The zombie marathon continues with yet another newer take on the genre. Here we get to see the story of a man and his wife dealing with being trapped in their house after the zombie apocalypse has already started. I saw this one on the shelves at my local big box chain store and bought it. Mostly because they have a decent looking copy of Wacko as an added bonus. When you have to toss in a couple movies to sell yours at ten bucks that might not be a good sign. Just saying.
An alarm goes off and a man rolls out of bed. We see his morning routine of making tea and getting fresh oranges from the tree in his back yard. His wife gets up and they start their day together. Seems like a normal day except that they are surrounded on all sides by zombies struggling to get thru the fenced in yard. This routine repeats itself until some cracks start to show. First the wife complains about the dead neighbor locked in the apartment out back. This leads to a fight where they dare each other to “kill” their dead friends. They make up for a while, but things go to hell again when she figures out he has been sabotaging her efforts to get them rescued. Hiding signals and ignoring pamphlets dropped from a passing helicopter. You find out that he was a stressed out professional and that they were about to lose the house. To him the zombies are a blessing. Now he can wander around the house without being stressed out. This is a weird movie.
I was torn on this movie until the very end. I liked that it was telling a different kind of story set in the zombie apocalypse. We just have two characters with speaking roles for the vast majority of movie. That means Better off Zed is all about the dialogue, characters, and acting chops of the leads. This is less about survival and more about their relationship. Right there I know we lost a lot of horror fans, but I kept watching. The actors are quite good, and I found myself caring about the characters they were bringing to life. They also do a nice job with the fighting as they have the chemistry to make arguments feel real without being over the top. This was the reason I stuck around until the end.
The zombies look decent and each has their own unique look. They are all fresh, so things aren’t much more elaborate than the obvious wound that killed them. Pale skin, gross teeth, and creepy eyes are also on display. The kills… well there aren’t any really. A couple of zombies get finished off, but that happens off screen, at least until the very end. There is a fun bit with an arm in a garbage disposal, but it is pretty tame for a movie about walking corpses. Better off Zed is almost a gore less zombie movie which doesn’t thrill me.
None of the things above made me not like the movie. What finally did that for me is when they broke the one cardinal rule of independent zombie movies. They referenced Night of the Living Dead. Not only do we see the characters watching it on a portable DVD player, but they totally rip off the ending. Spoilers so be warned. She gets bit and turns so he has to lop her head off. He is cradling her head unable to speak due to his emotional state when the rescue team comes in. No talking means he gets shot in the noggin’. End of movie. Damn it why did you have to do that? Let me say this again. You might think your movie is super cool, but it isn’t as good as the one that launched the entire zombie genre. Do not remind me of a better movie while I’m watching yours. I’m going to recommend that you skip this one and pop in a copy of Romero’s Night of the Living Dead instead.
© Copyright 2018 John Shatzer
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