Saturday, March 28, 2009

Movie Review: American Zombie (2007)

American Zombie
AMERICAN ZOMBIE - Mock Documentary Horror Movie Poster

Written by Rebecca Sonnenshine and Grace Lee
Directed by Grace Lee

Grace Lee...herself
John Solomon...himself
Ivan...Austin Basis
Judy...Suzy Nakamura

This mock-documentary sets forth a world very similar, yet drastically different, from our own. In the world in which this film takes place, zombies are not fictitious creatures relegated only to horror movies. They are a very real life form, and they exist among us, but not as the mindless shambling hoard that they are depicted as in Hollywood. They are a fringe society of relatively normal individuals--a subculture all their own. Filmmakers John Solomon and Grace Lee assemble a small crew, and set out to capture a slice-of-life story of these outsiders.

Speaking with zombie historians, medical doctors, experts of all kinds, and the zombies themselves, they learn all the basics of the zombie society: They return from the grave as the result of a virus that is activated by a particularly violent death; The virus instills in them not only a second life, but also a toxic mucus in their salivary glands, capable of passing the virus on to others, which is how they procreate; But does this make the zombies dangerous? Of course not, they say. Zombies are no more prone to violence than the living are--meaning that they are not violent as a whole, but there are the violent among them, just like us.

You see, there are three classifications of zombie: The feral, the low-functioning, and the high-functioning. The feral are essentially brain dead, moving vegetables, close to how they are depicted onscreen; The low-functioning are capable of simple tasks, and can be considered autistic; The high-functioning zombies hold down jobs, have love lives, and enjoy the same things that we do. The only real difference between them and us is the fact that we haven't died...yet.

How do we, the living, react to the zombies? Usually we ignore them, pretend they aren't even there. There are, however, factions that have a particular devotion to the undead. There is a Christian movement to save their souls (do they still have souls?): "God loves zombies! Jesus was the first zombie!" And there are, of course, that small group of fetishists, Zombie Chasers, who carry on sexual relationships with them. From what I hear, they suck at sex...but the foreplay is to die for!

Everything seems hunky-dory at first, but John and Grace begin to catch onto a few things that make them suspicious of what these "people" are hiding. They each seem to have at least one room in their house that they are forbidden entry to, for one, and they all get pretty touchy when it's insinuated that they eat human flesh (of course, who wouldn't?) When they catch wind of the annual Live Dead Festival--NO HUMANS ALLOWED--(think Burning Man for the zombie set), they assume that this is the place where they can get their answers.

And indeed it is.

This movie presents a very different view of the world, a way of peering into an alternate reality or stepping right through the silver screen and arriving in the middle of your favorite horror flick. The filmmakers did an admirable job of depicting all aspects of society, and how the zombie would fit into them. It is a very smart, engaging film, and I'd like to note that although there are moments of humor (dark humor, naturally), it still manages to take itself seriously. We don't lose our suspension of disbelief, and we're not knocked out of the moment by slapstick and braying laughter. It's just a chuckle or two, and then back to the show--just like real life. Only better.

It seems that the past few years has seen a bit of a Blair Witch revival, what with American Zombie and Behind the Mask: The Rise and Fall of Leslie Vernon. Surprisingly, though, I can't seem to get enough. These aren't precisely horror movies, these are movies that would exist in a world in which the horror movie was real.

Think about that one, fanboy.

2007
95 minutes
Not Rated
Color
United States
English

--J/Metro

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