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Review: FIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD

FightOfTheLivingDead-Final-1There are filmmakers out there who themselves are die-hard horror fans that spend hours upon hours researching and brainstorming to try and come up with an idea of creating a film that will go against the norm and become something that will stand on its own and apart from the other films competing for that coveted top spot on Netflix queues everywhere. There are those directors and writers that come up with remarkable ideas and decide to take the formula of the conventional horror film and fuse it with other genres to hopefully create a unique storyline that will give the viewer something they’ve never experienced. While the idea of doing such a thing is always applauded and appreciated, it is always the execution of said ideas that will make or break the film in the end.
With so many different sub-categories that now exist within the horror genre, at times it might be difficult for a die-hard fan to choose a film among the many titles that are available to scratch that Saturday late-night movie itch. Sometimes one has a craving for a standard stalk-and-slash movie while another may have inklings toward something supernatural or be in the mood for a creature feature. Then there are those nights where one has the appetite for something different, possibly out of the types of films they would normally pick, and begins the search for something different to satisfy that insatiable hunger that no Snickers bar could ever live up to.

Tonight, I decided to open my mind, get into my car and leave my home in the sweet, comfortable town of 80s-Ville and venture out to find something more modern and to hopefully sit through something I’ve never seen before. There are sub-categories within horror that I normally stay clear from but only because my experiences with them have always been less than favorable. One is the dreaded found footage group as the vast majority of them, if not all, are similar in construction and production resulting in them falling short in originality and delivery. Another is the “torture porn” or “gorno” group as the main idea is solely the intention of shocking the viewer with over-the-top gore effects with no focus on the story or character development. And lastly, I tend to avoid post-80’s zombie films as a whole as they provide me no entertainment whatsoever – and that’s after giving them more than a fair chance.

Pulling into a local dive about seventy-five miles out of town, I found something titled Fight of the Living Dead having a drink on its own in the corner of the bar and after sparking up a conversation and some harmless flirting, I thought to myself after a couple of cocktails and some dancing that the fusion of the familiar zombie apocalypse premise modeled around the styling and presentation of a television reality show-type competition was interesting – and cute – enough to take it home with me, even if it was something I wouldn’t normally set my sights on.

The basis here is quite simple: A group of well-known online personalities, including two ex-Amazing Race participants, are blindfolded and brought to a previously-operating Los Angeles women’s prison where a zombie infestation is taking place. They are split up into two groups. One is placed in a cellblock and the other being placed in the infirmary with the mission of finding pieces to comprise “the antidote” and to find the mysterious man guiding them via handheld radio in the prison’s boiler room. All while attempting to fight off hordes of zombies along the way and avoid being eliminated. The DVD here offers two options: To watch each of the 11 episodes separately or to watch them all continuously as a feature-length presentation. I opted for the latter as I didn’t feel that breaking up this date into increments would be appropriate as I haven’t been on one of this nature in quite some time.

We are guided in intervals by a green computer screen accompanied by a digitized voice that very closely resembles Microsoft Sam had poor Sam himself fathered a love child from a drunken one-night stand with beloved 80’s icon Max Headroom, every other word being either distorted in some manner or repeated several times in rapid succession. Here, we get a basic gist of what the game is all about, who is participating and what the objectives are for each episode. We then cut to what’s going on and the mayhem begins. While the show’s concept is strong and highly original with it being a clever blending of both realism and scripted elements, here is where the confusion begins and where it unfortunately begins to slowly go downhill.

The largest disappointment is that there is no real tension or suspense within any of the eleven five-minute clips that make up the entire show, which was something I was looking forward to with a concept as fresh and great as this. The contestants themselves didn’t help, coming off overtly pompous at times which unexpectedly – and quickly – led me to root for their demises. Their eliminations were short and abrupt leaving me wanting more, and by “more” I mean I was expecting to see throats being ripped open and entrails being torn and pulled from torsos while watching the picked-off contestants screaming in agony. The gore factor wasn’t as overwhelming as I was expecting it to be from an original zombie vehicle such as this. With Fight being a web-series, I hoped for hyperbolic, nausea-inducing special effects possibly bordering on NC-17 but got nothing more than minimal on-screen gore that even a quick swig of regular-strength Maalox could fix. Yes, we see dead bodies everywhere and blood splattered in every manner and way possible but this could have been so much more. So much that it could have had me cross back over to the dark side and re-affirm my faith in the zombie genre as a whole. With all of the undead that took part in this production, the “relentlessly grisly and frighteningly realistic onslaught” described in promotional materials was completely missing in the version I sat in front of.

And for it being termed as “pulse pounding” and “a horrifying mob of rotting, wounded, bloody zombies tasked with keeping the competitors from accomplishing their mission”, I saw neither. All but only a mere handful of them were quiet filler, exhibiting stereotypical and expected zombie aggression and rage no more than Homer Simpson exhibits restraint on a night at Greasy Joe’s Bottomless Bar-B-Q Pit. There wasn’t much of a struggle, either, when it came to the players and the challenge in general. It felt too scripted at times and the game seemed much too easy for what this should have been, with proof being that two of the contestants were eliminated within the first ten minutes. Overall, this had huge potential and aside from the cliché shaky POV GoPro cam shots inserted for effect and unnecessary over-usage of the Microsoft Sam narration, the ambitious direction by Kevin Abrams, Chris Hall, and Tony E. Valenzuela – who also appeared in the finished product – was impressive and commendable. Though the execution of such a great idea ultimately falls flat here, especially with the unfortunate predicable final scene, I applaud everyone involved for the attempt in creating something unique, even if it meant utilizing overly-familiar elements to hopefully present something memorable, even if it was short of remarkable. Though I may never take a chance again and pick up something this far out of my comfort zone, or go out on a second date with this one in particular, I have to admit that I’ll never forget it, and in my book, that’s what counts.