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Zombie TV
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by Jay Seaver

"Dead last in the ratings."
1 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2014 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: Yoshihiro Nishimura, Japanese makeup/special effects artist extraordinaire (and decent director as schlock goes), loves himself some zombies, and got a couple of other directors to go in with him making this riff on the things, resulting in 78 minutes of sketches purportedly coming from a network dedicated to zombie-oriented programming. It's as thin a concept as it sounds, especially getting the whole thing in one gulp.

There are some serialized bits - "I Want to Be a Zombie", in which survivors of the outbreak ponder whether they're better off letting themselves be turned off they can go out screwing the scantily clad zombie girls outside their hiding space, and "Zombie God", in which a woman (Miyuki Torii, able enough to stand out) becomes a zombie but retains her intellect - but most of the rest are jokes that recur or very simple one-off gags. Given how there's a "station identification" logo and voiceover between segments, I suspect that this was originally developed for the web or some other medium and stitched together into a movie.

That would explain a lot, there's a cheap chuckle to be found in a few of these three- out four-minute segments, and if only one in five or ten works when they pops up on a YouTube channel every few days, no big deal, you're only out a bit of time. String more than an hour of them together, though, and the one-joke premise becomes even less - it's one bit of incongruity that could serve as the basis for a joke, except that the folks involved are not really that funny, with just a few rare exceptions. Part of that may just be humor being subjective, bit often the gag will just be crude or bloody but not well-timed or playing against expectations.

The other big issue is that the whole thing looks cheap. That's not necessarily an indictment in and of itself; much of Nishimura's work as both director and in makeup and special effects has been in direct-to-video B-movies (or at least they would have blown past theaters in the U.S.; I'm not sure how it works in Japan), where having neither the budget for realism not the expectation of such would allow him to create bizarre, demented creations. This film's undead are neither gruesomely realistic nor terribly creative, and the world(s) they're in are constructed from bad acting, production values which are stretched in simple settings, and weak jokes.

It's not all bad; throw enough against the wall and you'll often get something interesting out of sheer enthusiasm. There are bits in this movie that get a laugh, if often from seeing how far they can push sheer sickness. The three or for "Zombie Makeup Files" showing how the filmmakers build a character with both props and prosthetics are fun to watch even if the skits built around the end results don't always live up to the effort.

Most of the time, though, "Zombie TV" demonstrates that there is only so much you can squeeze from a limited idea without adding a lot more to it. It's the sort of off-the-wall filmmaking that seems perfect for a midnight movie on the surface, but can actually be tough to endure in practice.

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originally posted: 08/18/14 11:43:36
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2014 Fantasia International Film Festival For more in the 2014 Fantasia International Film Festival series, click here.

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