Directed by: Grace Lee
Starring: Austin Basis, Grace Lee, John Solomon
Buy it from Amazon here!
Forget Romero’s fantasy zombies.
It turns out that the undead really do live among us, but are nothing similar to how they are portrayed in films. Most are mistaken for homeless people or drug addicts, roaming the streets confused and unaware of what’s happened or who they are. But there are certain types who retained more of their brain functions, who can talk and think and even pass as human. These so called high-functioning zombies hold jobs, fall in love, and even attend their own hippie festival every year (called Live Dead).
(Real-life) documentary filmmakers Grace Lee and John Solomon follow the lives of a half dozen high-functioning zombies and see what it’s like to “live” in their world.
You hear the one about the pimp in zombie-town? Hated when clients gave his girls a tip.
The best part about American Zombie is that it feels like a completely legitimate documentary. If you knew someone who had been in a coma for decades and then finally woke up, and the first thing you did told was tell them that the dead were coming back to life and showed them this film, they might buy it. Course, that’d make you a very sick individual, and I don’t know why you’d even think of doing something like that to someone. Seriously, what’s the matter with you? Don’t need friends like you.
But really, except for a few moments here and there where the acting reveals a script behind it, the actors do a great job of making it convincing. The zombies they’ve chosen to follow are all from different walks of life, and dealing with their new life in different ways. One’s a slacker working at a convenience store, one’s a freedom fighter campaigning for zombie rights, another goes against her nature by only eating vegan foods. It makes for a documentary that feels real, that there really could be this new community out there.
It also feels vaguely reminiscent of Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon, if that film had a natural progression and a solid third act. In fact, it’s very similar to that film in style… the real documentary that eventually becomes the kind of movie that it’s been spoofing. Naturally, they start to uncover some strange stuff about the
zombies, and some secrets that might put them in danger. And it does get
spooky at parts and has a few convincing scares, really picking up near the end as everything comes together and the full story is revealed.
Well, there’s your problem!
But all in all it’s more a comedy than anything. The way they take the zombie mythos and throw it on its head is compelling- you really find yourself curious to know more about these poor dead individuals and their lives. In an interesting way, from starting all over again these “revenents” are like adolescents, trying to find their way in the world.
I can see this turning off a lot of people who pick it up based on the name alone- it’s not your typical zombie film. It’s slow, thoughtful, and very much a documentary. But it’s well worth a watch for anyone who wants a laugh and a scare… even those who are sick to death of zombie flicks.
THE SIGHT AND SOUND
Well it’s a doc, shot on handheld cameras on the fly, so don’t expect The Fountain here.
Jonathan never did get over his rejection by Kim Cattrall.
Not much here, although there are two commentary tracks. Skip the first one with Grace Lee and Rebecca Sonnenshine, it’s somewhat boring and dry. The one with cast is much better but even that’s a bit stilted. Still worth a listen to hear all the war stories about making the film.
There’s also a behind the scenes featurette that one can only wish was longer.
Quite a different style of zombie film, and most definitely worth a look for both horror and documentary film fans.