Zombie Transfusion Review
The frenetic and furious amphetamine-saturated promotional trailer that explodes into bloody life without warning for Steven C. Miller's virgin low-budget indie-horror flick is an aggressively paced snapshot of urban zombie hell, replete with gut-wrenching special effects, obscenely imaginative atrocities, and blisteringly angry rage-infected undead. Unfortunately, the full-length feature fails to adequately fulfil the promise of the trailer, and our resultant sense of being substantially short-changed means that Zombie Transfusion disappoints.
Some time elapses before the initial flames of optimism are doused, however, because early indicators are fairly positive. The opening scenes, for instance, are filmed in muted grey, with bold shots of colour highlighting certain objects or areas. With the grim horror looming, and impending violence threatening to vividly punctuate the drudgery of daily existence, this atmospheric strategy is effective. Proceedings seem even more promising when a snappy sequence documents the morgue caretaker being dragged into one of the slots by a freshly placed infected cadaver; whilst the effects have a couple of minor flaws, it's executed with enough aplomb as to be acceptable considering the budget.
The problems begin to infect the heart of this picture when the plot unfolds and the actors are fully introduced. Working with a poor script, and delivering some wavering performances, our characters never develop beyond a single dimension, and we are totally indifferent to their peril. William Howard Bowman's "Scott", for example, is one of the team of school friends whom this story centres upon as they become trapped by the marauding undead, yet his penchant for carrying a dazzling, shiny knuckleduster means that we have little or no sympathy for any atrocity committed against him.
The wafer thin plot provides precious little supporting framework for the actors to prop up their poor performances. Of course, it recognises that kids just want to party, so our four-strong (one token female, three males) squad of zombie-bait youth head out into the night to do just that, despite an incident earlier in school with a sprinting, raging, infected school-mate. With the guys Scott, Chris and Tim having been to see a band, circumstances soon dictate that Jackie, Chris's girlfriend, requires saving from a house party which has become the scene of devastating zombie carnage, and the group's journey back to the supposed sanctuary of school sketches out much of the remainder of the events in this story.
If the peril that our foursome were trapped within felt more credible, the plot gaps could probably be forgiven, but there are sufficient other negatives that ruin the opportunity for an effective illusion. The boys' shocked realisation, for example, that there are no cars on the road during rush hour, just doesn't feel genuine, especially when the camera steadfastly refuses to focus on the road for any length of time. Some victim's reactions to being captured and ripped to pieces by our undead friends seem unrealistic too; rather than struggling with any real conviction, they politely lay in relative subservience, and opt for repeated screams instead. The pace of the movie is inhibited by the often jagged story construction, despite the lively, pounding metal soundtrack. Perhaps the greatest problem though is that the undead masses are so transitory and lacking in consistent behaviour that we have no sensation of continuity. They seem to appear and disappear as the loose plot dictates, they are restrained by some rather flimsy improvised door locking mechanisms, and they seem to traverse geographical boundaries en masse by will alone.
Despite all of these drawbacks, Zombie Transfusion is a horror film, and there's no question that it's horrific. Berated upon its initial release, it perhaps suffered unfairly at the hands of harsh and cruel critics; viewing in the context of its $30,000 funding, the "horror" elements certainly deliver. The adrenalin-charged, flesh-lusting zombies vigorously overdose the film with much-needed lifeblood, ripping limbs from live bodies, gorging on thick slabs of human viscera, and chewing on unceremoniously ripped-off heads. The revolting tearing of a live foetus from a pregnant girl's stomach is sickening and controversial, but admittedly well executed. And the scene displaying a girl's chin being ripped out is perhaps the bravest effect in the entire film. For the budget, it works incredibly well. Indeed, the only major mistake on the gore front is the supposed homage to the late, great Fulci, featuring an Olga Karlatos eye-gouging moment, which bears none of the tension or agonising violation that the original scene perfectly generated.
The horror genre does and always will thrive upon the presence of mindless splatter and gore to some degree, despite the current crop of powerful and intelligent horror films. Zombie Transfusion contains not one jot for those who wish to be challenged, but for the gorehounds and Saturday night beer and pizza viewers, there's enough here to pass 75 minutes.
The region 2 encoded disc from Momentum Pictures appears to be an effective transfer, considering the miniscule budget that was used for the original shooting of the film. It was apparently filmed using a Panasonic DVX100 digital video camera, and has a very grainy feel, plus some post-production "blurring" which some may find irritating. Miller seems to use some of his limitations to his advantage, making the most of murky, washed out scenes to exaggerate this colourful horror.
Unfortunately, audio reproduction is pretty awful. The sound quality wavers inconsistently during the movie, with an irritating buzz of noise present at various stages. The characters frequently enunciate poorly, and the recording equipment seems low grade, to the extent that you need the supplied subtitles if you really want to understand the breadth of the very limited script.
Additionally, the boom mic appears to be visible on at least one occasion.
The metal soundtrack, on the other hand, is fairly well delivered on the whole, and provides a fitting pace for the lightening fast zombies.
Extras are extremely limited.
There’s the original trailer, which is useful if you want to show a friend the best parts of the film in a limited time scale. The film apparently started life as a trailer, and it's difficult to deny that it's an appealing draw for the movie itself.
English subtitles are available. They seem to be decent enough, and include track and band names for the selected soundtrack.
Despite the ferocity of some critics, Zombie Transfusion isn't the worst budget zombie offering you'll come across, and it certainly doesn't pretend to be anything it isn't. Yes, the plot is weak, the "finale" is reprehensible, and the characters are so anaemic that we care not when they are torn limb from limb by their ravenous predators. But ultimately, this is a horror movie, and the horror is frequent, rich, and often imaginative. Pick it up at a reasonable price, store it away out of sight, and sneak it on during your next beer and pizza gathering. Taken in that context, Zombie Transfusion won't delight, but it shouldn't disappoint too sharply either.