In the zombie subgenre, it’s hard to bring new life into the films being made of recent. While many are content with the same stories rehashed with a new gang of cast members, others do their best to push the genre forward rather than keep it at the same level.
Throughout the years we’ve had zombie love stories, pet zombies, zombie buddies, films from the zombies’ perspective and yes, even zombie musicals. While zombie films with varying concepts and ideas are being made, to some they’re not as welcome as one might think. The a-typical zombie fodder is more than enough for some fans, and when done properly is enough for me as well. However, I cannot argue that when a new concept is brought to the table and it is pulled off; I am grinning from ear to ear. It’s not just because there’s something new for me to marvel at, but because it opens the doors for more filmmakers to try something different as well and not just stick with the typical run of the mill zombie flick.
The makers of this film must have missed the memo on that one.
Our story begins with a group of college kids off to an isolated island where they will be conducting a series of tests for their forensics class. Each of the six students is sent off in groups of two and off to different parts of the island to examine cadavers planted by their professor. They are all warned that there is no cell phone coverage on the island as it is abandoned, the only communication they will have is through walkie talkies and their actions are being monitored on several surveillance cameras set up on the island. Sooner before later it becomes apparent they are not as alone as they thought they were as mysterious figures wearing prison jump suites are seen lurking in the woods and with every passing minute – they are getting closer to the group.
The island as you can probably tell has a sordid history. Once a flourishing island home to the local state penitentiary is now desolate due to a secret government experiment tainting the water supply. It’s no mystery who or what the figures in the jumpsuits are, zombified prisoners in case you have trouble with it, and it’s also no question as to when these ghouls will strike. There are no surprises in this film when it comes to anything leading up to a “violent” attack.
The characters are too thin to be fleshed out enough for us to completely care about them, we see familiar faces and that pretty much is all we can do to attach ourselves to the cast in hopes we might see that person live. I know it’s tough to properly flesh out an ensemble cast, but it’s not like there’s a ton of characters that need it – hell, there’s eight living characters in the whole film and I couldn’t tell you one single thing about any of them other than two are in a semi relationship. We don’t even get the typical two main characters that are overly fleshed out to leave room for the zombie fodder, everyone here gets the same amount of screen time which hurts the cast more than helps it.
The gore is semi there, a lot of the biting and gnawing doesn’t feel as grotesque as it should. For example, a girl gets her fingernails bitten off which is a scene that should have sent me diving for the remote; instead it left me with a “that’s it” kind of a feeling. We do get plenty of bites, a guy gets a hole ripped in his stomach, a few zombies get shot, one gets a spear through her head which comes out of her cheek, and there’s plenty of intestine eating to go around. But as I said, it never reaches that ick factor that a film like this so desperately needs.
The film fails to deliver on any aspect of tension as if any of it starts to build; it’s gone when we cut to another character walking around looking for everyone else. That also becomes quite questionable as the spots the group are sent to are supposedly far from each other, but one character manages to walk to each of them in less than an hour or so, and yet these other characters keep getting separated from each other. How do they get so lost in such a small part of the island? It’s very bizarre and really does nothing for the story sans make the characters lack of direction appalling.
While I haven’t said too much good about this film, there’s something kind of endearing about it. The acting is pretty solid and the zombie efx are top notch. It is worth noting, there are only about six zombies in the whole film and no more than two are usually seen at once so if you’re looking for something where hordes of zombies attack en masse; this one definitely isn’t for you.
If anything this plays off more as a slasher film than an actual zombie film, characters are killed off in a rabid succession, then return as flesh-eaters only to be quickly dispatched of again. We get the typical pretty boy with his girlfriend who also doubles as the film’s bad ass taking out two zombies on her own and turning into Rambo’s kin when she gets a gun. It’s a welcome change to not only see a strong female lead that isn’t hysterical before she puts the guns on and is ready for action, this chick is ready to fight when zombie numero uno pops into frame – and she doesn’t let up until the last frame.
All in all it does fall into that stereotypical slasher/zombie film cannon but it’s done well enough that it’s a passable way to knock off some free time. Running at a brisk 87 minutes, this one won’t set you too far back in terms of time and it does go by quickly enough that it never feels like it’s dragging its feet. I’d say give it a rental before dropping down the dollars to purchase it, while it’s not a horrible film by any stretch – it’s not mind-blowingly good either. I can see this really clicking with some folks, partially clicking with a few more like myself and completely pissing off everyone else. Give it a rent, you might be surprised.
3 out of 5