb with a more than less-Tiger King pizazz. Dowers steals much of Dave Mussen’s scenes as an unforgettable caricature a grease monkey yokel. On the opposite spectrum is A.D. Johnson as Horatio, a tragic character not exactly from the same vain as William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, but deride a proper Englishman’s snide accent to be the ever condescending and stanch critic of Sam’s projects. “American Zombieland” cast and extras are vast, including Kristen Renton (“Xenophobia”), Samantha Walker (“Ghost Story Chronicles”), Bryan Handy, Stephen Archer, Sondra Currie, and Benjamin Chamberlain.
George Bennett and crew attempt a horror-comedy aimed at desensitizing and making light of beliefs and lifestyles. What results is a crude, rude, and painfully stale fly by the seem of the pants zombie ruckus on an average entertainment scale that relies heavily on poop and fart jokes, missing the mark of sarcastic repartee targeting misrepresentative patriotism embodied by big corps, big bodies, and big racism. “American Zombieland” ultimately is a big mess of a narrative with characters coming and going without a visual diagram, segues are muddled beyond the power of understanding, and, again, the ill-approached poop and fart jokes. “American Zombieland” is also a big F.U. to the uppity and disheartening inner workings of Hollywood and, in my opinion, this is where Bennett and “American Zombieland” excels, casting caution to the wind with an unorthodox, zomedy to be frank as possible and not really giving a care of what others think – my self more than likely included. Not everything in the film is unfunny or uninteresting, such as with a pothead’s vivid visual quest of an animated interjection of seemingly random bits of American identifiers, consumerism, and, again, poop and fart jokes; a scene that reminded me of the dessert hallucination/Rob Zombie music video segment from “Beavis and Butt-head Do America.”
“American Zombieland” is the anti-Hollywood, independent zombie-comedy brought to DVD home video by ITN Distribution and Millcreek Entertainment. The DVD is presented in an anamorphic widescreen 1.78:1 aspect ratio, and features a steady natural lighting for much of the 1 hour and 28 minute runtime, not focusing on creative mattes or visual tweaks to up the ante. There are some impressively seamless drone ariel shots that exhibit little lag from the compression. Amongst a lot of the foreground focusing, skin tones look correct despite a minor softness in the detail and the night scenes are balanced out properly. Lastly, the visual effects are above par quality, the ariel shots of smoke and fire coming out of houses, the lawnmower death, and other visual sfx renders out nicely. The English Dolby Digital dual channel audio output has limitations, especially for a zombie film that powers it’s fear by the moans of the undead, but for what it is, the audiophiles are better than expected with a robust two channel mix. Dialogue is clear, soundtrack has range, and ambience is a bit overzealous…again, with the poop and fart jokes. Bonus features only include the trailer. Scatterbrained undead folly, “American Zombieland” is a rash whack of cultural farce without literally scattering brains, falling short of the intended meaning, and becoming tousled in it’s own jumbled message.