Cowboys & Zombies Review

The Film

There is an argument that the most significant development of our last century was not globalisation, credit explosions or scientific breakthroughs, but marketing. For millions of years prior to the twentieth century, we muddled through our growth as a species without quite knowing the full importance of everything we consumed. We made dumb, uneducated decisions purely because something looked good, tasted nice or made us feel inexplicably happy. For all of the insight of Christ, Mohammed, and Buddha or the discoveries of Newton, Einstein and Magellan, we were groping around in the dark unaware of the "real thing" or how we could rearrange all of our debts into one easy monthly payment.

In the world of entertainment, marketing has become more important than the product. Crucially, people need to be convinced to want the product not because it looks good or because it's by that bloke they like but because it adds to them as people that other people believe are still relevant or sexy. They want the thing because without it they are less. So when an event film is coming, what a canny marketer does is get something else out there that's similar, that can mop up the other guy's anticipation. It neither matters that it's a great product or particularly related to what the audience really wants as long as you can convince them that they need it now.

Cowboys and Zombies is a cheapie exploitation flick with a title very similar to a coming blockbuster. As product it offers you a mincingly voiced hero where you get Daniel Craig if you wait, it offers you familiar knock-offs of better movies in many of it's set-pieces, and it offers you pleasure now so you don't have to wait too long for pleasure later. As exploitation, it is marketed as something it's not and tries to cover enough bases to leave you happy that you've had some entertainment even though it's very definitely not what you thought you'd get.

The story is that a bounty hunter in the old west, voiced by Sylvester the cat, is going after one last bounty to woo his wronged love when he happens upon a small town infected by fumes from an alien meteorite and made zombie flesh eaters. With the help of a comely maiden, a badly scripted American Indian and his own wits, our hero must survive as the living dead come looking for the next meal. This is not especially highbrow and rather enjoyable for that, and it would be wrong to say that Cowboys and Zombies is incompetent in any way.

Indeed, if you can live with silicone chested nudity in the 1800s and a college rock soundtrack performed by the director and his muso mates then you will find enough fun in the film to sustain you through a blockbuster-less evening. In fact, as a fan of the little guy, perhaps it's a good thing that Rene Perez will steal some of the megabucks thunder of Universal, Dreamworks and the like. Still, this film, made by a musician, does feel like an album of cover versions rather than an original work of some promise.

So some splatter, some gunfights and some basic woman in peril elements will entertain some of you. Not for long though, but perhaps it will be long enough as you wait for 17th August or find yourselves watching a good western or zombie film instead. And in the end, this is what marketing does, it helps you to defer real hunger and make do with what you believe you need. Like a candy bar before the main meal, Cowboys and Zombies will do but not for long.

Tech Specs

The transfer of the film looks very video like, although mastering artefacts are present in darker sequences which suggest some filming on good old celluloid. An attempt to give a warm aspect to the action is present but the low budget origins don't really lend themselves well to this approach. Contrast is not great, colours lack brightness and I notice some very mild edging. This is though a low budget film and a low budget release so be aware that you get what you pay for.

The stereo sound is similarly mediocre with little definition or clarity beyond the functional. Atmosphere is provided through the constant guitar based score, effects are dull and lack a sense of proper spatial fit. No subs or hard of hearing options are included.

Extras

This is a single layer, region free disc with basic navigation and menu design. There's a trailer and a gallery offered as extras for the main feature and the disc starts with trailers for Alien Undead, Umbrage, and Ninjas vs Vampires. One thing I'd note is that the disc refused to work on PowerDVD or TotalMediaTheatre for me, so no screenshots for you to see, I'm afraid.

Summary

This is a bare-bones disc with little fancy about it. The film is decent enough and for undemanding genre fans this may not ruin your appetite between meals.

Film
5 out of 10
Video
5 out of 10
Audio
5 out of 10
Extras
2 out of 10
Overall

5

out of 10

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