A search on IMDB for the keyword “zombie” brings up a list of 1862 items. TV, movies, games, whatever. One thousand, eight hundred. And sixty-two. For comparison’s sake, the word “juicebox” brings up only 10 entries, one of which is “uzbek.”
I mention this for two reasons: one, I need an excuse to use the word “uzbek” in a review to win a bet, and two, the DVD release “Mimesis: Night of the Living Dead” is one of those 1862 entries.
The word ‘mimesis’ means ‘life imitating art.’ In this case, the art being imitated is George Romero’s zombie classic. A group of horror conventioneers, including Duane (Allen Maldonado), Karen (Jana Thompson) and Russell (Taylor Piedmonte), is lured to a party at an old farmhouse near a cemetery. They awake the next day after being drugged by their unknown host, and find themselves, along with several others, trapped in a terrifying recreation of Romero’s film.
While the purpose here seems as much sincere homage as anything else, the dangers of comparing yourself to THE cornerstone living dead artifact should be obvious. That’s a minefield very few can walk through without losing a low-budget limb or two. Screenwriters Douglas Schulze and Joshua Wagner wisely don’t overplay that hand, providing a minimum of key elements and letting fans’ memories do the rest.
It’s an interesting concept, and in the unlikely event a viewer is unfamiliar with the original, the characters helpfully spell out the similarities. For better or worse, no guessing games here. Like an 8th grade girl in a break-up argument, some elements of the plot stubbornly resist logic, and I found myself pulled out of the movie occasionally by some ill-conceived action (and a denouement that the filmmakers themselves call “Scooby-Doo” in the commentary track).
However, everyone involved seems to be enjoying themselves, and the fanboy enthusiasm carries the day for a while. Editing by Robert Frenette and cinematography by Lon Stratton are a highlight, and Schulze doesn’t spare on the gore. The filmmakers clearly view this as a film first and a sincere tribute second, and have worked hard (though not entirely successfully) to overcome the obvious budget limits of the production.
But too soon the script finds too little to do with the idea, and the weight of some overwrought performances gets tiresome. Horror veteran Sid Haig makes a welcome appearance in two scenes, and the film could have benefitted from more of him. In the end, there’s stuff here that genre fans will enjoy, especially Romero buffs, but the more snaggle-toothed elements make for highly uneven viewing.
“Mimesis” is presented in anamorphic widescreen in 2.35:1 ratio. The limitations of the lighting are apparent, and the level of detail is noticeably low on this DVD. There are English and Spanish subtitles
The audio track is Dolby Digital 5.1, and like the video presentation, there are noticeable minor problems with the source recording in several scenes. There are no other audio options.
A surprisingly straight-faced commentary with director Douglas Schulze and co-screenwriter Joshua Wagner. Some interesting tidbits about the production process, and background that may explain some of the Romero-esque elements of the film.
Energetic and well-shot, but roughly assembled and scripted, “Mimesis” honors a classic horror movie with an interesting concept freighted with uneven performances and gaps in logic.