When you are dealing with a subject such as the undead taking over the world, there are a couple of different ways of tackling the project, one would be to make it a serious effort such as Romero’s original “Night of the Living Dead” and Zack Snyder’s “Dawn of the Dead” or you can embrace the absurdity of the premise and take advantage of the violent and possibly comical notions like “Zombieland”. The latter path is easier to take when there are budgetary constraints as you can cover many shortcomings with some satirical playfulness. 2013’s “Zombie Hunter” goes for the action-comedic route which ends with mixed results.
It is your basic post-apocalyptic tale of a lone Mad Max-like character wandering the dust covered wasteland just trying to survive. Zombies have already taken over and survivors are few. A popular recreational drug called Natas has taken hold of nearly everyone with the results being temporarily lethal until the victims reanimate as a bloodthirsty ghoul. Hunter (Martin Copping) is a muscle car driving loner, scavenging for supplies, relishing in delight whenever he has the opportunity to dispatch a member of the undead. His wife and child fell victim to an undead attack leaving him emotionally hollow and bent on hunting down every zombie he can. He is randomly shot while driving and crashes into a dusty ditch. He then wakes up in a fort of some sort with a handful of survivors. He finds out one of them shot him thinking he was a zombie who was able to drive. It’s the thinnest of plot turns and it only happens so he can end up where he is. The group is led by Yoda-like Father Jesus (Danny Trejo) and consists of nice girl Alison (Clare Niederpruem), her little brother Ricky, the several others that are just not-yet zombie fodder. Not much happens until zombies attack their base and they try to make a run for it towards a small town with a military airport.
Typically a good undead movie never uses the word zombie in any dialogue or especially in the title. Going by this title I anticipated being a withered husk by the time it was done like I was after viewing “Zombie Massacre” but thankfully from the outset you can tell it’s not going to take itself too seriously. It was just a matter of how silly it was going to get. Early on we get a healthy dose of cgi blood splatter on the camera lens and it doesn’t let up throughout the entire movie. The best way to describe “Zombie Hunter” is as being a mix of “Road Warrior”, “Sin City” and “Grindhouse”. The main character drives a muscle car through a barren wasteland (Road Warrior); he does a lot of voice over narration during many of the scenes (Sin City); and flashbacks are shown as ratty old film takes with streaks and print damage (Grindhouse). It would’ve been nice if the creators went full throttle with the print damage angle much like Planet Terror’s aesthetic. It would have helped to define the picture more and to even cover up some of the wonky CGI used. There are several huge man-beast zombie creatures which look like they came right out of a Resident Evil video game, not the movies, the video game. A bigger budget to match the big ambition could’ve end up with a pretty darn good movie, however between the acting and the effects, it can’t raise above mediocrity. On the bright side, there are some pretty funny lines and character reactions to other people’s actions which help make the viewing a little breezier. The zombie makeup rates from average to slightly above average with plenty of cgi gore splatter in place of practical effects.
Shot digitally, the 2.40:1 picture contains a lot of fine detail and clarity. There are no blatant issues in the AVC encoding leading to a smooth ride the whole way through. Colors vary widely as there are multiple visual effects used to manipulate the picture. Sometimes it’s drenched in reds and then purples. Blacks lean and more towards dark grays leaving contrast much to be desired. Overall, it’s a pleasing visual experience.
The DTS-HD MA 6.1 track is almost equally as pleasing however not a completely as the video. Many of the effects sound crisp and clean but the LFE sputters when it is really needed. Roaring cars and animalistic growls are not as dominating as they could be. There’s a nice explosion near the end but lacks any real thump. All others areas sound accurate and clear.
There is nothing but a trailer for the film itself. Which is a shame because this is the type of movie that listening to commentary could’ve been highly entertaining.
“Zombie Hunter” has some definite pluses, such as set design, gore factor and a somewhat likable cast however the small budget can’t match the semi-ambitious nature of the story. If the CGI was a couple of ticks better this could have been a well rounded, albeit a bit silly film. The level of CGI is something you would see from Syfy from the early 2000’s and it doesn’t match the other onscreen silliness. The just-above average video and audio make it a more engaging experience but nothing worth revisiting.