Someone needs to tell Ken Foree that he doesnt need to do every horror movie that comes his way and more importantly, that not every zombie movie is written and directed by George Romero. Unfortunately, for the horror legend, he seemed unaware of these two things when he signed onto the 2009 Serbian horror, Zone of the Dead (released in the U.S./UK as Apocalypse of the Dead), and the end result is an unintentionally cheesy film that fails and tries too hard at paying homage to past zombie classics.
The film follows a rookie detective, Agent Mina Milius (Kristina Klebe), as she embarks on her first field assignment to transport a prisoner along with her fellow Interpol agents, including Mortimer Reyes (Foree). Like anyones first day at work, things go horrible awry for the self-conscious officer and her company, and they find themselves stranded in a town where a deadly plague has caused locals to die and come back to life. The group soon realizes that they are in a fight for their lives and their only ally is the prisoner they have in captivity. Dun dun dun.
Milius and Reyes team up with the mysterious and all-knowing prisoner, played by Emilio Roso, and they eventually make their way to a nearby prison to seek refuge. Once inside, they run into more survivors and more bewilderment as they struggle to interpret what the cannibal humans in the streets are. Simultaneously, a former marine escapes from an overrun mental institution and begins killing zombies and professing the end of days.
Zombie films are so popular right now that its almost impossible to create something that audiences havent seen before. There are ways to play on what genre fans already know by making smart and respectful references and homages to the films that we already love. Zone of the Dead tried delivering a smart and creative take on the zombie genre but the end result is a cliché-filled disaster that brings nothing new to the topic.
Directors Milan Konjevich and Milan Todorovich, who doubles as the films writer, clearly thought they had an awesome idea, especially when they cast Dawn of the Deads Foree in the lead. While watching the movie, it was difficult not to see the storyboard and hear the pitch for the film in my head – Ken, it will be great. Youll play the same exact character you did 34 years ago, in basically the same type of movie, saying the same exact lines but this time this time youll be in Serbia! And this time, it completely lacked the symbolism and commentary that Romeros cleverly used.
Not only does Zone of the Dead basically rehash the storyline of Dawn of the Dead, it includes over-the-top acting that will make you laugh out loud, which obviously isnt what the filmmakers were going for. The look and feel of the entire movie presented itself as a campy ’80s horror and the too-serious performances from Klebe and Foree leads audiences to believe that the film was not aiming to be cheesy.
The cheesiness worsens whenever certain characters are up on screen and judging by their performances, its questionable if they were even actors or if they were just random people the directors asked to be in the film. There is a particular character – the Presidents secretary – who appeared to be just reading her lines and delivering them in a monotone voice. And dont even get me started on the guy who played the President, or the guy who played the marine, or pretty much anyone else in the movie.
The unnatural performances and dialogue are only a few of the awful things to be added to the long list of reasons why one shouldnt watch this movie. Although the filmmakers tried to come up with new ideas that havent been shown in zombie movies, their ideas were incredibly stupid and made absolutely no sense – sleeping zombies, anyone?
And their reasoning behind the zombie outbreak was that there were a bunch of difficult-to-explain chemicals that made their way out into the air and what said chemicals did to cause the reaction was too complicated to explain so they just didnt explain it. Seriously. That was basically a conversation in the film, attempting to explain to the audience why the zombie plague was occurring.
The guys behind Zone of the Dead are obviously zombie fans, which is clear with their not-so-clever Dawn of the Dead references throughout the movie. The duo attempted and failed to make a watchable and unique zombie homage. The end result was far from exciting, smart, or clever and the entire movie felt like nothing more than a Syfy original.
Skip this one unless you want to have something to laugh at and make fun of with friends. For a real zombie homage done right, watch Shaun of the Dead. And, for the love of God, someone please stop Foree from thinking that he is still an action hero.