Three strangers — a religious cowboy named Frank Fulci, his sister a one-eyed and one-handed woman bent on revenge, and a quiet young man named Castor — all embark on the same road trip to locate and destroy their nemesis: a suit-wearing, murderous Zombie A-hole that preys on naked twin girls, who has also wronged each of the three strangers in some way.
Last year, I tackled writer/director/editor/exec producer/puppeteer Dustin Mills' first film, the fun and funny THE PUPPET MONSTER MASSACRE. The film was a fun send-up to 80s horror flicks, which thankfully didn't rely on using the puppet gimmick as a crutch, but rather as a twist for those MEET THE FEEBLES fans. Now comes along Mills' sophomore effort in ZOMBIE A-HOLE, which he also wrote and directed. If you were expecting another ho-hum zombie flick, you'd be mistaken.
As Mills loves those twists, this isn't your typical zombie film. Rather, ZOMBIE A-HOLE is shot like a 70s grindhouse-style flick that like PUPPET MONSTER MASSACRE goes for the eye candy. From the initial opening chase sequence involving boobs, blood and a nice 360° reveal shot, to our introduction to the cowboy in a dark cabin filled with the undead, to the ridiculous use of energy weapons in the final fight, Mills has fun behind and in front of the camera, which carries through to the viewer. It's also fun having a slow zoom-in on an eye with the Zombie A-hole reflected in it. Or summoning an army of the undead by pissing blood.
Acting-wise, the main guy to watch is Brandon Salkil. Not only does he play our good guy Castor, he also plays Castor's evil twin brother Pollux and Pollux's undead persona, the Zombie A-Hole. Having to do triple duty sounds taxing, but Salkil manages to give all three characters life, particularly Pollux with his creepy stalker feel and the Zombie A-Hole's, well, everything. It's hard to emote when you're under latex, but Salkil compensates with his body language and movements, making for an imposing character. As for our other two leads, Josh Eal and Jessica Daniels, they do what they can, although Eal does a better job in spots. I also have to give kudos to the ladies of the film for their various states of undress. It's not an easy thing to do (I sure wouldn't do it), but you stuck with it.
Unfortunately, the film isn't perfect. Regarding the acting, Daniels was okay, though kind of came off sounding flat with her delivery at times. The same could be said of the various twin victims in the film, too. As well, as you know this is a low budget film. As such, some of the effects such as the CGI tend to stick out as being blatantly obvious, though one could make the argument that the cheesiness adds to the film. I mean, you do have plastic undead rising up from obvious greenscreen effect. And yeah, the film isn't the smartest in the world, but it's done in such a tongue-in-cheek way that you can't help come along for the ride. Had the film been played in a serious tone, it would've made things worse. Lucky for us, it's balanced.
ZOMBIE A-HOLE picks up the wacky and just plain fun that Mills tapped into with PUPPET MONSTER MASSACRE and brings it even further. The tribute to the grindhouse style is very much appreciated, and the low budget acknowledges this, making it even more fun. While the spotty acting and blatantly cheap effects may turn off some viewers, as a whole it's easy to overlook those sticking points and just have fun watching a zombie in a pinstripe jacket go one-on-one with a one-eyed woman in a fistfight.
Video: Being shot on the cheap, the 1.78:1 Anamorphic widescreen transfer won't blow you away, but manages to have good detail and fairly strong colours. The approach by Mills to film it like a cheap 70s exploitation flick has scenes which are poorly lit on purpose (amongst others), but it still manages to look good.
Audio: The Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo track is adequate but nothing spectacular. It fits with the way the film was shot, but has clear dialogue and effects. The score by the rock band Slug also captures that gritty vibe, but tends to be lower in the mix.
First up is an audio commentary with director Dustin Mills and actor Brandon Salkil. The duo talk about the making of a "blood and boobs B-movie", as well as things such as shots, casting, the experiences of working with such a low budget and more. It's an informative track that's also fun to listen to.
Following that is a Deleted Scene involving a character known as The Nurse, and the film's trailer.
Like PUPPET MONSTER MASSACRE before it, Mills has taken a basic concept and put a spin on it, resulting in a clever grindhouse film that's fun to watch. The limitations of low budget filmmaking aren't given much thought, as the film puts gore, action and plenty of skin on the screen to the delight of almost everyone. Add in a lively yet informative commentary, and it's another example of budget indie filmmaking done right.